What’s the healthiest fast food option available?
For people on a budget (and people in a hurry), grabbing lunch or dinner at a fast food restaurant is generally the cheapest and most readily available option.
It could even be called a default setting. How many times have you considered, “What is the healthiest fast food option that I can get?”
While many fast food restaurants have a much-deserved bad reputation and food that’s laden with sugar and saturated fat, healthy options do exist for the savvy consumer. The healthiest fast food has healthy fat, is low in carbs, has plenty of protein, and can contribute to a healthy eating lifestyle.
Honestly, it’s all about moderation. You’re probably not planning your entire diet around saturated fat, carbs, fast food, and fried foods. This article is basically a survival guide for when you’re looking for a healthy fast food option.
Is the Healthiest Fast Food Actually Healthy?
The short answer is yes! You just need to know where to find it. Cue frustration at trying to read the drive-thru menus and making decisions.
Some of the best healthier fast food options aren’t widely available either. Why can’t you just have a short, easy list of things to remember?
As busy professionals ourselves, we understand the issue, and we went off to find some answers. We studied the calorie counts, sugar grams, protein, carbs, and remembered our own experiences with these chains to bring you the best, healthier fast food options that are out there.
The Cost of Combining Healthy with Fast Food
According to the Mayo Clinic, fast food that is high in saturated fat and carbs (not to mention sugar) and low in lean protein is by nature a little cheaper than healthier options.
For our list, we tried to focus on both availability, nutrition, and value when we chose healthy fast food that is high in protein, low in carbs and saturated fat, and has almost no (or very little) sugar.
Are you looking for a fast and easy healthy fast food option that will fill you up without unnecessary carbs and sugar? We’ve done our best to list some excellent options.
Healthiest Fast Food at Chick-fil-A
These are some healthy fast food options at Chick-fil-A that are low in carbs.
- Grilled Chicken Nuggets
- Grilled Market Salad without salad dressing (there’s so much good stuff in the Grilled Market Salad that you won’t miss the salad dressing!)
- Kids Chicken Nugget Meal (order it with a fruit cup)
- Grilled Chicken Sandwich
Healthiest Fast-Food Breakfast at Chick-fil-A
Looking for a healthy fast-food breakfast? Chick-fil-A’s breakfast menu has some excellent choices for foods that aren’t high in sugar and carbs.
- Hash Brown Scramble Bowl
- Greek Yogurt Parfait
- Fruit Cup
- Egg White Grill
With the healthiest options on the market, Chick-fil-A has earned its reputation. A solid array of healthy choices ensures that you can’t go too far away from your goals in general. If you are looking for the best of the best, the Market Salad offers a great portion of food with few carbs and no sugar. Without any dressing, the entire meal has great numbers:
- Calories: 330
- Fat: 15 grams
- Saturated fat: 3.5 grams
- Carbs: 25 grams
- Sugar: 12 grams
- Fiber: 6 grams
- Sodium: 690mg
- Protein: 27 grams
Chick-fil-A also has an excellent grilled chicken sandwich.
Not a fan of sandwiches or salad? Consider the kid’s chicken nugget meal for some tasty protein in a smaller portion size. Combine your protein with a fruit cup (without sugar) to increase your healthy choices and get a bit more food all at the same time. Their healthy menu definitely deserves a look.
Healthiest Food at Chipotle
When you’re craving some fast Mexican food, you can’t go wrong with this healthy fast food at Chipotle.
- Salad Bowl
- Vegetarian burrito bowl
- Steak bowl with brown rice
- Steak Soft Tacos
Chipotle also has some excellent lifestyle bowls for diets such as vegan, keto, paleo, and Whole30.
- Whole30 Salad Bowl
- Keto Salad Bowl
- Paleo Salad Bowl
- Vegan Bowl
- Vegetarian Bowl
- Keto Bowl
- High Protein Bowl
- Whole30 Bowl
Known for great, quick, and tasty Mexican food, Chipotle already looks out for its customers by its regular use of fresh ingredients and native foods in all its dishes.
Here’s the skinny on a basic chicken salad made out of romaine lettuce, chicken, cheese, and tomato salsa:
- Calories: 315
- Fat: 14.7 grams
- Carbs: 4 grams
- Sodium: 1050mg
- Protein: 39 grams
Stick closely to the lean protein options, bean dishes, and the salads and avoid anything with sugar. Choose brown rice, veggies, and meat as your base and steer clear of the sour cream and cheese.
