10 Healthiest Fast-Food Menu Items

Believe it or not, there are healthier options available at popular fast food joints.

December 28, 2021

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Photo by: Arby's

Arby's

You’re stuck on the road, or didn’t have a chance to eat and end up in some fast-food or quick-service joint that’s all too conveniently placed in your neighborhood. What should you choose? Your best line of defense is to be prepared. I checked out popular fast-food restaurants and found options that can be part of a healthy eating plan; whether you’re looking for a quick snack or a sensibly-sized meal, I’ve got you covered.

Arby’s Roast Chicken Entrée Salad

Many of the sandwich options at Arby’s are very high in sodium. Instead, opt for the salad (pictured above) made with lettuce and tomato and topped with chicken, crispy bacon, and cheddar cheese.

Nutrition info (per dish): 250 Calories;14g Total Fat; 7g Saturated Fat; 25g Protein; 8g Total Carbs; 3g Fiber; 4g Sugars; 690mg Sodium

Photo by: Panera

Panera

Panera’s Napa Almond Chicken Salad on Country Rustic Sourdough

This well-balanced chicken salad is made with celery, red grapes, toasted almonds, and serves with emerald greens, tomatoes, salt and pepper on Country Rustic Sourdough. Opt for the apple for about 70 calories more.

Nutrition info (per whole sandwich): 550 Calories; 25g Total Fat; 4g Saturated Fat; 22g Protein; 60g Total Carbs; 4g Fiber; 12g Sugars; 860mg Sodium

Photo by: Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-A

Chick-Fil-A’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Opt for the grilled chicken sandwich at this favorite poultry fast food restaurant. This sandwich is made with lemon-herb marinated boneless chicken breast served on a multigrain bun with lettuce and tomato. The sodium, saturated fat, and sugars are all within reasonable limits for a sandwich. Compliment it with a fruit cup or side salad.

Nutrition info (per sandwich): 320 Calories; 6g Total Fat; 1g Saturated Fat; 28g Protein; 41g Total Carbs; 2g Fiber; 9g Sugars; 680mg Sodium

Photo by: McDonald's

McDonald's

McDonald’s Fruit & Maple Oatmeal

If you’re looking for a healthy breakfast, opt for the oatmeal which in some locations may be available all day. This dish has two servings of whole grain oats with a touch of cream and brown sugar. You’ll also find it sweetened with red and green apples, cranberries and two varieties of raisins.

Nutrition info (per oatmeal): 320 Calories; 4.5g Total Fat; 1.5g Saturated Fat; 6g Protein; 64g Total Carbs; 4g Fiber; 31g Sugars; 150mg Sodium

Starbuck’s Tomato and Mozzarella Panini

If you find yourself hungry when hitting up a Starbuck’s opt for this plant-based sandwich which includes roasted tomatoes, mozzarella, spinach and basil pesto layered in focaccia. When ordering, ask for this baby to be warmed up!

Nutrition info (per sandwich): 380 Calories; 14g Total Fat; 5g Saturated Fat; 18g Protein; 48g Total Carbs; 2g Fiber; 2g Sugars; 770mg Sodium

Photo by: Dunkin

Dunkin

Dunkin’s Veggie Egg White Omelet

If you’re driving across the country or find yourself at an airport, chances are you’ll run into a Dunkin’. This sandwich is made with a veggie egg white omelet filled with spinach, bell peppers, and onions. It’s layered with white cheddar cheese on a multigrain sandwich thin.

Nutrition info (per Sandwich): 290 Calories; 13g Total Fat; 5g Saturated Fat; 17g Protein; 27g Total Carbs; 5g Fiber; 4g Sugars; 550mg Sodium

Photo by: Noodles & Company

Noodles & Company

Noodles and Company’s Cauliflower Rigatoni Fresca with Shrimp

This noodle establishment has several healthy options including this cauliflower-infused rigatoni sautéed with shrimp, balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil, roasted garlic, red onion, tomato and spinach, and topped with parmesan cheese. The only set back on this dish is the high sodium count (which is on the lower side compared to other menu items), so be mindful of the sodium you take in the rest of the day.

Nutrition info (per dish): 470 Calories; 20g Total Fat; 4g Saturated Fat; 25g Protein; 51g Total Carbs; 4g Fiber; 5g Sugars; 1,130mg Sodium

Wendy’s Sour Cream and Chive Baked Potato

Whether you’re stopping for a snack or small meal, Wendy’s baked potatoes are always a good option. The sour cream and chive is a classic combo and a nice comfort food when on the road.

Nutrition info (per dish): 310 Calories; 2.5g Total Fat; 1.5g Saturated Fat; 8g Protein; 63g Total Carbs; 7g Fiber; 4g Sugars; 55mg Sodium

Photo by: Chipotle

Chipotle

Chipotle Steak Salad

Using the nutrition calculator on the Chipotle website you can build your own meal while keeping nutrition in mind. This steak salad includes greens, steak, brown rice, light Monterey Jack cheese, and fresh tomato salsa. The portion is rather large, so feel free to save leftovers for later.

Nutrition info (per salad): 455 Calories; 16g Total Fat; 6g Saturated Fat; 29g Protein; 44.5g Total Carbs; 6g Fiber; 2g Sugars; 1,180mg Sodium

Panda Express Bowl with Super Greens and Kung Pao Chicken

To create a bowl at Panda Express, choose one side and one entree. The super greens consists a mixture of greens including broccoli while the Kung Pao Chicken is a Sichuan-inspired dish with chicken, peanuts and vegetables, finished with chili peppers. The sodium for most dishes is on the higher end (pretty common for Asian-style dishes), so be mindful of the sodium in your food the rest of the day.

Nutrition info (per dish): 380 Calories; 22g Total Fat; 3.5g Saturated Fat; 22g Protein; 24g Total Carbs; 7g Fiber; 10g Sugars; 1,230mg Sodium

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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