We all want to feel our best and look our best. When it comes to our health, our diets are the easiest way to feel strong or feel like lazing away on the couch for the entire day.
But eating healthy is not always easy. After all, not everyone can have home-cooked meals every day of the week, and eating out every day is also not a viable option for the average person.
Fast food places are an excellent alternative for when we need a quick meal for cheap. These are easy to spot, easy to order from, and quick to serve your food. But fast-food menu items, though often delicious, are notoriously high in fats, sodium, sugar, and empty calories.
So whether you’re searching for the healthiest items from your favorite restaurants or just in need of some clean options for when you’re on the run to your next meeting, here are the healthiest fast-food menu items across chains to keep you satisfied without compromising your health and fitness goals.
It’s no wonder why folks love Chipotle so much and why the Mexican fast-casual food chain is so successful. Chipotle is known for its healthy bowls and salads with brown rice, beans, and proteins such as tofu, chicken, steak, or pork. With so many options, this makes it a high protein fast food restaurant, not including the veggies and rice options.
At Chipotle, you could easily build your own salad, making this one of the best fast food salad options out there.
Moreover, all the ingredients are brought fresh and non-GMO. Although the prices might go above ten dollars, the quality of fast food nutrition is hard to beat. Healthy fats are found in add-ons like guacamole, while veggies like green and red pepper supply flavor to go with all that protein.
Although Chipotle is on top of the list of healthy places to eat, it’s still good to watch out for too many calories. With add ons like sour cream and cheese, along with several proteins, a Chipotle bowl can contain up to 500 calories. Not to mention, the sodium can be up to 2,000 mg, still having to sacrifice some nutrition at a healthy fast food restaurant.
The original Mexican fast food joint, Taco Bell, has evolved into one of the better options for healthy fast-food options.
Their vegetarian menu is definitely worth checking out, with meals like a Black Bean Crunchwrap Supreme, which contains black beans, cheese, lettuce, and tomato. The wrap pushes its fast-food calories to 510.
For something resembling a fast-food salad, Taco Bell serves a Power Menu Bowl identical to a Chipotle bowl that includes black beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, rice, avocado, sour cream, and chicken. The fast-food calories on this item range from 430 to 480 depending on the protein choice.
The Fresco menu also has healthy fast food options, supplementing cheese with fiesta salsa, all items containing less than 9 grams of fat.
Taco Bell has slowly made its menu with 15% less sodium, but certain items, like the Steak Burrito Supreme, can still carry 1,090 milligrams of sodium. Unfortunately, with Taco Bell, you can’t have it all, not being a low sodium fast-food joint, but definitely doing its best to provide with other health benefits.
McDonald’s has gotten a bad wrap for its high calorie and fat menu, but there’s a change in the menu’s efforts to provide healthy take out.
The salad section of the menu has options that are below 500 calories and approximately 1110 mg of sodium.
Additionally, it’s fair to say McDonald’s is not known for its healthy fast food breakfast, but there are some exceptions. The Fruit N’ Yogurt Parfait and Fruit & Maple Oatmeal are approximately at or below 300 calories. If in a rush, McDonald’s has a couple of smart options for healthy takeout.
Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, The Impossible Whopper is maybe the healthiest fast-food burger. At 630 calories with 1080 mg of sodium, it’s hard to compete. There are smaller beef burgers at less than 500 calories, but they have less nutritional value than The Impossible Whopper, plus less protein.
Other options to check out are the salads, although the Chicken Club Salad has 1660 mg of sodium.
Wendy’s fresh-made salads are aesthetically the most appealing of all the healthy take out restaurants. The calorie haul ranges from 200-620 calories for each salad, the Taco Salad being the highest calorie fast food item.
As for nutrition, Wendy’s is way better than Burger King or McDonald’s because their beef and chicken are fresher. Even from taste standards, you can tell from even the fries that everything is cut and brought in fresh.
Wendy’s even went to court to defend their “fresh never frozen” trademark, tweeting against McDonald’s usage of frozen beef.
Although Wendy’s calorie and sodium count is similar to that of its competition, there’s no denying that their source of fresh food is comparable to that of Chipotle.
America has Chick-Fil-A fever, the chicken is always amazingly crispy, and most of the sandwiches are under 500 calories. For even healthier options, get a grilled chicken sandwich or even grilled chicken bits, which can be as low as 110 calories.
From having fresh chicken and ingredients, Chick-Fil-A has the healthiest fast food breakfast of all the restaurants mentioned. They’ve got parfaits, fruit cups, and breakfast sandwiches, all similar to McDonald’s and Burger King, except it’s all fresher and better tasting.
General Tips When Eating at Fast Food Restaurants
- Check sodium levels so it is no more than the recommended intake of 1500 mg
- Same for sugar levels (25 to 37 grams)
- Make sure the item is high in protein from meats, legumes, nuts, eggs, and dairy
- The more veggies, the better! Make your meal as colorful as possible.
Eating fast food doesn’t have to mean compromising your hard work at the gym or your wholesome diet.
Plenty of fast and healthy food restaurants are now catching up and are including items that are not only delicious but nutritious as well, making it easier than ever before to stay healthy in and out of your kitchen.
We hope that these picks help you on your quest to being a better, healthier you.