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The 22 Healthiest Fast Foods

What to Order at America's Top 10 Fast Food Joints

-- By Liza Barnes, Health Educator

Your fridge is stocked with fresh produce, lean meats and low fat dairy products, there’s a whole grain baguette in the bread box, and your pantry has been purged of tempting junk foods. Eating healthy at home is a breeze.

But when you’re out and about in the midst of a hectic day of errands and you have precisely 30 minutes to scavenge and wolf down lunch before your next appointment, squeezing in food of any sort becomes a challenge—a challenge to which fast food restaurants have risen. Tasty, convenient, and cheap, there are plenty of reasons they’re popular. But if you’re watching your weight, or watching your health, a fast food menu is like a minefield! One wrong step and a 2,100-calorie sandwich winds up in your stomach (and later on your thighs). But if you’re careful, you can come out intact, with a meal in your hands, not on your hips.

Dining at a fast food restaurant doesn’t have to be a diet disaster. We’ve scoured the top 10 most popular fast food chains for their healthiest picks, so you don’t throw all of your hard work out the (car) window. Use this list as a guide, or visit the websites provided to tally up totals for your preferred favorites. And remember that these selections are healthier options for the occasional fast-food meal, but they may have other nutritional flaws (like high sodium), so you might not want to make it a regular part of your nutrition plan.

