Healthiest Fast Food
By Lauren Gelman
We all know it's healthier to skip the drive-thru, but everyone eventually finds themselves at a roadside rest stop or caves into a late-night French-fry craving. The trick is making the healthiest fast food choice you can.
So we turned to the nutrition experts who created the menus for our favorite fast food joints to find out what healthy meals they order when they eat on the job. Get their suggestions for healthy fast food.
Note: Most of the foods that follow are pretty good in terms of calories and fat, but they’re still loaded with sodium. Most adults should have less than 2,300 mg daily, and many of these meals provide half that amount or more!
Burger King: BK Veggie Burger
"I typically order the BK Veggie Burger, but I hold the mayo," says Stephanie Quirantes, RD, the nutrition and health manager for Burger King Corp., North America. For a side and beverage, she has the Fresh Apple Fries and either fat-free milk or water. "This gives me four of the main food groups—grains, protein, fruit, and dairy."
Nutrition info (for burger, apple fries, and milk): 465 cal, 32 g pro, 66 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 8 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 5 mg chol, 1,180 mg sodium
Blimpie: Turkey and Provolone Sandwich
"This sandwich on wheat bread is a great lower-calorie lunch option any day of the week," says Nola Krieg, research and development chef for Kahala Corp., which runs Blimpie and other national chains (more on those later). "The turkey meat is sliced in front of you so you know it's quality, fresh meat—a good source of protein. The sandwich also comes with lettuce, tomatoes, and onions, and I always think it's a good idea to pile your favorite veggies on any sandwich."
Her favorite trick for kicking up flavor: Extra pickles, which add taste without a bunch of fat or calories.
Nutrition info: 380 cal, 27 g pro, 45 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 10 g fat, 4.5 g sat fat, 45 mg chol, 1,950 mg sodium
Panera Bread: Black Bean Soup & Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich
"I always do a 'You Pick Two,' which is any two of the following: a half sandwich, a half salad, or a soup," says Scott Davis, chief concept officer and senior vice president at Panera Bread, who lost 60 pounds last year "pretty much by eating Panera."
He likes to get the Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean soup (a spicy vegetarian broth with onion, red bell pepper, cilantro, garlic, and cumin) with the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich on tomato basil bread (sweet piquante peppers, feta cheese, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and cilantro jalapeño hummus).
"It's the right combination of carbs, protein, and fiber to keep me going all day," says Davis, who washes down his meal with an unsweetened iced tea.
Nutrition info (for soup, sandwich, and iced tea): 462 cal, 19 g pro, 79 g carbs, 11 g fiber, 8 g fat, 1.5 g sat fat, 5 mg chol, 1,651 mg sodium
Nutrition info: 400 cal, 30 g pro, 56 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 7 g fat, 1.5 g sat fat, 70 mg chol, 980 mg sodium
McDonald's: Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken
"Each of our salads provides about 3 cups of greens, so I'm getting a great veggie serving," says Cindy Goody, PhD, RD, director of nutrition for McDonald’s USA. "I like that it gives me protein from the grilled chicken and beans, plus a variety of vegetables like corn, tomatoes, and chiles." She uses half of the Southwest dressing packet, which shaves 50 calories off her meal, and her beverage of choice is a small Diet Coke.
Nutrition info (for salad, full dressing packet, and soda): 420 cal, 31 g protein, 41 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 15 g fat, 4 g sat fat, 90 mg chol, 1,320 mg sodium
Nutrition info: 360 cal, 28 g pro, 40 g carbs, 7 g fiber, 9 g fat, 4.5 g sat fat, 50 mg chol, 860 mg sodium
Subway: Roasted Chicken Sandwich
Subway's dietitian Lanette Kovachi, RD, has advised the company on nutrition info for the last 8 years—so we were very curious for her take on how to build a healthy, tasty sammie. Her secret: Mound it with all the fresh veggies—doing so provides 2 full servings. Kovachi orders the 6-inch oven-roasted chicken on 9-grain bread (one of the more fiber-filled options) with water and baked potato chips. "I love the way this tastes, plus it fills me up," she says.
Nutrition info (for sandwich and chips): 382 cal, 25 g protein, 79 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 7 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 25 mg chol, 1,180 mg sodium
Cold Stone Creamery: Sinless Cake Batter with Fudge
"Cold Stone Creamery is famous for its Cake Batter ice cream flavor because it's just like licking batter from the bowl," says Krieg, who oversees new flavor development for the ice cream chain. But the "Sinless" option saves you about half the calories and 95% less fat per serving. "In terms of dessert, I always feel less guilty about treating myself to ice cream compared to other sweets because I know it also provides an extra serving of calcium," Krieg says.
Nutrition info: 230 cal, 8 g pro, 52 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 2 g fat, 1 g sat fat, 0 mg chol, 230 mg sodium