Nutrition Articles

The 22 Healthiest Fast Foods

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

By Liza Barnes, Health Educator         
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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

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 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 Continued ›
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • Wow! I didn't know my favorite McDonalds sandwich could actually be healthy without the mayonnaise:) - 3/21/2010 9:34:58 PM
  • Love this! Today, I went to Wendy's with my Nana and got...

    1) Diet Coke
    2) Grilled Chicken Sandwich (Sans Mayo!)
    3) Side Salad

    It was really yummy, filling and not a diet breaker. Very happy. :] - 4/1/2009 9:36:54 PM
  • Great resource, however, I would LOVE to see an article like this for us non-meat-eaters. That would be so helfpful! - 4/1/2009 5:03:48 PM
  • I almost never eat fast food, but even so, I found the book "eat this not that" very interesting. There is also an "eat this, not that" for supermarkets.

    One thing at McDonald's that I have tried though, is the Honey Mustard Grilled Chicken Snack Wrap, and it was pretty good. Combine it with a side salad, or their fruit and walnut salad and it makes a good meal. - 4/1/2009 2:52:42 PM
    LOVE IT! So helpful and informative. - 10/7/2008 10:45:34 AM
    Another good resource on healthier fast food choices is a book called "Eat This Not That". My mom bought it for me and it has really helped me make healthier food choices on the go. - 9/15/2008 3:09:22 PM

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