21 Healthier Fast-Food Meals

Headed for a fast-food chain? Here's how to keep it healthy.

By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Hey, it happens to the best of us. When you're hungry and have only a few minutes (or a few bucks), fast food calls out to you. Yes, fast food is higher in sodium than it should be. Yes, fast food tends to be devoid of fruits, vegetables, and fiber. But, there are some healthier fast-food options out there. You just need to know how to order.

I'm going to list 21 healthier fast food entrees below, but that's only part of the story. First, keep these three restaurant rules in mind:

Healthier Fast-Food Rule No. 1: Be Cautious About Condiments

Half the fat grams in Arby's Southwest Chicken Wrap and their Ultimate BLT Wrap come from the ranch sauce or mayonnaise. Believe it! Some fast food condiments add a lot of fat and calories -- like mayonnaise- and oil-based sauces. Others are lower in calories and have no fat, though they will add some sodium. Use a little catsup, mustard, marinara, or BBQ sauce instead of creamy sauces and spreads. Half a packet of BBQ sauce or honey-mustard sauce from most fast-food chains, for example, will add about 23 calories, no fat grams, and about 80 milligrams of sodium.

Healthier Fast-Food Rule No. 2: Watch Out for Side Dishes

Anything on the side that's fried is suspect, like French fries and onion rings. If you need something to keep your entree company, look for fresh fruit cups or side salads (and use half a packet of the reduced-calorie dressing). The other option is to bring your own fruits and vegetables from home. Don't laugh -- I've done this plenty of times!

Healthier Fast-Food Rule No. 3: Look Out for Liquid Calories

The last thing you need when eating at a fast-food chain is to drink something that gives you calories without nutrients, like soda, sweetened tea, lemonade, and fruit drinks. It's even worse if your drink is also loaded with fat -- like shakes. Choose either a no-calorie beverage (like water, unsweetened tea, or diet soda) or one that contributes some nutrients along with its calories (like low-fat milk or 100% orange juice).

That said, here are 21 healthier entree alternatives from popular fast-food chains:

1. KFC Honey BBQ Sandwich

  • 280 calories
  • 3.5 grams fat
  • 1 gram saturated fat
  • 60 mg cholesterol
  • 780 mg sodium
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 32 grams carbohydrate
  • 14 grams protein

2. KFC Tender Roast Sandwich (without sauce)

  • 300 calories
  • 4.5 grams fat
  • 1.5 grams saturated fat
  • 70 mg cholesterol
  • 1,060 mg sodium
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 28 grams carbohydrate
  • 37 grams protein

3. Chick-fil-A Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich

  • 270 calories
  • 3.5 grams fat
  • 1 gram saturated fat
  • 65 mg cholesterol
  • 940 mg sodium
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 33 grams carbohydrate
  • 28 grams protein

4. Hardee's Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich

  • 340 calories
  • 4 grams fat
  • 1 gram saturated fat
  • 60 mg cholesterol
  • 1,070 mg sodium
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 40 grams carbohydrate
  • 33 grams protein

5. Carl's Jr Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich

  • 360 calories
  • 4.5 grams fat
  • 1 gram saturated fat
  • 60 mg cholesterol
  • 1,150 mg sodium
  • 4 grams fiber
  • 48 grams carbohydrate
  • 34 grams protein

6. Wendy's Ultimate Grill Sandwich

  • 320 calories
  • 7 grams fat
  • 1.5 grams saturated fat
  • 70 mg cholesterol
  • 950 mg sodium
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 36 grams carbohydrate
  • 28 grams protein

7. Arby's Grilled Chicken Cordon Bleu Sandwich (without mayo)

  • 390 calories
  • 8 grams fat
  • 2 grams saturated fat
  • 25 mg cholesterol
  • 1,563 mg sodium
  • 2 grams fiber
  • 49 grams carbohydrate
  • 41 grams protein

8. In-n-out Hamburger (with onion, mustard, and catsup instead of spread)

  • 310 calories
  • 10 grams fat
  • 4 grams saturated fat
  • 35 mg cholesterol
  • 730 mg sodium
  • 3 grams fiber
  • 41 grams carbohydrate
  • 16 grams protein

9. Taco Bell Fresco Style Bean Burrito

  • 330 calories
  • 7 grams fat
  • 2.5 grams saturated fat
  • 0 mg cholesterol
  • 1,200 mg sodium
  • 9 grams fiber
  • 54 grams carbohydrate
  • 12 grams protein


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