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30 Fast Food Items That Are Not So Bad for You

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30 Fast Food Items That Are Not So Bad for You

These days, everyone is trying to eat better, exercise more, and maintain a healthy mind and body. Nutrition is important, and eating healthy is a top priority. Unfortunately, life happens, and we all get busy with work, kids, and extracurriculars, so sometimes fast food is the most convenient option for getting a meal on the table. Luckily, not all fast food is full of sodium and trans fat. There are actually healthy options at many of the most popular fast food places.

If you are trying to watch what you eat but find yourself sitting in your car at the drive-thru, you will be happy to know that there are some good options on fast food menus. We have put together a list of examples of healthy fast food from breakfast to dinner so you don’t have to throw your diet out the window just because you don’t have time to cook. (After this article, check out Fast Foods to Avoid: Excessive Plastic Content Alert.)

Tips for Ordering Healthy Fast Foods

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Look for fast food items that are grilled, steamed, or baked rather than deep-fried.

Before we look at the list of fast food options that won’t completely derail your diet, let’s go over some general tips to help you navigate the fast food landscape. Most fast food is high in calories, fat, and sodium, but there are a few things to look for when ordering and a few substitutions or requests you can make to give your favorite fast food items a healthy makeover.

The first tip is to look at how items are cooked and choose a protein that is grilled, steamed, or baked instead of battered and deep-fried. For example, a grilled chicken sandwich is better than a deep-fried chicken sandwich.

When it comes to burgers, the easiest way to lower the calories and fat is to skip the cheese and heavy sauces. Some places drench the buns in high-fat mayonnaise or other secret sauces so stick to ketchup, mustard, or hot sauce. If possible, ask for extra lettuce, tomatoes, onion, or pickles to add some vegetables and fiber. Many fast food places will even wrap your burger in lettuce so you can skip the carb-heavy buns and just get the protein.

Another tip is to skip the high-calorie soda. Sodas, especially dark colas, are filled with sugar, adding unnecessary extra calories to your meal. Stick to water, or if you like those bubbles, opt for sparkling water or unflavored seltzer.

Healthy Fast Food Breakfast Ideas

Bowl of homemade granola with yogurt and fresh berries on wooden background from top view
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Don’t skip the most important meal of the day.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, yet many people skip it. Many folks just drink coffee until mid-day, and by then, they are starving and will grab anything like sugary donuts from the break room. If mornings are extremely busy, you might consider hard-boiling some eggs for an easy grab-and-go breakfast or meal-prepping homemade granola bars. Or just head to the drive-thru and grab one of these healthy fast-food items.

Starbuck’s Sous Vide Egg Bites

Source: Courtesy of Jenn R. via Yelp
Starbucks Sous Vide Egg Bites come in three flavors.

If you are stopping at Starbucks for your morning java fix, skip the sugar-coated coffee cake, buttery croissants, and glazed donuts and order egg bites instead. Starbucks Sous Vide Egg Bites are a great healthy fast-food breakfast option. The egg bites come in three flavors: kale and mushroom, bacon and gruyere, and egg white and roasted red pepper.

Egg white and Roasted Red Pepper: 170 calories, 12 g. protein, 8g. of fat
Kale and mushroom: 230 calories, 15 g. protein, 14 g. fat
Bacon and Gruyere: 300 calories, 19 g. protein, 20 g. fat

McDonald’s Egg Mc Muffin Real Egg

Source: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Hitting the golden arches for breakfast isn’t as bad as you might think if you stick to the Egg McMuffin sandwich, which consists of an English muffin, real egg, and ham.

Nutrition: 310 calories, 17 g. Protein, 13 g.fat

Best Healthy Fast Food Salads

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Not all fast food salads are healthy.

Salads are the ultimate health food, so you may feel pretty good about yourself skipping the burger and fries and grabbing a fast food salad. But before you pat yourself on the back for making healthy choices, you need to take a good look at the salad you are choosing. Some are dripping in high-fat dressing or topped with fried pieces of protein. But these five salads are great choices with plenty of fiber and protein to keep you full throughout the day.

