You know you should avoid it, but sometimes there is no getting around a stop at a fast food restaurant. For starters they’re everywhere. Then, there’s their unbeatable prices and the fact that, yes, sometimes nothing satisfies like a Big Mac or fast food fries. When you find yourself on fast food row, it pays to know what chains or menu items will pack a lighter calorie punch. These meals will satisfy your craving while not taking up two meals worth of calories or packing an overly high dose of sodium or fat.
1. McDonald’s, Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich
When you find yourself under the golden arches, don’t allow guilt to scare you away. McDonald’s has a few salads that come in under 500 calories, but the real bombs are the dressings, which typically include well over 1,000 milligrams of sodium. For a hearty and calorie-conscious meal (with less sodium), choose the Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich. The sandwich alone is 380 calories and 37 grams of protein. The chicken is served on an artisan bun with McDonald’s vinaigrette sauce and herb seasoning. Not bad, McDonald’s.
2. Subway, Roast Beef Sandwich
You probably already know Subway is a great fast food choice when you’re trying to eat healthy. While many of the subs are low in calories, some pack a hefty amount of fat. Avoid the fat by ordering off their 6 grams of fat or less menu, which includes the Roast Beef Sandwich. The sub has about 320 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 25 grams of protein. Load on the veggies and opt for mustard over mayo or any of the other tempting dressings. Want chips? Substitute in a bag of apple slices, which have only 50 calories and 2 grams of fiber.
3. Burger King, Flame Broiled Burger
As crazy as it sounds, at Burger King choosing a classic burger beats settling for a salad. When all you want is the classic taste of a fast food hamburger, choose Burger King’s classic flame broiled burger. Even when paired with apple slices, the meal comes in at 260 calories and 11 grams of protein. If you aren’t one to pass up fries, add on the “value” or absolute smallest size of fries for an additional 220 calories that still keeps you under the 500 limit.
4. Dunkin’ Donuts, Turkey Sausage Wake-Up Wrap
If you’re a fast food breakfast lover, head to Dunkin’ and check out their DDSmart Menu. Their Wake-Up Wraps are deliciously low in calories to get your day started on the right foot. At 280 calories and with an impressive 15 grams of protein, the Turkey Sausage Wake-Up Wrap will keep you satisfied until lunch. Pair with an iced coffee for a true get-up-and-go breakfast.
5. Wendy’s, Chili-Topped Potato
While this meal isn’t on the Wendy’s menu, it’s easy enough to create. Order the plain baked potato and a small chili, and then drench your potato with the thick, spicy chili. Together, they provide 440 calories and an impressive 22 grams of protein. The best thing about this meal is you’ll be eating real food (that isn’t fried) at a fast food chain. The chili-topped potato gives you a dose of healthy carbohydrates, fats, and fiber to keep you fuller longer than if you opted for fries and a burger.
6. Chipotle, Steak Burrito Bowl
Chipotle is often considered an upscale version of fast food that uses plenty of veggies and carefully sourced meat. While often high in sodium, Chipotle shouldn’t be overlooked for a healthy fast food option. Order the Burrito Bowl with Steak and add on black beans, fajita veggies, fresh tomato salsa, cheese, and lettuce. For a heaping bowl of goodness you’ll only sacrifice 420 calories while gaining 35 grams of protein. Skip the sour cream and rice to keep this bowl low in fat and calories.
7. Del Taco, Carne Asada Tacos
At just 180 calories each, you can order two of Del Taco’s delicious Carne Asada Street Tacos and still have some wiggle room (ahem, that means dessert or a soda). Each taco has 11 grams of protein and just 7 grams of fat, which isn’t bad considering Del Taco is known for being loaded with flavor. If you’re really in a rush, the tacos are portable and easy to pack around for later.