28 July 2020

Healthiest options at your favorite fast food restaurants

woman-in-brown-classic-trench-coat-eating-mcdo-fries-during-139681 (1) Photo by freestocks.org from Pexels

Fast food gets a bad rap when it comes to health. After all, how can something made quickly be healthy and fresh? But sometimes, eating fast food is inevitable. You don’t want to go hungry on a road trip or if you oversleep before work. Your friend might have an overwhelming craving for fries. And honestly? Sometimes you just want something to eat without breaking the bank. Luckily, there are some healthy foods at fast food restaurants that won’t break your daily calorie bank, either.


Welcome to McDonald’s, home of the Big Mac and supersized fries. You probably aren’t going to stay within your calorie goal after this meal, but you can certainly find healthy food options at McDonald’s even if you hate salad.

  • Salad is a choice if you want it: the Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad clocks in at about 350 calories, especially if you don’t go overboard on the cilantro dressing
  • If you don’t supersize it, a classic hamburger is a reasonably low-calorie choice
  • Surprisingly, if you’re craving something sweet, McDonald’s might be the place to go with an oatmeal raisin cookie under 200 calories
  • The problem with chicken McNuggets isn’t how they’re made, it’s how many you eat. A small order (think 4-6) won’t tip you over 500 calories if you add dipping sauce in moderation
  • Smoothies and parfaits are hailed as healthy options, which might make you suspicious of them in a fast food context. McDonald’s smoothies and parfaits actually live up to their healthy name
  • Egg White McMuffins can also be a reasonably healthy breakfast

Taco Bell

Tortillas, meat and beans don’t have a ton of calories in them. You can blame the heavy sauces for Taco Bell’s unhealthy reputation. If you order “Fresco Style” to replace sauces with pico de gallo, you’ll almost always get something under 500 calories and often under 200. Salad isn’t even on the list of Taco Bell’s healthiest choices.

  • It may sound too good to be true, but tacos are one of the healthiest food items you can buy at this fast food restaurant. Your choice of soft or crunchy shell taco only gives you between 140-160 calories
  • Burritos have more calories but still aren’t very caloric. Their 350 calories may be comparable to what you get with tacos since you might eat 2-3 tacos


Salads are always a healthy choice in terms of getting your veggies in, but if you’re counting calories steer clear of Wendy’s salads. They range from 400-600 calories, so opting for a sandwich is probably the way to go.

  • Wendy’s Junior sizes can help you with portioning, the true key to nutritional happiness, so you can enjoy a Junior cheeseburger or grilled chicken sandwich
  • A grilled chicken wrap is also a great choice
  • If you want a little more meat and aren’t a fan of carbs, a full-sized grilled chicken sandwich with no bun may be exactly what you’re looking for
  • Chili also doesn’t necessarily feel healthy, but at Wendy’s it’s a nutritious choice
  • On the flip side, if you don’t love meat, try baked potatoes
  • Once again, if you’re craving something sweet, Junior sizes are your friend. Enjoy the Frosty of your choice!


This restaurant is one of your best options for healthy food at fast food restaurants, especially if you focus on the flavor of the meat and load up on veggies. You’ll get plenty of bang for your buck with many sub-400 calorie options and a wide variety of veggies—made to order, of course.

  • The veggie sub seems like an obvious choice, right? Unlike some salads, it does work as a low-calorie option, so go with your gut here
  • Teriyaki chicken is not an obvious choice, but a teriyaki chicken sub has less than 300 calories if you skip added sauces and enjoy the teriyaki flavor that’s already there
  • Subway has a few types of turkey subs, and they’re all great options. You can even ask for them in salad form if you’re feeling extra healthy, but this is a great place to indulge in bread if you want it
  • Roast beef and black forest ham are also delicious low-calorie options
  • If you can’t decide on a meat, the club sandwich gives you a combination for tons of flavor and few calories
  • Eggs? Cheese? Yes, please! An egg and cheese sub can be a great healthy breakfast option

Dairy Queen

Is it possible to find healthy food at an ice cream place? If you can believe it, Dairy Queen even has low-calorie dessert!

  • You may still want to eat your dinner before dessert, so try an all-beef hot dog, grilled chicken salad with fat-free dressing or DQ Original Burger. At less than 400 calories, each of these options will leave room for dessert
  • A fudge bar or vanilla orange bar with no added sugar will give you the sweetness you crave with less than 100 calories
  • A small vanilla or child’s sized dipped ice cream cone also won’t set you too far back in the calorie department

So yes, it’s true: you can find healthy food at fast food restaurants. There are nutritious options pretty much anywhere you go, and most of the time they’re so delicious that they don’t even feel healthy. As surprising as it is, fast food restaurants have become a great place to feel like you’re indulging without overeating. Be mindful of your portion sizes and toppings and feel free to treat yourself!