Panera’s Strawberry Poppy Seed Chicken Salad

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This salad from Panera features fruit, pecans, and chicken.

This bright, crunchy salad is so filling that it doesn’t even feel like you are eating salad. It starts with a simple bed of lettuce, and then it gets good with a mix of mandarin oranges, fresh pineapple and blueberries, pecans, and chicken. The salad is tossed with a poppyseed dressing.

Nutrition: 370 calories, 29 g. Protein, 13 g. fat

Chipotle Lifestyle Bowls

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Chipotle’s lifestyle bowls include options such as keto, paleo, vegan, and more.

These lifestyle bowls are great for on-the-go lunches. The chain offers lifestyle bowls for many diets, including keto, paleo, plant-based, vegetarian and vegan. A lifestyle bowl is a salad with lots of veggies, protein, beans, and rice, which is basically a deconstructed burrito. They range in calories from 450 calories for the Whole 30 bowl and up to 815 calories for the high protein option. The best thing about these is that they are customizable to fit exactly what each person wants. The best low-calorie options are the Paleo and Whole 30.

Paleo Lifestyle Bowl: 450 calories, 35 g. protein, 29 g. fat
Whole 30 Lifestyle Bowl: 490 calories, 29 g. protein, 36 g. fat

Qdoba Brisket Birria Keto Bowl

Source: Courtesy of Amanda C. via Yelp
Even Qdoba offers a keto option.

The keto bowl features brisket birria spiced to perfection. The base is a tasty bed of greens with savory brisket birria, cheese, guacamole, and pico de gallo salsa. If you like a little more tang to your bowl, add some pickled red onions for an extra ten calories. The mix of protein and fat will fuel your body all day long.

Nutrition: 370 calories, 25 g. protein, 25 g. fat

Taco Bell Power Menu Bowl

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Taco Bell’s power bowl includes chicken, cheese, black beans, rice, and more.

You might think of Taco Bell as a drive-thru to hit at the end of a night out drinking, but this place has healthy options too. The power bowl is a great choice with chicken, cheese, black beans, rice, lettuce, tomatoes, and an avocado ranch sauce. You can add on upgrades like spicy jalapenos or minced onions for a few calories more.

Nutrition: 460 calories, 26 g. protein, 21 g. fat

Wendy’s Apple Pecan Chicken Salad

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Wendy’s offers tasty options for those looking for healthy fast food.

This salad is a mix of crunchy, sweet, and savory, making it a very tummy-pleasing choice. The salad has a base of Romain lettuce, topped with sweet cranberries, crisp apples, grilled chicken, and roasted pecans. The kicker is the blue cheese crumbles that blend well with the pomegranate vinaigrette dressing. This salad tastes like a gourmet salad at a fast food price.

Nutrition: 440 calories, 33 g. protein, 22 g. fat

Filling Fast Food Soups and Sides

Soup
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Avoid cream-based soups when looking for healthy options.

There is more to fast food than just burgers and fries. Ordering soups and sides can lead to a healthier fast food experience, but you still need to check the ingredients. In general, cream-based soups like chowders and cheese-based soups like broccoli and cheddar are going to be full of fat and high in calories. Broth-based soups and beans are better choices because they are full of fiber.

Wendy’s Baked Potato and Chili

A delicious oven baked potato with sour cream and chives.
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A tasty baked potato is one of the healthier fast food options available.

Once upon a time, Wendy’s had one of the best salad bars in town. They were known for their loaded salad bars that included a baked potato bar, but alas, that time is over. However, the company decided to keep the baked potato on the menu, and that was an excellent decision. Baked potatoes are low in calories and an excellent source of fiber. Hungry diners can order a plain baked potato or get one with extra goodies, like cheese, chili, bacon, or sour cream and chives.

Plain Baked Potato: 270 calories, 7 g. protein, 0 g. fat
Sour Cream and Chives: 310 calories, 8 g, protein, 2.5 g. fat
Bacon and Cheese: 440 calories, 17 g. protein, 13 g. fat
Chili and cheese: 500 calories, 20 g. Protein, 14 g. Fat

You can also skip the baked potato and just dive into a cup or bowl of the chain’s popular chili.

