Dietitian Suggestions for Healthy Fast Food Options

Debbie M., MS, RD contributed this article–

Fast food doesn’t just have to be burgers and fries. Many fast food chains are offering more and more healthy choices!

Here are some guidelines and nutritious menu options from popular U.S. chains[i] to help you keep LIVING HEALTHY when you find yourself in line at a fast food restaurant.


Choose an establishment that offers a large variety of items on their menu. This way you will have more options.

Here are some general rules of thumb to consider:

  1. Avoid breaded or deep fried food.
  2. Skip the spreads and mayo.
  3. Avoid ground beef and cheese.
  4. Include a salad, fruit or vegetables instead of fries.
  5. Don’t supersize it.

I advise getting a 500-600 Calorie meal with less than 20 grams of fat.

A good option is typically a grilled chicken sandwich and a salad w/ low-fat dressing.  For those of you with larger appetites, add in 200 Calories.

TOP HEALTHY ITEM MENU PICKS[ii] (calories in parentheses)

ARBY’S®: French Dip & Swiss Au Jus (450) + Chopped Side Salad (70) + Light Italian Dressing (20);  Beef n’ Cheddar Classic (450) + Apple Slices (60);  Roast Turkey & Swiss Sandwich no mayo (600)

BURGER KING®:  Italian Chicken Sandwich (520);  Grilled Chicken, Apple & Cranberry Salad Wrap (430) + Lite Honey Balsamic dressing (120);  Whopper no mayo (470)

CHIK-FIL-A®:  Chicken Salad Sandwich (510);  Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich (290) + Chicken Tortilla Soup (260);  Chargrilled (or Spicy) Chicken Cool Wrap (410) + Honey Roasted BBQ sauce (60) + Fruit Cup (70)

JACK IN THE BOX®:  2 Chicken Fajita Pitas (660);  Chicken Teriyaki Bowl (690);  Jumbo Jack (490)

KFC:  Honey BBQ Sandwich + Coleslaw (490 total);  KY Grilled Breast + Drumstick + Corn on Cob + Green Beans + Plain Biscuit (585 total);  10 Original Bites + Whole Kernel Corn + Mashed Potato w/ Gravy (550 total)

MC DONALD’S:  Premium Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad w/ dressing (390) + Fruit N’ Yogurt Parfait (150);  2 Egg White Delight McMuffins (500);  Premium Grilled Classic Chicken Sandwich (350) + Small Fries (230)

SONIC® DRIVE-IN:  Grilled Chicken Wrap (430) + Orange Juice (140);  Jr. Breakfast Burrito (280) + 1% Milk (110) + Apple Slices w/ caramel (110);  Grilled Chicken Sandwich (450) + Orange Juice (140)

SUBWAY®: l 6” Oven Roasted Chicken on 9 Grain Wheat w/ all veggies, cheddar cheese, avocado & light mayo (505);  6” Meatball Marinara on 9 Grain Wheat w/ any veggies & provolone cheese (530);  Double Meat Subway Club Salad w/ Ranch dressing + Vegetable Beef Soup (470 total)

TACO BELL®:  7-layer Burrito Fresco Style (510);  Chicken Cantina Bowl Fresco Style (560);  any one Fresco Burrito (340-350) + one Fresco Taco (140-160)

WENDY’S ® Small Chili (210) + 2 Crackers (50) + Grilled Chicken Go Wrap (260);  Apple Pecan Chicken Salad w/ Roasted Pecans (460) & Pomegranate Vinaigrette (60);  Spicy Chicken Fillet Sandwich (530) + Apple Slices (40)


When you look at the charts, it’s easy to see what to order.  Most restaurants have PDF files of their menu’s nutritional information that you can download from their websites.  Also, for a fun way to learn what you’re eating, many establishments’ websites have an online “build a meal” feature that allows you to put together your menu selections and see the nutrition information for what you’ve chosen.  Even apps for smartphones, like iPhone and Android, are available so you can check your food choices anywhere!

Be sure to come back for more inspiring REAL STORIES and helpful TOP TIPS every week. Simply CLICK HERE to learn how you can instantly receive each article as soon as they are published so you don’t miss a thing!


[i] Selected from the top 15, per Business Insider, July 2012

[ii] Selected from each restaurant’s website nutrition information as of February 2013.



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