Is Healthy Fast Food Really Healthy?

Let's face it, most fast food is NOT good for you and most are loaded with calories, sodium, and fat. We all clearly understand that fast food, in general, is NOT as healthy as cooking at home, BUT for those in a hurry, on a road trip, need a quick fix, it is still attainable to not eat like garbage.


Who Has The Healthiest Fast Food?

With a massive wave of people jumping onboard with healthier eating trend, our favorite chains have opted in to offering healthy fast food alternatives. From vegan to paleo, keto, and gluten-free, major chains have done their market research and are giving the people what they want. Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between healthy food and foods high in sugar, sodium or calories masking themselves as healthy options. So who are the top fast food chains in terms of healthy eating options and what are the food items you should try to avoid at all costs?

#1 Chick-fil-A

The Holy Grail of fast food chains ranks in at #1. Chick-fil-a was the first in the industry to offer a completely trans fat free menu. They promise the use of real chicken with no added fillers or hormones, cage-free eggs, and fresh, simple ingredients.

What should you order?

  • Grilled Nuggets (12ct) - 210 Calories, 5g Fat, 3g Carbs, 38g Protein
  • Grilled Market Salad w/ Grilled Nuggets - 330 Calories, 14g Fat, 26g Carbs, 28g Protein
  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich - 310 Calories, 6g Fat, 36g Carbs, 29g Protein
  • Egg White Grill -300 Calories, 7g Fat, 31g Carbs, 25g Protein

Healthy Eating Tips: The beloved Chick-fil-a Sauce has whopping 140 calories! Next time, go for Buffalo, BBQ, Honey Mustard, or Sriracha sauce, which all have 45 calories or less, instead. Also, be careful with salad dressings: the Market Salad's Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette Dressing adds another 230 calories. We suggest substituting Light Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing (80 cal) or Light Italian Dressing (25 cal).


#2 Wendy's

If you're like us, Wendy's doesn't necessarily come to mind when you think of healthy food options. However, Wendy's ample variety of chicken sandwiches, wraps, and salads give them a boost is the healthier direction. Here are four options to sway you away from getting a calorie-loaded Baconator:

  • Grilled Chicken Wrap - 300 Calories, 2g Fiber, 20g, Protein, 13g Fat
  • Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad (Half Size) - 310 Calories, 4g Fiber, 22g Protein, 21g Fat
  • Crispy Chicken Sandwich - 330 Calories, 2g Fiber, 14g Protein, 16g Fat
  • Large Cup Of Chili - 250 Calories, 8g Fiber, 21g Protein, 6g Fat

Healthy Eating Tips: We wouldn't leave you hanging without addressing one of Wendy's most popular items: the Frosty! In moderation, sweet treats are perfectly acceptable. For instance, we recommend getting a Junior Vanilla Frosty. It's only 190 calories and it has 5g of protein!

#3 Taco Bell

Is it possible that the best of both healthy and greasy worlds can not just coexist, but also thrive under the same roof? According to Business Insider, Taco Bell has mastered this concept. They've "cut artificial ingredients and switch to cage-free eggs." Also, Taco Bell has rolled out a lower-calorie Fresco menu, the high-protein Power Menu, and a Vegetarian Menu certified by the American Vegetarian Association. Though they have created a ton of options, here's what you should get to maintain your healthy eating habits:

  • "Fresco Style" - The fresco menu currently has 7 items under 350 calories. You can order anything and request it "Fresco Style" for under 450 calories. "Fresco Style" replaces cheese, sour cream, and rice with pico de gallo.
  • Power Menu Chicken Burrito - 450 Calories, 20g Fat, 41g Carbs, 26g Protein
  • Veggie Power Menu Bowl - 480 Calories, 19g Fat, 65g Carbs, 14g Protein
  • Grilled Breakfast Burrito - 340 Calories, 14g Fat, 37g Carbs, 14g Protein

#4 Chipotle

Chipotle can easily make it on the healthiest fast food list as well as the unhealthiest list depending on what you get. They offer menu items that are high in protein with fresh ingredients, but it's also very easy to get carried away and pile on the cheese, queso, and sour cream. Chipotle is a great option if you are a vegetarian or following the Keto diet. Burrito bowls and salad bowls are going to be more on the healthy end of the spectrum, but that doesn't mean you're in the all clear as long as you get a bowl. Here are some fan favorites for both flavor and healthy eating.

  • Veggie-Loaded Salad Bowl - The nutritional information ranges depending on what you get, but load up on the lettuce, black beans and veggies. You can even splurge for guac. Just watch out for sour cream and salad dressing.
  • Steak Burrito Bowl - Burrito bowl with brown rice, steak, black beans, fajita vegetables, tomato salsa, and romaine lettuce. 540 Calories, 13.5g Fat, 69g Carbs, 34g Protein
Algirdas Mazeika/Shutterstock

What Menu Items Are Disguised As “Healthy?"

  1. Veggie Burgers - Not only are veggie burgers typically topped with cheese and condiments that contain an unhealthy about of calories and sugar, but they are usually cooked on the same grill as other meat products.
  2. Salad Dressing - Dressings with a creamy base, like ranch, Caesar, or blue cheese contain heavy oils that can ruin your diet. Also, salad dressings that sound healthy like “strawberry vinaigrette” are loaded with sugar.
  3. Yogurt Parfaits - It seems harmless enough - most of the time it even includes fruit and granola. But watch out because most parfaits are packed with sugar. The fruit is rarely fresh, it's usually coated in a sugary glaze and yogurt itself can be hard on the diet.
  4. Diet Soda - Ordering a Diet Coke instead of a Coke might make you feel like you've made a health-conscious decision, but diet drinks are usually high in sodium. Swapping your drink out for a fruit juice either isn't going to help. Try water or unsweetened ice tea.

Which Fast Food Items Should You 100% Avoid?

  1. "Crispy" Chicken Nuggets - 60% of the chicken nugget itself is actually ground up bone, fat, blood vessels, and gristle. This is in addition to the GMO corn, bleached wheat, sugar, hydrogenated oils, and preservatives found in the nugget as well.
  2. Fish Sandwiches - One single McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich contains 71 ingredients, which range from preservatives to sugar.

The next time you find yourself in need of a quick bite, stray away from the traditional unhealthy options and find peace in knowing that there are healthy fast food options that won't disrupt your diet. A lot of restaurants have accepted that their customers are more conscious and have started making the nutrition information more visible and transparent so you can easily go to your favorite restaurant and find something you enjoy eating and isn't too bad for you!

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