With these guidelines in mind, check their online menu here and order away.
Healthiest Fast Food at Wendy’s
Here is some healthy fast food at Wendy’s.
- Berry Burst Chicken Salad
- Chicken Wraps
- Southwest Avocado Salad
- Apple Pecan Salad
- Parmesan Caesar Salad
Easy to find off of freeway exits and a much better bet on small country highways, Wendy’s offers a tasty lineup of salads and several smaller portion sizes that are just right for satisfying a hungry stomach. Knowledge is power, and knowing what your options are is a great start to resisting that cheeseburger of doom.
Need a specific meal to request at the ordering window? Try the Berry Burst Chicken Salad. Clocking in at 470 calories, it’s a great option! Check on the rest of the numbers below:
- Fat: 19 grams
- Sodium: 980 mg
- Fiber: 7 grams
- Protein: 39 grams
- Carbs: 40 grams
- Sugar: 29 grams
For a different, heartier lunch, try out the chili or the grilled chicken wrap. Both aren’t salads (or rabbit food, depending on your perspective), yet still stay in the healthiest fast food range. And treat yourself; the junior size Frosties are a great choice for a bit of sugar while giving you a dose of calcium for your bones!
Healthy Food at Panera Bread
Are you looking for healthy fast food at Panera that doesn’t have a lot of carbs, sugar, or saturated fat? Try these Panera menu options.
- Green Goddess Cobb Salad
- Greek Salad
- Mediterranean Bowl with Chicken
- Baja Bowl with Avocado
- Fuji Apple Salad with Chicken
- Avocado, Egg White, and Spinach Sandwich
- You Pick Two (half orders of soup, sandwich, and/or salad)
- Turkey Chili
- Flatbread Pizza
- Whole Grain Wraps
- Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries and Pecan
Slightly more upscale with its signature cozy cafe style, Panera offers a well-beloved selection of salads, soups, and sandwiches. It’s perfect for a girls’ lunch out or an easy first coffee date.
You can also get the healthiest fast-food breakfast at Panera. A fast, healthy breakfast (or snack!) option is the avocado, egg white, and spinach sandwich. Here’s a quick view of the numbers:
- Fat: 14 grams
- Sodium: 590mg
- Carbs: 52 grams
- Fiber: 7 grams
- Sugar: 4 grams
- Protein: 21 grams
Do you need other healthiest fast food options for hungrier times of the day? For lunch, try out the grilled chicken Caesar salad or the black bean soup. Do try to avoid the bread bowls, if possible – they are tasty, but it’s a swap that can derail you and your goals.
Healthiest Fast Food at KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken)
Try these healthy fast food meals at KFC.
- A la Carte chicken options (KFC chicken strips are a better choice than many fast food meals – just skip the calorie-laden French fries and other side dishes)
- Chicken Littles Sandwich
- Grilled Chicken Sandwich
- House Side Salad
- Roasted Chicken Caesar Salad
- Beyond Fried Chicken (for a limited time)
KFC can be great when you are hungry, not so great when you don’t want to splurge on saturated fat, calories, carbs, and excess sugar.
Go with the grilled chicken breast choices or the KFC famous bowl to stay on track. Smaller portions of fried chicken are also a solid choice. Just be sure you order from the a la carte menu and skip the side dishes. These tend to be loaded with saturated fat, calories, carbs, and sugar.
Need a specific option for the moment of truth in a drive-thru? Try out the Chicken Littles Sandwich and house side salad combo. With all the goodness of a sandwich and fried chicken, this meal will leave you contented and on track. Here are the numbers for those who like to see:
- Calories: 330
- Fat: 18 grams
- Sodium: 590 mg
- Carbs: 26 grams
- Fiber: grams
- Sugar: 6 grams
- Protein: 15 grams
Next time when you scan the menu when you don’t have many options or simply need something in a hurry, you have some ideas (like that juicy grilled chicken breast).
And for more information about calories in KFC’s food, check out their handy nutritional guide here! It makes finding the healthiest fast food options just a little more streamlined for you.
Healthy Subway Sandwiches and Subway Wraps (and Subway Salads, Too)
For healthy Subway sandwiches and meals, try these menu items.
