The 18 Healthiest Fast Foods You Can Eat


Fast food has a reputation for being unhealthy and high in calories, salt and fat.

Thankfully, there are exceptions. Although many fast foods have been processed, refined or deep-fried, some fast food restaurants now offer healthy options.

To make a healthier selection, look for items that include vegetables, lean sources of protein or whole grains. Additionally, opting for foods that are grilled or baked rather than fried can significantly reduce the calories and fat in your meal.

Here are 18 healthy fast foods that you can enjoy guilt-free. Some restaurants have more healthy options than others, so these will appear more than once.

Takeaway Food

1. Saladworks: Farmhouse Salad

This salad features a wide assortment of vegetables that are high in fiber, including kale, butternut squash and Brussels sprouts.

Fiber moves slowly through the body undigested. Eating it helps promote feelings of fullness while supporting regularity and lowering the risk of certain conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes (1).

This salad delivers an impressive 5 grams of fiber, which can fulfill up to 20% of your daily needs.

Top this salad with your choice of vinaigrette dressing to keep it light yet delicious.

This is the nutrient content for one Farmhouse Salad with Italian vinaigrette (2):

  • Calories: 420
  • Fat: 28 grams
  • Protein: 14 grams
  • Carbs: 30 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams

2. Panera: Strawberry Poppyseed Salad With Chicken

Panera Bread Logo

This salad is low in calories, sodium and fat, but high in protein and fiber.

It also contains a variety of fruits and vegetables, which provides vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

These include romaine lettuce, mandarin oranges, blueberries, strawberries and pineapple.

Panera offers this salad in a whole or half serving. A half serving makes a perfect side dish when paired with a soup or sandwich, while a whole serving can be a filling meal on its own.

This is the nutrient content for a whole serving of Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with chicken (3):

  • Calories: 340
  • Fat: 12 grams
  • Protein: 30 grams
  • Carbs: 32 grams
  • Fiber: 6 grams

3. Pret A Manger: Coconut Chicken & Miso Sweet Potato Balance Box

Superstar ingredients in this nutrient-packed meal include chargrilled chicken, maple miso sweet potatoes, avocado, pomegranates and a seed mix over spinach, brown rice, chickpeas and red quinoa.

This meal meets the criteria for a healthy fast food, as it’s high in protein and fiber, low in calories and includes a good mix of whole grains, vegetables and healthy fats.

The coconut chicken, chickpeas and quinoa bump the protein up to 30 grams per serving. Meanwhile, avocado delivers some heart-healthy monounsaturated fats.

This is the nutrient content for one 14.4-ounce (409-gram) serving of Coconut Chicken & Miso Sweet Potato Balance Box (4):

  • Calories: 500
  • Fat: 26 grams
  • Protein: 30 grams
  • Carbs: 58 grams
  • Fiber: 13 grams

4. Starbucks: Sous Vide Egg Bites

Starbucks Logo

If you’re looking for a nutritious breakfast on the go, these egg bites are a healthy and delicious option.

Sous vide is a cooking technique in which foods are vacuum-sealed in a pouch and then cooked in a water bath to achieve a precise level of doneness.

In addition to egg whites, these bites contain Monterey Jack cheese, spinach and fire-roasted red peppers. Each serving squeezes in 13 grams of protein.

Some studies have found that a high-protein breakfast may help with weight loss.

A 2015 study compared 57 young adults who either skipped breakfast or ate a high- or normal-protein breakfast.

The high-protein breakfast group experienced reduced hunger and food intake throughout the day, and gained less body fat compared to the no-breakfast and normal-protein breakfast groups (5).

Enjoy these egg bites on their own for a light breakfast, or pair them with another healthy breakfast food, like Greek yogurt or oatmeal, for a protein-packed meal.

This is the nutrient content for two Egg White & Red Pepper Sous Vide Egg Bites (6):

  • Calories: 170
  • Fat: 7 grams
  • Protein: 13 grams
  • Carbs: 13 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram

5. Chick-fil-A: Grilled Nuggets and Superfood Side

These grilled nuggets are healthy, high in protein and a perfect option for when you’re on the go.