Cup chili: 240 calories, 16 protein, 11 g. fat
Bowl chili: 340 calories, 22 protein, 15 g. fat

Chick-fil-A’s Chicken Noodle Soup

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A bowl of Chick-fil-A’s chicken noodle soup is only 280 calories.

This place is known for its chicken, but the chicken noodle soup on the menu is like a warm hug in a bowl. It’s perfect when you don’t have time for lunch but need something to warm you up and fill your tummy.

Cup Chicken Noodle Soup: 170 calories, 10 g. protein, 4 g. fat
Bowl of Chicken Noodle Soup: 280 calories, 17 g. protein, 6 g. fat

Panera’s Soups

Lunch with my mom at Panera. Right before we started eating, I snapped this picture. Looked good, taste was amazing.
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Panera Bread offers several soups that are a good choice for the health-conscious diner.

If you love soup, then Panera should be on your radar. They offer more than just sandwiches and wraps. They also have several healthy soups on the menu. The trick to ordering soup at Panera is to skip the bread bowl and croutons, which will save calories and carbs.

Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Cup: 190 calories, 5 g. protein, 10 g. Fat
Bowl: 280 calories, 8 g. protein, 16 g. fat

Creamy Tomato Soup

Cup: 260 calories, 4 g. protein, 6 g. fat
Bowl: 370 calories, 6 protein, 23 g.fat

Fast Food Sandwiches

cheese slices and tomato sandwich on a white plate.
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Sandwiches seem healthier than a greasy cheeseburger.

Nothing beats biting into a big, old, tasty sandwich. Health-wise, sandwiches seem like a better alternative to a greasy burger, but it really depends on how they are made and what you decide to stuff between those two slices of fluffy bread. If you are craving a sammy, here are some examples of healthy fast food sandwiches.

Jimmy John’s Unwich

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You can order a sandwich with lettuce instead of bread from Jimmy John’s.

While most places will wrap your favorite goodies in lettuce instead of a bun, Jimmy John’s is the first place to actually have it on the menu. The ‘unwich’ is a sandwich without bread, but don’t confuse it with a salad because the professional sandwich makers at this place wrap the sandwich tightly in lettuce and then paper, so it stays together just like one of their traditional subs. You can order any one of their popular sandwiches as an ‘unwich,’ but if you are trying to keep the calories and fat in check, then turkey or tuna are good choices.

Turkey Tom Unwich: 250 calories, 15 g.protein, 17 g. fat
Tuna Unwich: 270 caloreis, 12 g. protein, 21 g. fat

Subway’s Oven Roasted Turkey Sandwich

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Choose your bread wisely at Subway.

Subway also has some healthy sandwiches, but the trick here is to choose your bread wisely and stick to whole wheat for the most nutritional bang for your buck.

Veggie Delite 6-inch sub: 220 calories, 10 g. protein, 2.5g. fat
Oven Roasted Turkey 6-inch sub: 360 calories, 18 g. protein, 8g. fat

Quiznos’s Lobster Classic

Quiznos Sandwich Shop Prepares For Bankruptcy Filing
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Quiznos’s Lobster Classic is a surprisingly healthy sandwich.

It might be surprising to see a lobster roll included in the healthy fast food list, but this sandwich is surprisingly good and healthy.

Nutrition for 4-inch sub: 300 12 g.protein, 11 fat

Arby’s Classic Roast Beef Sandwich

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Arby’s recently widened its offering to add more health-conscious choices.

We know that Arby’s sometimes gets a bad reputation, and many comedians like to make fun of the fast food giant with the big hat. But in recent years, the company has stepped it up and widened its offering to appeal to health-conscious fast food connoisseurs. Surprisingly, the best thing on the menu is still their classic roast beef sandwich.

Nutrition: 360 calories, 23 g. protein, 14 g. fat

Best Low-Calorie Fast Food Burgers and Chicken

Nashville hot chicken sandwich
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Which fast food burgers and chicken sandwiches are the least unhealthy?