- Oven Roasted Turkey on Wheat Bread
- Veggie Delite Sandwich (or Veggie Delite Wrap)
- Tuna Salad Sub
Here are some other Subway food options that give you a healthier choice with tons of protein and fewer calories.
- Baja Turkey Breast Avocado No Bready Bowl
- Steak Cali Fresh No Bready Bowl
- Turkey Cali Fresh No Bready Bowl
- Tuna No Bready Bowl
- Oven Roasted Turkey No Bready Bowl
- Buffalo Chicken No Bready Bowl
- Baja Chicken and Bacon No Bready Bowl
- Baja Turkey Avocado Wrap
- Veggie Delite Wrap
As Subway sandwiches (and Subway salads) rule the healthy options section of many fast food chains, it should be no surprise that Subway is also on this list. Its star on the healthiest fast food takes the form of the Veggie Delight sandwich, which has is low in fat and calories.
- Calories: 230
- Fat: 2.5 grams
- Sodium: 310mg
- Carbs: 44 grams
- Fiber: 5 grams
- Protein: 8 grams
You can also turn your favorite sandwich into a salad option and leave the bread behind, which will eliminate many of those carbs and calories while still giving you loads of protein.
Healthiest Fast Food at Ruby Tuesday
Are you looking for a healthy option at Ruby Tuesday? Check out these popular menu items.
- Baked potato
- Fresh veggies
- Grilled chicken breast
Ruby Tuesday is known for its all-American feel and menu. Grilled veggies and smaller portions of the shared appetizers (notice a trend here?) are always a safer bet.
Here are the nutrition facts for the grilled chicken breast.
- Calories: 215
- Fat: 41 grams
- Sodium: 3330mg
- Carbs: 100 grams
- Fiber: 7 grams
- Protein: 49 grams
Healthy Meals at the Cheesecake Factory? Yes!
Here are some of the healthier option menu items from The Cheesecake Factory’s SkinnyLicious menu. Many of these offer an excellent choice for good protein, fewer calories, and lower carbs.
- SkinnyLicious Factor Chopped Salad
- SkinnyLicious Grilled Turkey Burger
- Mexican Tortilla Salad
- SkinnyLicious Asian Chicken Salad
- Tossed Green Salad
- Impossible Burger
- SkinnyLicious Crispy Chicken Sandwich with Sriracha Mayo
- SkinnyLicious Turkey and Avocado Sandwich
- Tuscan Chicken
- SkinnyLicious Grilled Salmon
- Lemon Garlic Shrimp
- SkinnyLicious Chicken Soft Tacos
- Grilled Steak Medallions
- Chicken Taquitos
- Stuffed Mushrooms
- Chicken Samosas
- SkinnyLicious Grilled Artichoke
- Crispy Brussels Sprouts
- Crispy Crab Bites
Here are the nutrition facts, including protein, for the Skinnylicious Summer Shrimp Rolls.
- Calories: 100
- Sodium: 170mg
- Fat: 10 grams
- Carbs: 2 grams
- Sugar: 2 grams
- Protein: 2 grams
Healthiest Fast Food at McDonald’s
Looking for healthy fast food at McDonald’s? Try these healthier (or smaller) McDonald’s menu items.
- Classic Cheeseburger
Can you have your beloved Egg McMuffin? If you do, just keep in mind that it’s not very filling and it has 310 calories and 13 grams of fat (with 6 grams of saturated fat). Not to mention 30 carbs.
Sometimes, you do not have another option. Whether it’s the day before payday, very late at night, or in the middle of nowhere, the McDonald’s fast food chain is there and so are you.
Are there any of the healthiest fast food options here to prevent you from just grabbing a Big Mac or the biggest serving of fries? The answer is yes. Your safest bets are (again!) snack sizes and many of the breakfast items.
For lunch or dinner, try the bacon ranch grilled chicken salad or the four chicken nugget meal.
For a frame of reference, here is the nutritional information on the four chicken nugget meals.
- 180 calories
- Fat: 11 grams
- Protein: 10 grams
- Carbs: 11 grams
Healthiest Fast Food Hamburgers and Sandwiches
Craving a healthy fast food burger? No problem! It’s not easy to find a healthy fast food hamburger, but you can make better choices when you’re craving a burger or a healthy fast food sandwich. Here are the best choices for a healthy fast food burger or sandwich.
