The unfortunate truth is that – because almost all “fast food” falls into the ultra-processed category – none of it is truly healthy. But if you don’t have time to cook or you’re trying to eat better on a budget, It might be your best option. Below, we’ll discuss the best fast food restaurant and entree choices so that you can make healthier food decisions.
Ideal Healthy Fast Food Spots
Although the following list won’t be the typical list of fast food options, it doesn’t mean you won’t be surprised with a possible new favorite. The focus of the list is to provide you with cheap but still healthy food options for your guilt-free enjoyment. Remember, healthy isn’t just defined by caloric intake. Macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) matter, too.
Arguably the biggest name in fast food, “healthy” is not a word usually associated with McDonald’s. But in the past couple of years, McDonald’s has expanded their menus to include healthier options like salad. Keeping true to their affordability, McDonald’s expansion into a healthier menu benefits patron’s pockets and bodies. Although they have plenty of healthier options, the following are just two possibilities to get you started.
Bacon Ranch Grilled Chicken Salad
Enjoy a grilled and seasoned chicken filet with a thick-cut applewood smoked bacon salad. This also features chopped romaine, baby spinach, baby kale, red leaf lettuce, thin cut carrots, grape tomatoes, cheddar, and jack cheese.
Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich
If you’re looking to enjoy a more handheld meal, this sandwich features an artisan grilled white meat chicken breast with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise on an artisan sandwich roll.
Similar to McDonald’s, Burger King is another famous fast food company not necessarily known for healthy options but this has changed in the past couple years. Boasting new, healthy additions to their menu, Burger King delivers their classic flavors with a healthy twist at their typical price point. If you’re feeling adventurous, they’ve even released 3 new burgers made with Beyond Meat’s plant-based patties.
Different from your regular BK burger, this is a vegetarian version with all the flavor – in addition to 22 grams of protein.
The regular hamburger on it’s own satisfies hamburger cravings without coming in at a high caloric intake. It features the restaurant’s signature flame-grilled beef with pickles, mustard, and ketchup, all on a sesame seed bun.
Over the past couple years, Wendy’s has shifted their advertising to focus on their new, healthier menu of salads. As well as showcasing their “fresh, never frozen” slogan to promote their typical burgers and such, they have put an ample amount of focus towards their healthy and filling salads to provide patrons with a variety of affordable options.
Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad
The half size portion of this salad boasts diced, grilled chicken breast, pepper jack cheese, diced tomatoes, avocado, and Applewood smoked bacon on a bed of leafy greens. To top the salad off, it comes with a side of Southwest Ranch Dressing.
Crispy Chicken BLT
A classic sandwich with lightly-breaded white meat, Applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, American cheese, and a little bit of mayonnaise between two soft buns.
Healthy is not a word people would usually think of when thinking of fried chicken, but it doesn’t mean you can’t make healthier decisions when buying from KFC. With healthy vegetable sides on the menu, one can mix and match with a delicious low-calorie entree for a tasty meal.
A La Carte Thigh
A single thigh piece of chicken available in 3 different flavors like Kentucky Grilled, Original Recipe, and Extra Crispy.
A sesame bun sandwich featuring a fried chicken breast on a bed of pickles and mayonnaise. Available in 4 different flavors like Extra Crispy, Honey BBQ, Buffalo, and Nashville Hot.
Known for their donuts and coffee, Dunkin Donuts actually has a larger menu of all-day breakfast foods that can be healthy, too. Also, they recently unveiled a new section to their menu focused on providing healthy options to patrons. Their DDSmart menu is 25% reduced in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar, or sodium and some options contain ingredients that are nutritionally dense.
Veggie Egg White Sandwich
An egg white omelette loaded with spinach, red and green bell peppers, and onions with a touch of olive oil on a multigrain thin bun. It has a 25% reduction in calories, saturated fat, fat, and sodium compared to the regular sausage egg and cheese on croissant.
Turkey Sausage Sandwich
A new twist on the typical breakfast sandwich, this english muffin features turkey sausage, egg, and American cheese. Similar to the above mentioned sandwich, this one is 25% reduced when compared to the typical sausage egg and cheese on croissant.
Famous for their tacos, burritos, chalupas, and everything in between, Taco Bell offers flavor and fun at a low cost. Luckily, this fast food chain has hopped on the health trend as well. Just about everything on their menu can be ordered “Fresco style”, which changes the high calorie and fat dressings, sour cream, and cheeses for fresh, vegetable-based pico de gallo.
Fresco Style Crunchy Beef Taco
At 170 calories each, feel free to enjoy more than one of these delicious fresco style crunchy beef tacos with lettuce and pico de gallo.
Fresco Style Chicken Burrito Supreme
The Fresco style burrito features a warm and soft flour tortilla with grilled all white meat chicken, beans, red sauce, shredded lettuce, onions, and pico de gallo.
Famous for their delicious chicken sandwiches, Chick-Fil-A is known for their quality, taste, and great sauces. Some also know that they offer healthier alternatives to typical fast food. Not only do they offer crispy chicken, but they also offer a grilled alternative which is already a start to a healthier meal.
Loaded up with super foods that are super good for you, this salad features kale, broccolini, dried cherries, and nuts with a maple vinaigrette.
Grilled Chicken Sandwich
A healthier substitute to their classic chicken sandwich, this lemon-herb marinated grilled chicken breast is served on a toasted multigrain bun with lettuce and tomato.
Arguably one of the leaders of the healthy fast food trend, Subway is known for hearty subs or half subs. Featuring an expansive list of healthy options and meals, Subway’s Fresh Fit menu has something for everyone. Even if what you are craving is not on the Fresh Fit menu, you can always make your dish healthier when customizing it.
6in. Turkey Breast Sub
The basic version is an oven roasted, nine-grain wheat bread with sliced turkey breast and your choice of cheeses and veggies.
6in. Roast Beef Sub
Sliced deli roast beef on a nine-grain wheat bread with customizable cheeses and veggies.
One of the healthiest options in fast food and known for quality ingredients, Chipotle differs from most in it’s completely customizable Mexican-style menu. Featuring tacos, burritos, salads, burrito bowls, and more, Chipotle offers a variety of dishes prepared however the patrons want. Patrons can pick their proteins, rice, beans, toppings, and so much more for a filling and satisfying meal.
Choosing a salad with the sofritas with tofu, brown rice, and veggies is a great low calorie way of staying healthy and full.
Fajita Steak Burrito Bowl
Calories: 330 (may vary)
Instead of ordering a burrito bowl with rice, guacamole, and cheese, ask instead for fajita steak, pinto beans, salsa, veggies, and pico de gallo for a low fat way of enjoying a classic order.
Although most wouldn’t consider Panera fast food, the chain technically is. Known for their homestyle comfort food and healthy options, Panera offers plenty of health-conscious meals on their menu. Panera also offers many ways to mix and match their menu featuring soups, salads, sandwiches and more. They also have fun juices to pair with their healthy dishes.
Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken
A very low calorie but flavorful dish, this salad features sliced chicken, toasted pecans, mandarin oranges, strawberries, blueberries, and pineapple on a bed of romaine lettuce with a poppyseed dressing.
Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich
This tomato basil bread sandwich comes with piquant peppers, feta, cucumbers, emerald greens, vine-ripened tomatoes, red onions, and hummus.
Plenty of Options To Choose From
Even if your favorite place didn’t make the list, don’t fret! Nowadays most places offer a healthier version of their menu for patrons seeking to satisfy their cravings without feeling guilty. Hopefully while venturing on this new path, you’ll find a new feel-good favorite.