Opting for nuggets that are grilled rather than fried makes a huge difference in terms of nutrition.

For example, compared to the traditional chicken nuggets at Chick-fil-A, the grilled nuggets have nearly half the calories, one-third the amount of fat and less than half the sodium (7).

Pair them with the Superfood Side, which includes broccolini, kale, dried cherries and a nut blend with a maple vinaigrette. This adds extra fiber, vitamins and minerals to your lunch.

Here is the nutrient content for one 12-piece serving of Grilled Nuggets and one serving of the Superfood Side (8, 9):

  • Calories: 400
  • Fat: 14 grams
  • Protein: 42 grams
  • Carbs: 28 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams

6. McDonald’s: Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad

McDonald's Logo

Though you might not associate McDonald’s with healthy food, they do have a few healthy options on the menu.

The Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad stands out, in particular, because it delivers 37 grams of protein per serving, which can keep you feeling fuller for longer (10, 11).

In addition to being high in protein, it also contains a few ingredients that make it especially nutritious, including grilled chicken, black beans, corn, tomatoes, poblano peppers, kale, spinach and red leaf lettuce.

Drizzle it with just a small amount of your favorite dressing to prevent loading up on calories, and opt for some fresh fruit on the side rather than fries.

This is the nutrient content for one order of Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad, topped with Italian dressing (12, 13):

  • Calories: 400
  • Fat: 13.5 grams
  • Protein: 37 grams
  • Carbs: 35 grams
  • Fiber: 7 grams

7. Boston Market: Rotisserie Turkey Breast Bowl With Fresh Steamed Vegetables and Rotisserie Potatoes

Boston Market is a fast-casual restaurant that prepares home-style meals and boasts a menu with quite a few healthy choices.

The market bowls are a good option, in particular. They come with your choice of protein and optional sides and sauces.

The Turkey Breast Bowl is high in protein to keep you full, but it’s also low in calories and weight loss friendly. Order it with a side of steamed vegetables and rotisserie potatoes to increase the fiber content, plus squeeze in extra vitamins and minerals.

Other healthy side dish choices that go well with the turkey breast bowl include sweet corn, Caesar side salad or cinnamon apples.

This is the nutrient content for one Turkey Breast Bowl, along with Poultry Gravy and a side of Fresh Steamed Vegetables and Rotisserie Potatoes (14):

  • Calories: 320
  • Fat: 10 grams
  • Protein: 30 grams
  • Carbs: 31 grams
  • Fiber: 7 grams

8. Chipotle: Burrito Bowl With Chicken, Brown Rice, Black Beans and Veggies

Chicken and Black Bean Burrito Bowl

Chipotle has a highly customizable menu, which makes it a great restaurant option for healthy eating.

By selecting the burrito bowl instead of the burrito, you eliminate the calories and refined carbs from the flour tortilla.

Choosing chicken adds protein with less added fat, sodium and calories than some other types of meat, such as chorizo.

Fajita vegetables, brown rice and black beans all help enhance the fiber content to make it a well-rounded, filling meal.

Keep in mind that adding sauces and dressings to your burrito bowl can rack up the calories pretty quickly, so use them sparingly.

This is the nutrient content for one Burrito Bowl with chicken, brown rice, black beans, lettuce, fajita veggies and pico de gallo (15):

  • Calories: 570
  • Fat: 14.5 grams
  • Protein: 45 grams
  • Carbs: 65 grams
  • Fiber: 12 grams

9. Wendy’s: Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad

Grilled chicken, feta, hummus and a sun-dried tomato quinoa blend sit atop a bed of lettuce in this healthy salad.

This nutritious dish contains quinoa, a seed that is packed with nutrients and antioxidants. It’s especially high in the antioxidants quercetin and kaempferol (16).

Some animal studies have found these antioxidants may have anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and antiviral effects in the body (17, 18, 19).