- White Castle: Original Slider
- Burger King: Spicy Chicken Jr.
- Five Guys Burgers and Fries: Little Hamburger
- Einstein Bros: Bacon, Avocado, and Tomato sandwich
- Jack in the Box: Chicken Fajita Pita
- In-N-Out Burger: Protein Style Hamburger or plain hamburger
- Little John’s: Little John #4 with turkey
- Hardee’s: Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich
- Wendy’s: Junior Hamburger with cheese
- McDonald’s: Classic Hamburger (without cheese)
- Potbelly: Mediterranean Sandwich Skinny
- Sonic Drive-In: Jr. Burger (Sonic Junior Burger without cheese)
- Burger King: Whopper Jr.
- Burger King: Plain Hamburger
- Arby’s: Ham and Swiss Melt
Healthy Pizza Options
These are some of the best healthy pizzas you can buy.
- Domino’s: Pacific Veggie Thin Crust (add some cheese for protein)
- Papa John’s: Garden Fresh Pizza
- Pizza Hut: Veggies Lovers Thin ‘N Crispy
- Panera Bread: Flatbread Pizza
Healthiest Fast-Food Breakfast
Are you looking for healthy fast-food breakfast ideas? Check out these favorites.
- Denny’s: Loaded Veggie Omelet
- Chick-fil-A: Hash Brown Scramble Bowl
- Dunkin’ Donuts: Wake-Up Wrap (for a healthy fast-food breakfast!)
- Starbucks: Sous Vide Egg Bites
- Chick-fil-A: Multi-Grain Breakfast Oatmeal
- McDonald’s: Bacon, Egg, and Cheese Biscuit (but you have to toss the biscuit and just eat the eggs and bacon)
- Chick-fil-A: Greek Yogurt Parfait (great source of protein!)
- Panera Bread: Whole Grain Wraps
- Chick-fil-A: Fruit Cup
- Panera Bread: Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries and Pecans
Healthiest Fast Food Salads
When you want something light like a fresh green salad but you’re stuck ordering fast food, here are your best healthy fast food salads.
- Whataburger: Apple and Cranberry Chicken Salad
- Au Bon Pain: Mediterranean Salad
- Arby’s: Roast Chicken Salad
- Wendy’s: Apple Pecan Chicken Salad
Healthiest Fast Food Mexican Food (Hello, Taco Bell!)
You don’t have to give up tacos and burritos (what we call Mexican comfort food) when you’re trying to eat healthier fast food. Try these great healthy Mexican food options.
- Taco Bell: Black Bean Soft Taco (tons of protein!)
- Moe’s Southwest Grill: Burrito Bowl with veggies (consider leaving off the cheese)
- Taco Bell: Soft Taco
- Taco Bell: Fresco Crunch Taco
- Taco del Mar: Braised chicken, crispy baked white fish, veggies, and shrimp
- Taco Bell: Power Menu Bowl with a black bean side
- Taco Bell: Black Bean and Rice side
- Taco Bell: Veggies Burrito Supreme (skip the cheese to save saturated fat and calories)
Taco Bell has a Veggies Cravings menu that features several different vegetarian or vegan options, and many of these have good protein such as beans. However, keep in mind that just because Taco Bell has veggie options doesn’t mean that these healthy options are low in saturated fat and calories.
Also, at Taco Bell, you can safely bet that the saturated fat in their food is not healthy fat such as avocado oil and olive oil.
Other Healthy Fast Food to Try
As a bonus for healthy fast food options, here are some goodies we found.
- Boston Market: Rotisserie Chicken Bowl
- Panda Express: String Bean Chicken Breast
- Culver’s: Chicken Noodle Soup
- Starbucks: Grilled Chicken and Hummus Protein Box
- Starbucks: Oatmeal
- Dairy Queen: Rotisserie-Style Chicken Bites Salad Bowl
- Starbucks: Protein Box
- Dairy Queen: Side Salad (add chicken, sour cream, or cheese for protein)
Did You Find the Healthiest Fast Food at Your Favorite Fast Food Restaurant?
Increased awareness about healthy eating, carbs, sugar, and protein in your favorite fast food meal can help with the see-saw of dieting and splurging that many of us face regarding our meals.
To get started eating cheap healthy fast food, do a Google search for “healthy fast food options near me” or “restaurants with vegan options near me.” You’ll be surprised at what pops up!