Healthy Fast Food Options

McDonald's
No one can say that McDonald’s isn’t convenient—you can find one on just about every corner in some cities. But can it be healthy, too? Depends on what you choose. Visit www.mcdonalds.com for more healthy ideas.
  • Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich: When you hold the mayo, you'll save calories and fat.
    360 calories, 6g fat, 1.5g sat. fat, 75mg cholesterol, 960mg sodium, 43g carbs, 3g fiber, 33g protein
  • Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken: Seasoned grilled chicken and a bite of black beans, corn, roasted tomatoes and pepper in every bit will make this feel like a cheat meal.
    330 calories, 11g fat, 4g sat. fat, 90mg cholesterol, 920mg sodium, 26g carbs, 6g fiber, 33g protein
  • Fruit 'n Yogurt Parfait: If you’re looking for a sweet treat, this is a winner. Made with low-fat yogurt and topped with low fat granola, strawberries and blueberries, it’s far less sinful but just as tasty as ice cream.
    150 calories, 2g fat, 1g sat. fat, 5mg cholesterol, 80mg sodium, 30g carbs, 1g fiber, 4g protein <pagebreak>
Wendy’s
Try these best picks for your next lunch on the run. Get more nutrition facts at www.wendys.com.
  • Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad, Half-Size: This quinoa- and hummus-enriched salad packs a powerful protein-filled punch.
    230 calories, 8g fat, 2g sat. fat, 55mg cholesterol, 630mg sodium, 21g carbs, 5g fiber, 20g protein
  • Ultimate Chicken Grill: Order it with lettuce, tomatoes, and honey mustard sauce.
    340 calories, 8g fat, 1.5g sat. fat, 105mg cholesterol, 950mg sodium, 34g carbs, 1g fiber, 32g protein
Burger King
A salad and veggie burger top the healthy list at Burger King. Their website, www.bk.com, offers more nutrition information.
  • Garden Grilled Chicken Salad with TENDERGRILL (dressing not reflected in nutrition info): Hold the cheese and top with the Light Italian dressing:
    320 calories, 14g fat, 6g sat. fat, 115mg cholesterol, 650mg sodium, 16g carbs, 2g fiber, 36g protein
  • BK Veggie Burger: Say "no mayo" to enjoy this healthy, cholesterol-free vegetarian delight.
    390 calories, 16g fat, 2.5g sat. fat, 5mg cholesterol, 900mg sodium, 44g carbs, 5g fiber, 21g protein
Taco Bell
When you order “fresco style,” the regular cheese and sauce are replaced by a flavorful combo of tomatoes, onions and cilantro, all fresh (and much healthier). More nutrition facts are available at www.tacobell.com.
  • Fresco Soft Taco - Shredded Chicken:
    140 calories, 3.5g fat, 1g sat. fat, 15mg cholesterol, 470mg sodium, 16g carbs, 2g fiber, 10g protein
  • Fresco Crunchy Taco - Beef: This menu item is much lower in sodium but still loaded with flavor.
    150 calories, 8g fat, 2.5g sat. fat, 20mg cholesterol, 310mg sodium, 13g carbs, 3g fiber, 6g protein. <pagebreak>
Subway
The subway diet brought Subway restaurants recognition as one fast food joint with lots of healthy options. Sandwiches from the Subway "Fresh Fit" menu each have fewer than 6 grams of fat. Visit www.subway.com for more information.
  • 6" Oven-Roasted Chicken Breast:
    320 calories, 5g fat, 45mg cholesterol, 610mg sodium, 5g fiber
  • 6" Veggie Delite: A great option for vegetarian diners or for those watching their cholesterol. Order it on Italian bread and it’s vegan, too.
    230 calories, 2.5g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 280mg sodium, 5g fiber
  • Soups: If you’re really hungry, pair your sandwich with one of the healthier Subway Soups. Each restaurant features two soups daily, and the ones listed below each contain 160 calories or fewer: Cream of Broccoli, Beef and Barley, Creamy Chicken and Dumplings, Homestyle Chicken Noodle, Poblano Corn Chowder, Tomato Basil
Arby’s
For the healthiest fare, steer clear of the roast beef sandwiches altogether or visit their website, www.arbys.com to see more choices.
  • Roast Turkey Farmhouse Salad:
    230 calories, 7g fat, 7g sat. fat, 55mg cholesterol, 870mg sodium, 8g carbs, 2g fiber, 22g protein
KFC
Although their fried chicken isn’t health food (not even by a long shot), KFC does have some healthy options on their menu. Get more nutrition facts at www.kfc.com.
  • Honey BBQ Sandwich:
    370 calories, 3.5g fat, 1g sat. fat, 55mg cholesterol, 1,320mg sodium, 60g carbs, 3g fiber, 26g protein
  • Kentucky Grilled Chicken Breast:
    180 calories, 6g fat, 2g sat. fat, 105mg cholesterol, 630mg sodium, 0g carbs, 0g fiber, 31g protein
Chick-fil-A
Just because it isn't beef doesn't mean it's always better—especially when the chicken is breaded and fried. Try the items below, or see all the facts at www.chickfila.com.
  • Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich:
    320 calories, 5g fat, 1.5g sat. fat, 65mg cholesterol, 800mg sodium, 40g carbs, 3g fiber, 30g protein
  • Grilled Market Salad: Top with reduced fat berry balsamic vinaigrette.
    320 calories, 14g fat, 3g sat. fat, 65mg cholesterol, 600mg sodium, 26g carbs, 6g fiber, 26g protein
Jack in the Box
Whole grains, from this fast food joint? Believe it! Visit www.jackinthebox.com for more menu items.
  • Grilled Chicken Salad:
    348 calories, 15g fat, 6g sat. fat, 91mg cholesterol, 1093mg sodium, 26g carbs, 7g fiber, 35g protein
  • Chicken Fajita Pita: The pita is made with whole grains, which are rarely seen at fast food restaurants. Hold the salsa.
    346 calories, 12g fat, 6g sat. fat, 57mg cholesterol, 1,117mg sodium, 36g carbs, 4g fiber, 24g protein
Carl’s Jr.
Steer clear of big, meaty burgers and try these chicken options instead. The Carl's Jr. Website, www.carlsjr.com has lots of nutrition information, too.
  • Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich:
    390 calories, 7g fat, 1.5g sat. fat, 60mg cholesterol, 990mg sodium, 50g carbs, 3g fiber, 30g protein
  • Charbroiled Chicken Salad: Choose the low-fat balsamic dressing.
    320 calories, 11g fat, 3.5g sat. fat, 75mg cholesterol, 770mg sodium, 27g carbs, 3g fiber, 31g protein
This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople's Licensed and Registered Dietitian, Becky Hand.

Share your healthy and diet-friendly fast-food picks in the comments section to the right!
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