In addition to its impressive antioxidant content, this salad is also high in protein and fiber, making it an excellent fast-food choice.

This salad is available in both full-size and half-size servings. Order a full-size and make it a meal, or get a smaller portion as a nutritious side dish.

This is the nutrient content for one full-size serving of Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad with dressing (20):

  • Calories: 480
  • Fat: 16 grams
  • Protein: 43 grams
  • Carbs: 42 grams
  • Fiber: 8 grams

10. Starbucks: Hearty Veggie & Brown Rice Salad Bowl

Starbucks Logo

This nutritious salad bowl includes kale, beets, red cabbage, broccoli, tomatoes and butternut squash served on a bed of brown rice.

Besides fulfilling a hearty chunk of your protein and fiber needs, this dish is also high in many vitamins and minerals.

Each serving provides 180% of your daily required vitamin A, 130% of your daily vitamin C and 25% of your daily iron.

Drizzle on some lemon tahini dressing and enjoy this super satisfying salad.

This is the nutrient content for one 11-ounce (315-gram) serving of Hearty Veggie & Brown Rice Salad Bowl with dressing (21):

  • Calories: 430
  • Fat: 22 grams
  • Protein: 10 grams
  • Carbs: 50 grams
  • Fiber: 8 grams

11. Chick-fil-A: Grilled Market Salad

With grilled chicken, romaine lettuce, blue cheese, apples, strawberries and blueberries, this salad is a great example of how fast food really can be healthy.

It contains 25 grams of protein, plus 4 grams of fiber to help ward off hunger and keep you satisfied.

You can add your choice of vinaigrette to enhance the flavor of this salad. Apple cider vinaigrette adds just the right amount of zing.

This is the nutrient content for one order of Grilled Market Salad with Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette (22):

  • Calories: 430
  • Fat: 25 grams
  • Protein: 25 grams
  • Carbs: 31 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams

12. Pret A Manger: Salmon and Avocado Power Pot

Pret A Manger Logo

This power pot features poached salmon, avocado, lemon and a quinoa and rice mix.

Not only is it high in protein and low in calories, but it’s also loaded with heart-healthy fats thanks to the addition of avocado and salmon.

Avocado is rich in monounsaturated fat, which has been shown to have a protective effect on the heart and reduce the risk of heart disease (23, 24).

Salmon, on the other hand, contains beneficial omega-3 fatty acids that may also lower the risk of heart disease and reduce inflammation (25).

Salmon is also an excellent source of protein to boost your fullness. It provides 19 grams of protein in a 3-ounce (85-gram) portion (26).

Enjoy this delicious dish on its own, or consume it as part of a balanced meal.

This is the nutrient content for one Salmon and Avocado Power Pot (27):

  • Calories: 310
  • Fat: 18 grams
  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Carbs: 16 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams

13. Saladworks: Mediterranean Salad

Ingredients in this Mediterranean salad include chopped romaine and iceberg lettuce, spring mix, chicken, quinoa, black olives, tomatoes, feta and sunflower seeds.

This dish has a little bit of everything, including a good source of protein, whole grains and plenty of vegetables.

Drizzle on an olive-oil-based salad dressing to add some healthy monounsaturated fats into the mix, and you have a balanced and nutritious meal ready to go.

Here’s the nutrient content for a Mediterranean Salad with Balsamic vinaigrette (28):

  • Calories: 500
  • Fat: 41 grams
  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Carbs: 20 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams

14. Au Bon Pain: Vegetarian Chili

Pinto and kidney beans make up the base of this soup, so it’s no surprise that it’s loaded with fiber and protein.

Even just a small cup of soup contains a whopping 16 grams of fiber.

You can also order it in a large size to knock out your entire daily fiber needs, with 32 grams of fiber per serving.

Because beans are rich in fiber and protein, they have been associated with health benefits like better blood sugar control and weight loss (29, 30).

Order a large size for a filling meal, or get a small cup of this chili and enjoy it as a delicious side dish.

