The Healthiest Options at Fast-Food Restaurants
In the car and hungry?
Ten years ago, if you pulled off the highway for a quickie lunch, your healthy menu options were a sad-looking side salad or a bland chicken sandwich. But now, "not only is fast food healthier—thanks to restaurants cutting out trans fats and loading up on fresh ingredients—there are many more good-for-you tasty choices," says Joanne Lichten, RD, author of Eat Out Healthy.
But just because menus are stacked with better options doesn't mean healthy-sounding diet bombs have vanished. So we got eat-right gurus to share their on-the-go orders. Follow their lead to dine well on the fly while saving big on calories, sodium, and saturated fat.
, former trainer on The Biggest Loser and author of Your Body, Your Life
My picks: Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich, fruit and walnuts, black coffee.
"I don't just look at calories, but at the balance between calories, fat, carbs, protein, and sodium. So I get the grilled chicken sandwich, customized with extra lettuce, tomato, and no mayo. Skipping the mayo saves you about 6 grams of fat and 50 calories, bringing it down to 300. Want to make it even lighter? Ditch the top half of the bun to cut back nearly 165 milligrams of sodium, 100 calories, and almost 20 grams of useless carbs. As a side, I go for the fruit and walnuts [210 calories and only 60 mg of sodium], and to drink, I like water with a slice of lemon and a plain coffee."
, host of Delicioso on Univision and Simply Delicioso on the Cooking Channel
My pick: Six-inch Turkey Breast Sandwich on nine-grain wheat bread
"I like to load up my turkey sub on wheat bread with veggies, avocado, and some mustard. This is the best food-on-the run solution (and I'm often on the run!) because it's got all you need: protein, fresh veggies, and a carb, for 360 calories. Plus, it's very satisfying, and who doesn't love a good sub?"
Mike Moreno, MD
, family medicine practitioner and author of The 17 Day Plan to Stop Aging
My picks: Grilled Chicken Drumsticks, green beans, mashed potatoes, unsweetened iced tea
"Believe it or not, there are healthy choices at KFC. You don't have to revert to a side salad to eat well there. To lower the fat in my order, though, it's crucial to strip any skin off the drumsticks—they taste great, even without it. As for the mashed potatoes [90 calories and 320 mg of sodium], I dip the fork in the gravy rather than dumping it on. It saves almost 30 calories and I still get a hit of flavor."
Brian Wansink, PhD
, director of the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab and author of Mindless Eating
My picks: Whopper Jr., Garden Side Salad
"I get the Whopper Jr. meal with cheese but without mayo or fries. The hamburger is only 300 calories—that's not very much! With it, I get a side salad with ranch dressing (ranch is my favorite; I'm not an oil and vinegar kind of guy). Plus, I put lettuce from the salad into the junior burger which makes it feel more substantial."
Joanne Lichten, RD
, author of Eat Out Healthy
My picks: Large chili, small Diet Coke
"I love when there's something pretty healthy and not-so-standard on the menu, like Wendy's chili. It's just 310 calories (without the cheese or crackers), which is good for me because I eat six small meals a day. Since protein helps you feel full, I like that it has 26 grams as well as 10 grams of fiber. And I admit, I love Diet Coke, so I get a small—everything in moderation!"
, host of Food Network's Ten Dollar Dinners
My Picks: 1 Grilled Wahoo Fish Taco (with avocado), half an order of rice and beans
"The trick at Baja Fresh is to find creative ways to eat their delicious, spicy Salsa Baja without the fried tortilla chips! I cover their 230-calorie Wahoo Fish Taco with a few spoonfuls of salsa for more flavor, which adds only about 20 calories. Plus, the healthy fats from the avocado are filling, creamy, and decadent. And that half order of rice and beans has lots of fiber, which really makes me feel full longer."
, host of the new show Eden Eats on the Cooking Channel
My picks: Strawberry Blueberry Yogurt Parfait, tall caffè Americano
"I'm obsessed with yogurt and try to eat it once a day, in part because of its probiotics, which are great for your belly. The fruit adds a nice dose of fiber, and the crunchy granola makes it a delicious 290-calorie treat [with only 180 mg of sodium]. I also get an Americano—coffee is rich in antioxidants."