Sometimes, the only thing that hits the spot is a real fast food burger made with ground beef and topped with lettuce and tomato. Luckily, you can still enjoy fast food classics like beef burgers and chicken sandwiches, it is just a matter of choosing wisely.

In-N-Out Protein Style Burger

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In-N-Out protein-style burger substitutes lettuce for a bun.

Get the classic taste from the burger giants but without the heavy carbs. The protein-style burger from In-N-Out has all your favorites wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun.

Nutrition: 240 calories, 13 g. protein, 17 g. fat

Burger King Cheeseburger

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A cheeseburger from Burger King is only 381 calories.

Skip the fries and the soda at Burger King and stick to the cheeseburger for the healthiest burger on the menu.

Nutrition: 381 calories, 19g. protein, 20g. fat

Five Guys Little Hamburger

Delicious Five Guys Double Cheese Burger Preparations
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Save some calories at Five Guys by skipping the bun.

At this fast food place, a regular hamburger has not one but two patties. But if you skip the bun and opt for a little burger, which actually isn’t little at all; it’s just one patty, you will save some calories when you dine at Five Guys. You can order it in a bowl or ask the good folks behind the counter to wrap it in lettuce. It’s not officially on the menu, but these five guys don’t mind helping out a healthy eater.

Nutrition: 382 calories, 22g. protein, 24g. fat

Popeye’s Blackened Chicken Tenders

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Popeye’s blackened chicken tenders are tasty and filling.

A three-piece serving of these chunky chicken tenders is enough to fill you up. Stick to the coleslaw for some fiber from the veggies, and avoid the fries for a healthy dining experience at Popeye’s.

Nutrition: 170 calories, 26 g. protein,2 g. fat

Panda Express String Bean Chicken Breast

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Avoid heavy sweet and sour sauce when ordering Chinese takeout.

Are you craving some Chinese takeout but want to skip the heavy sweet and sour sauce and the battered almond chicken? Then, head to Panda Express and order the string bean chicken breast. It’s good and good for you.

Nutrition: 210 calories, 12g. protein, 12g. fat

Dairy Queen Grilled Chicken Sandwich

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Dairy Queen’s grilled chicken sandwich is a tasty and healthy fast food option.

If you would like to grill and chill at Dairy Queen, then order the grilled chicken sandwich. It has a lot fewer calories than the fried version and is just as filling.

Nutrition: 390 calories, 25 g. protein, 15g. fat

Healthy Mexican Fast Foods

flautas de pollo, chicken tacos and spicy Salsa Homemade Mexican food in mexico city
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You can even find healthy Mexican fast food.

In a perfect world, it would always be Taco Tuesday somewhere. Everybody loves tacos. That’s just science. So what do you do when you want tacos but it is not your cheat day? Head to these fast food spots for some healthy Mexican food.

Taco Bell Chicken Soft Taco

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The chicken soft taco at Taco Bell contains 12 grams of protein.

When a taco craving hits, you can’t go wrong with the chicken soft taco at Taco Bell. The taco is made with a flour tortilla stuffed with seasoned chicken and topped with lettuce, red cabbage, and fresh pico de gallo. Not only is this taco low in calories, but it’s also easy on your wallet.

Nutrition: 160 calories, 12g. protein, 5g. fat

Chipotle 3 Steak Tacos

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Ordering steak tacos from Chipotle is a great way to get a tasty meal that doesn’t come in a huge portion.

It is challenging to keep on track with your healthy eating plan at Chipotle because the serving sizes are huge, and there are so many toppings and fillings to choose from. But we have found one meal there that is good, and good for you — the steak tacos. Three Chipotle’s steak tacos with fajita veggies, lettuce, and tomatillo green salsa is a filling, low-calorie treat.

Nutrition: 385 calories, 33g. protein, 10g. fat

Qdoba Mexican Eat’s Pulled Pork Soft Tacos

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Qdoba offers some of the best fast food savory seasoned meat.

Not many fast food places make pulled pork, so Qdoba has really cornered the market on the savory seasoned meat, which is our favorite for a healthy taco experience. The pork is slow-roasted with a mix of spices, so it’s tender and full of flavor. You can get it with salsa verde or pico de gallo and a sprinkle of cotija cheese. Diners can choose either flour or corn tortilla, which are both fairly low in calories, but if you want to keep it authentic or you are gluten-free you will want to stick with the corn tortilla.

