Healthiest Fast Food Options: Top 5 ‘Not So Bad for You’ Menu Items Recommended by Experts

Do you like the convenience of drive-thru but don’t like the high calorie content that comes with it? Healthier fast food options generally prioritize fresh, whole ingredients and lower protein sources, providing a more balanced approach to fast food. These options often include salads, grilled chicken and vegetable-based side dishes, which provide essential nutrients while reducing excess calories and saturated fat. Choosing foods with fewer processed ingredients and added sugars can help promote a healthy fast-food experience.

But despite efforts to offer healthy alternativesA Study Researchers at Boston University found that fast food menus in the US are more unhealthy than they were 30 years ago. Researchers analyzed entrées, sides and desserts in 1986, 1991 and again in 2016, finding that total calories and sodium increased significantly. But this is not surprising, as portion sizes have also increased since the 1980s.

Just one meal at a fast food chain, consisting of an entrée and side (think: a burger and fries) provides an average of 767 calories. That’s 40 percent of 2,000 calories per day! And if you add soda for good, you’re increasing that percentage to between 45 and 50 of your recommended daily calorie intake. But why would you choose such a high-calorie option instead of picking up hummus with baby carrots in the supermarket deli section?

fast food diet hacks

As well as ordering the options on our list, you can modify any item to make it a little more diet-friendly. These hacks below are great for anyone trying to stay healthy at the drive-thru.

Hack #1: Embrace the Grill (and Skip the Fries)

  • Replace fried with grilled:Grilled chicken, fish, or veggie patties are your lean protein heroes. Skip the greasiness of fried options and opt for smoky, healthier options.
  • Vegetarian Power:Don’t underestimate the protein punch of a veggie burger. Made from a mixture of beans, lentils or grains, they are often lower in calories and fat than their meaty counterparts.

Hack #2: Pile of Vegetables

  • Vegetarian Festival: Salads, bowls and wraps can be transformed into nutritional powerhouses. Fill them with a rainbow of vegetables like leafy greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and onions.
  • Guac it:Avocado is nature’s buttery goodness, packed with healthy fats and fiber. Add guacamole to your order for an extra dose of deliciousness and nutrients.

Hack #3: Skip the Creamy Sauce

  • fade:Creamy sauces are often calorie and fat bombs. Opt for light vinaigrettes, mustards, or hot sauces instead. You’ll get the taste without any guilt.
  • DIY Dip:Bring your own low-fat yogurt or hummus for a healthy and delicious dip for your vegetables or pita bread.

Hack #4: Take care of your sides

  • Skip the Fries:French fries are the ultimate fast food, but they’re loaded with unhealthy fats and carbs. Replace them with a side salad, fruit cup or baked sweet potatoes for a satisfying and nutritious option.
  • Soup-er Smart:Choose a broth-based soup for a light and filling starter. Avoid creamy soups which are usually loaded with calories and fat.

Hack #5: Portion Control is Key

  • Please:Share a meal with a friend or family member, or ask to eat half the portion. Fast food servings are often large, making it easy to overeat.
  • Put it in the box:Take half your meal home to enjoy later. This helps prevent overeating and keeps you on track with your diet goals.

Bonus Tip: Don’t forget H2O! Skip the sugary sodas and opt for water or unsweetened tea for a refreshing and calorie-free drink.

Now that you’re ready to deal with any drive-thru temptations, let’s move on to our list below. MAny of us are looking for healthier fast food options. So, when you’re on the road or short on time, here are five of the better menu items for you to order, which were most recommended among 12 dietitians and healthy eating experts.

Taco Bell drive-thru sign (Photo by Ken Wolter on Shutterstock)

The List: The Healthiest Fast Food Menu Items According to the Pros

1. Taco Bell: Fresco Crunchy Taco

According to Today, [Fresco-style] Eliminates the cheese and sour cream and substitutes tomatoes.

Taco Bell Hard Taco with beef, tomato and lettuce
Fresco Crunchy Taco (Photo by Taco Bell)

That’s why it’s on top taste of home: Packed with 150 calories, 8 grams of fat and 370 milligrams of sodium, this is one of the healthiest fast-food items available. While most tacos fall in the 170-300 calorie range, be mindful of the sodium content and limit any added sauces. To enhance the flavor, choose fresh salsa instead of sour cream and cheese.