This is the nutrient content for 16 ounces (480 ml) of Vegetarian Chili from Au Bon Pain (31):

  • Calories: 340
  • Fat: 2.5 grams
  • Protein: 19 grams
  • Carbs: 61 grams
  • Fiber: 32 grams

15. KFC: Grilled Chicken Breast With Green Beans and Mashed Potatoes

KFC Chicken Box

Though KFC is most famous for its buckets of fried chicken, it does offer a few healthy options.

The grilled chicken breast is one healthy alternative.

Compared to the extra crispy chicken breast, a serving of grilled chicken breast has more protein, less than half the calories and five times less fat.

Round out your meal by opting for a healthy side dish, such as green beans, mashed potatoes or corn on the cob.

This is the nutrient content for one piece of Grilled Chicken Breast with a side of Green Beans and Mashed Potatoes (32):

  • Calories: 330
  • Fat: 10 grams
  • Protein: 41 grams
  • Carbs: 19 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams

16. Carl’s Jr.: Charbroiled Chicken Club Sandwich With Lettuce Wrap and Side Salad

For a healthy, low-carb fast-food meal, the Charbroiled Chicken Club Sandwich at Carl’s Jr. is a pretty good option.

Carl’s Jr. allows you to substitute the bun for a lettuce wrap on any of their burgers or sandwiches, which can significantly reduce the refined carbs and calories in your meal.

Additionally, this sandwich offers an impressive 30 grams of protein, which can help increase feelings of fullness and keep you full between meals.

Instead of fries or onion rings, go for the side salad to get some extra veggies and fiber in your meal.

This is the nutrient content for one Charbroiled Chicken Club Sandwich with a lettuce wrap instead of a bun, and Side Salad (33):

  • Calories: 520
  • Fat: 32 grams
  • Protein: 36 grams
  • Carbs: 23 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams

17. Panda Express: Grilled Teriyaki Chicken with Mixed Vegetables

Panda Express Logo

Skip the orange chicken and try the healthier grilled teriyaki chicken next time you’re at Panda Express.

Combined with a side of mixed veggies, it’s high in protein and fiber, but low in fat and calories.

Grilled teriyaki chicken packs in nearly three times as much protein as orange chicken, but with fewer calories and five times fewer carbs.

Additionally, picking mixed vegetables over items like fried rice or noodles can significantly slash the calories and carbs in your meal, while adding extra fiber.

This is the nutrient content for one order of Grilled Teriyaki Chicken with a side order of Mixed Vegetables (34):

  • Calories: 380
  • Fat: 13.5 grams
  • Protein: 40 grams
  • Carbs: 24 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams

18. Qdoba Mexican Eats: Tequila Lime Chicken Taco Salad Bowl

Qdoba is a fast-casual restaurant that allows you to custom-build your own burritos, tacos or taco salad bowls, which gives you the flexibility to create a healthier meal.

Choose the taco salad and pick the bowl instead of the shell to cut down on calories and carbs.

Tequila lime chicken delivers a good amount of protein, and adding grilled fajita veggies, black beans and brown rice can bump up the protein and fiber of your meal even more.

Be careful when adding extras, since loading up on the sauce, sour cream and cheese can increase the calorie and fat content of your meal by quite a bit.

This is the nutrient content for a Tequila Lime Chicken Taco Salad Bowl with grilled fajita veggies, brown rice, black beans, shredded lettuce and pico de gallo (35):

  • Calories: 445
  • Fat: 9 grams
  • Protein: 24 grams
  • Carbs: 78 grams
  • Fiber: 21 grams

The Bottom Line

Though it’s ideal to eat a diet with minimal amounts of processed, refined and fast foods, there are times when you might not be able to avoid eating fast food.

In these instances, you can still make smarter choices by selecting healthy options.

While it may take a bit of extra effort, finding healthy items at many popular fast food restaurants is entirely possible.

Look for foods that include a good source of protein, heart-healthy fats, whole grains and vegetables to ensure that you’re getting a well-rounded and nutritious meal.

You’ll enjoy your meal guilt-free, and your body will thank you.

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