Nutrition: 320 calories, 20g. protein, 10g. fat

Del Tacos’s Bean, Rice, and Cheese Burrito

Del Taco Acquired By Jack In The Box For Approximately $575 Million
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Del Tacos’s bean, rice, and cheese burrito makes a decent healthy fast-food lunch.

Some tastebuds like to keep it simple, and it doesn’t get any more straightforward and simple to the point than a bean, rice, and cheese burrito. This classic trio of flavors and textures is a great choice for a healthy fast-food lunch.

Nutrition: 460 calories, 19g. protein, 10g. fat

Health Pizza Options

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You can even choose healthier options when craving pizza.

Pizza may just be the perfect food. It is inexpensive and customizable, and you can find it everywhere. It’s a great food to share with friends. Who doesn’t love pizza parties? Luckily, there are some healthy fast-food pizzas on the menu at several popular pizzerias, so you can always enjoy your pizza pie.

Pizza Hut Hawaiian Chicken Thin and Crispy

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The Hawaiian Chicken Thin and Crispy is one of the healthiest options at Pizza Hut.

The crispy crust holds the classic Hawaiian flavors of ham and pineapple, but Pizza Hut takes it to the next level by adding chicken and green peppers. This is the healthiest choice for pizza lovers at this pizzeria.

Nutrition One Slice: 180 calories, 10g. protein, 6g. fat

Papa Murphy’s Thin Crust Gourmet Vegetarian

Source: Courtesy of Julie S. via Yelp
This take-and-bake pizza is loaded with veggies.

Take-and-bake pizza may not be traditional fast food, but we include it because it’s so easy to take home and throw in the oven that it’s just as convenient as ordering delivery. When you hit up Papa Murphy’s, stick to the thin-crust gourmet vegetarian for a healthy pizza fix.

Nutrition One Slice: 200 calories, 10g. protein, 10g. fat

Domino’s Thin Crust Pacific Veggie

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Choose the thin-crust Pacific veggie pizza from Dominoes.

This popular delivery-only pizzeria steps up its game with a new take on a veggie pizza, the Pacific veggie that has spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, and black olives. It is by far the best choice for your waistline. Just make sure you get the thin crust to keep calories down.

Nutrition One Slice: 217 calories, 8.5g. protein, 12 g. fat

Best Healthy Alternative to Fast Food Desserts

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Don’t forget to allow yourself a cheat day.

Everything in moderation is key to a healthy lifestyle. Dieticians and nutritionists recommend being flexible in your diet and allowing cheat days so you never feel deprived. Here are a few fast food desserts for your cheat days that let you indulge without going overboard.

Dairy Queen Ice Cream Sandwich

Source: Courtesy of Mickey S. via Yelp
Dairy Queen’s ice cream sandwich is a great sweet treat under 200 calories.

Try the ice cream sandwich at Dairy Queen, and you will feel like a kid again. The classic frozen treat is under 200 calories.

Nutrition: 190 calories, 4g. protein, 7g. fat

Starbuck’s Petite Vanilla Scone

blur background in starbucks coffee shop
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Starbucks’ Petite Vanilla Scones are low-fat.

Starbucks has a lot of delicious treats for your sweet tooth, but if you want to indulge without affecting the scale, then stick to the petit vanilla scone and enjoy every bite of this low-fat pastry.

Nutrition: 120 calories, 2 g. protein, 4.5g. fat

Wendy’s Kids Vanilla Frosty

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A kid’s size vanilla Frosty from Wendy’s is a great way to satisfy your sweet tooth.

The thick, creamy frosty is a fan favorite from the fast food chain and has been on the menu since they opened their doors. Luckily, you never have to give it up in pursuit of a healthy diet. Just stick to the kid’s size vanilla one that is under 200 calories. (Next, read 20 Foods You Should Never Eat at Fast Food Chains.)

Nutrition: 170 calories, 4.7g. protein, 4.3g. fat

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