And women’s Health Writes: Dietitian Rosanne Rust, RDN, Author dash diet for beginners, orders the Beef Fresco Crunchie Taco at Taco Bell. ‘It may surprise you that crunchy tacos have fewer calories and less sodium than soft tacos,” says Rust.

2. Panda Express Bowl or Plate

Panda Express may not be the first fast food option that comes to mind, but it’s a solid choice for healthier foods.

Teriyaki Bowl with Chicken, Brown Rice, Carrots and Broccoli
Panda Express Bowl (Photo by Panda Express)

cnbc Says to order: Pepper Angus steak, super greens, half order of brown rice, with chili sauce. You can get a good dose of protein with Angus steak. And steamed broccoli, kale and cabbage are also nutritious and satisfying without adding calories. The entire meal contains only 465 calories. If you tend to overeat or are someone who needs to eat a lot of food to feel full, I recommend doubling your intake of green vegetables.

And real simple Talks about what to look for when ordering: Although menus can vary by location, steamed vegetables, or anything that is not deep-fried or drenched in sauce (such as black pepper chicken or grilled teriyaki chicken) is usually a good choice. to choose a healthy one When ordering, Bruno chooses bowls, which include a side (you can do half-and-half to mix up the dishes) and an entrée. If you’re hungry, grab a plate.

daily meals suggests, if you’re going there for dinner, you can always skip the orange chicken and treat yourself to some healthier options like the black pepper Angus steak, super greens, and brown rice. These side dishes can be a surprise especially for those who have been ordering chow mein with it for years. Panda Express really amps up its healthy quotient through the aforementioned super greens, especially items like kale, cabbage and steamed broccoli.

3. Wendy’s Sour Cream and Chive Baked Potatoes

A baked potato is definitely a healthier option than deep-fried French fries, and Wendy’s carries this option. A Wendy’s Baked Potato with Sour Cream and Chives can be satisfying and healthy, as long as you’re adding only a little sour cream, says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, author of. First Time Mom’s Pregnancy Cookbook And boost male fertility, Baked potatoes are a natural source of vitamin C, fiber and potassium, and chives add some serious flavor with very few calories, reports. Eat this, not that!

Baked potatoes with butter, chive sour cream on red background
Wendy’s Scallops (Photo by Wendy’s)

And food Network Say, whether you’re stopping in for breakfast or a small meal, Wendy’s baked potatoes Always a good option. Sour cream and chives is a classic combo and a great comfort food on the road.

4. McDonald’s Fruit and Maple Oatmeal

For breakfast, you can enjoy a sausage biscuit at McDonald’s.sfgate Recommends Fruit and Maple Oatmeal: Whole grain oatmeal for breakfast is a healthy choice to start your day. This oatmeal from McDonald’s includes diced apples, dried cranberries and raisins and comes with or without brown sugar.

black bowl of oatmeal with fruit
(Photo by McDonald’s)

the parade Consulted a dietitian, and she also chose oatmeal: At 320 calories, you get 4 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein and you can save 30 calories if you skip the sugar. Incredibly delicious and nutritious fast pick, says Sylvia Klinger, DBA, MS, RDRegistered Dietitian and owner of Hispanic Food Communications.

5. Subway No Bready Bowl

Finally, the last spot on the list goes to Subway. This chain markets itself as a refreshing, healthy alternative to fast food, so it’s no surprise it made the list. However, it is the closest option to salad recommended by experts.

Three bowls with meat and vegetables
Subway’s “No Brady Bowl” (Photo by Subway)

Originally launched as the Protein Bowl in January 2021 and renamed in late 2021, it is basically a sub sandwich served inside a bowl instead of on bread. This would be an excellent fast food healthy lunch or dinner option for those who are on the go. There are lots of combos for a low-carb no bread bowl. I usually go with rotisserie chicken and customize my veggie pile, adding optional avocado for extra flavor and healthy fats, say. The Wellnest,

healthline Also recommend going without bread: You can also skip the bread altogether and have a salad with chicken breast and lots of fresh vegetables.

There are definitely more healthy options out there! And many fast food restaurants are happy to customize your order. Leave us a comment to tell us about your favorite healthy choice when you travel.

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