Lower-Calorie Summer Fast Food Picks
32 healthier choices from your favorite fast food chains.
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column
It's summertime, and the living is supposed to be easy. So the last thing you want to do is spend a lot of time in the kitchen, right? If you don't want to spend a lot of money, either, you may well find yourself at a fast-food restaurant. But all those fast-food calories could end up making things not so easy when it comes time to fit into your summer swimsuit.
The answer is not necessarily to give up fast food entirely. For just about any menu item, there are more healthy options available.
For example, several chains are now offering iced coffee, which can be fairly low in calories if you avoid sugary syrups and whole milk. McDonald's offers sugar-free syrup, and you can choose fat-free milk; Jack in the Box makes its iced coffees with 2% low-fat milk.
New and interesting salads are also hitting fast food menus, along with sandwich wraps and even more chicken sandwiches to choose from. The key to more healthful wraps is ordering them with grilled chicken instead of "crispy" and with a lighter sauce (like honey mustard or chipotle BBQ sauce at McDonald's). Keep in mind that most grilled chicken sandwiches come with mayo; order them without it, and, if you like, add some BBQ sauce or mustard at the table.
From iced lattes to salads and sandwich wraps, here are 32 of your best summer fast food picks, all for fewer than 500 calories each.
Iced Coffee, Lattes, and Tea
Jack in the Box:
- Caramel Iced Coffee, Original Iced Coffee, and Vanilla Iced Coffee made with French roast coffee, 2% low-fat milk and flavored syrups: About 100 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 17 grams carbohydrate and 4 grams protein per 16-ounce serving.
- Freshly Brewed Iced Tea (unsweetened). The 20-ounce serving contains just 5 calories.
- Iced Latte with Sugar-Free Vanilla Syrup, made with nonfat milk: 60 calories, 0 grams fat, 17 grams carbohydrate and 6 grams protein per 16-ounce serving.
- Iced Latte with Sugar-Free Vanilla Syrup, made with whole milk: 90 calories, 5 grams fat, 16 grams carbohydrate and 5 grams of protein per 16-ounce serving.
Jack in the Box:
- Martha's Vineyard Salad (diced grilled chicken, diced apples, tomatoes, cheddar, cranberries, romaine lettuce and 1/2 packet raspberry vinaigrette): 368 calories, 16 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 25 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 25 grams protein, 61 mg cholesterol, 802 mg sodium.
- Santa Fe Salad with Grilled Chicken (with 1/2 packet raspberry vinaigrette): 374 calories, 16 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 30 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fiber, 25 grams protein, 61 mg cholesterol, 872 mg sodium.
- Acapulco Chicken Salad with Grilled Chicken Strips (not including dressing): 250 calories, 11 grams fat, 5 g saturated fat, 15 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 27 g protein, 90 mg cholesterol, 620 mg sodium.
- Asian Chicken Salad with Grilled Chicken Strips (not including dressing): 160 calories, 1.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 18 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 22 g protein, 65 mg cholesterol, 380 mg sodium.
- Southwest Chicken Salad with Grilled Chicken Strips (not including dressing): 310 calories, 12 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 28 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber, 31 g protein, 90 mg cholesterol, 840 mg sodium.
- Chargrilled Chicken & Fruit Salad (not including dressing): 220 calories, 6 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 20 g carbohydrate, 5 g fiber, 22 g protein, 65 mg cholesterol, 610 mg sodium.
- Chargrilled Chicken Garden Salad (not including dressing): 180 calories, 6 g fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 10 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 23 g protein, 65 mg cholesterol, 610 mg sodium.
- Southwest Chargrilled Salad (not including dressing): 240 calories, 9 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 17 g carbohydrate 5 g fiber, 25 g protein, 60 mg cholesterol, 750 mg sodium.
Sandwiches and Wraps
- Mandarin Chicken Salad (with crispy noodles and 1/2 packet of Oriental Sesame Dressing): 335 calories, 9.5 grams fat, 1.2 grams saturated fat, 35 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 25 grams protein, 65 mg cholesterol, 1,000 mg sodium.
- Chicken Caesar Salad (with home-style croutons and 1/2 packet of Supreme Caesar Dressing): 310 calories, 13 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 18 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber, 31 grams protein, 80 mg cholesterol, 915 mg sodium.