“Fast food” and “healthy” are two words you normally don’t hear used in the same sentence. Surely there’s no such thing as a healthy fast food restaurant?? Fast food is terrible for you, right? In general, the answer to that question is a resounding “yes.” It’s no secret fast food is packed with calories, fat, refined carbs, and salt.
But many fast food restaurants have started to listen as consumers like you and I demand healthier choices. It’s now fairly common to see “light” and “healthy” choices on the menu, particularly at the largest fast food chains.
5 Best Healthiest Restaurants
So which of these restaurants are the best-of-the-best if you’re looking for a healthy meal? Read on to discover the top 5 healthiest fast food restaurants and the best menu choices at each one.
Yes, the Golden Arches make this list of healthiest fast food restaurants. There are several reasons for this. In 2011 McDonalds made a pledge to “champion children’s well-being,” “expand and improve nutritionally-balanced menu choices,” and “increase customer and employee access to nutrition information and education.”
While most of this sounds like corporate b.s., here are a few things they did in 2012 that impressed me:
- The Happy Meal now automatically comes with apple slices, a kid’s size fry, and the option for fat-free chocolate milk, 1 percent low-fat white milk, or apple juice instead of soda.
- Switched from apple dippers (which included caramel dip) to apple slices in its’ Happy Meals.
- Switched from 1 percent low-fat chocolate milk to fat-free chocolate milk.
- Reduced sodium across the national menu of food choices by 11.3 percent since 2011.
- A starter menu that has less than 300 or equal to 300 calories.
You can make a strong case that Mickey D’s is one of the biggest contributors to the current obesity epidemic.
The best healthy menu choices at McDonalds include the following:
|Fruit & Yogurt Parfait||150|
|Snack Size Fruit and Walnuts||210|
|Honey Mustard Grilled Snack Wrap||250|
|Premium Grilled Chicken Sandwich||350|
View the complete list of McDonalds nutrition facts here. And to see my complete analysis of the healthiest and unhealthiest items at McDonalds.
Subway, which features the infamously annoying Jared Fogle in its TV ads, is one of my top picks for healthy fast food restaurants for several reasons. Subway has reduced sodium 28 percent in its low fat sandwiches and 15 percent in all lunch and dinner subs over the past three years.
And starting in 2012, none of their core 6-inch sandwiches will have more than 600 calories and at least 50 percent of their core 6-inch sandwiches will be less than 400 calories. Impressive numbers for a fast food restaurant if you ask me.
I also love that you have the option to get your sub with whole grain bread and load it with fresh veggies like lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, peppers, and more.
In the US, Subway’s “Fresh Fit” meals include a low fat sandwich with a healthy side like apples or light yogurt. Check out my top picks at Subway:
|Turkey Breast on Flatbread||290|
|Oven Roasted Chicken Breast||320|
To get my complete analysis of the best and worst things to order at Subway, check out my Subway nutrition facts page.
This Restaurant has many reasons to be the top third one because the meat they serve is quite lean and fresh along with they provide every other thing fresh.
They almost have other nutritional meals that others don’t have like carrot and Raisin Salad, oatmeal, fruit trifle cup, side salad and much more.
Plus, Chick-fil-A has a useful page on its website that has links to low-calorie, low-fat, and low-fat options. Here are some of the healthiest menu choices at Chick-fil-A:
|Chargrilled Chicken Garden Salad with Light Italian Dressing||195|
|Chargrilled and Fruit Salad with Light Italian Dressing||245|
|Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich||290|
4. Taco Bell
T-Bell is the biggest surprise on this list, especially considering I’ve often heard this infamous taco joint referred to as “Toxic Hell.”
For many of us, making a run to the border is usually followed by a run to the bathroom. That’s because most of Taco Bell’s sounds like a science experiment.
Case in point … here’s the ingredient list for their “beef”: Beef, Water, Seasoning [Cellulose, Chili Pepper, Onion Powder, Salt, Oats (Contains Wheat), Maltodextrin (Corn, Potato, Tapioca), Soy Lecithin, Tomato Powder, Sugar, Soybean Oil, Sea Salt, Yeast Extract (Contains Gluten), Spices, Garlic Powder, Citric Acid, Caramel Color, Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Potassium Chloride, Cocoa Powder Processed with Alkali, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Trehalose, Modified Corn Starch, Inactivated Yeast, Lactic Acid, Torula Yeast, Natural Smoke Flavor], Salt, Sodium Phosphate, Less Than 2% Beef Broth, Potassium Phosphate, Potassium Lactate.
So here’s some good news. You can actually enjoy a healthy meal at Taco Bell nowadays, thanks in large part to their Fresco Menu. All these menu items replace the cheese and unhealthy sauce with a pretty tasty pico de gallo. It will save you hunderds of different calories. Here are a few of the healthiest things on the menu at Taco Bell:
|2 Fresco Chicken Soft Tacos||300|
|2 Fresco Grilled Steak Soft Tacos||300|
|Fresco Burrito Supreme – Chicken||350|
|Fresco Bean Burrito||350|
Last but not least, Kentucky Fried Chicken, aka “KFC”, rounds out the list of my top 5 healthiest fast food restaurants. In 2007, KFC was one of the first fast food restaurants to phase out trans fat as a cooking oil.
In recent years, KFC starting offering its Kentucky Grilled Chicken. It’s lower in calories, fat, and salt. One grilled chicken wing has just 80 calories and 4.5 grams of fat, which is pretty solid. And, you can get healthy sides like mixed vegetables, green beans, corn on the cob, or a side salad with low fat dressing.
|Grilled Chicken Thigh with House Side Salad with Fat Free Ranch Dressing||220|
|Honey BBQ KFC Snacker with Side of Green Beans||235|
|Grilled Chicken Breast and House Side Salad with Light Italian Dressing||250|
|2 Grilled Chicken Wings with Side of Sweet Kernel Corn||260|
So that’s a wrap, my friends. If you’re looking for a complete list of the best and worst healthy fast food options at 37 of the most popular fast food restaurants, you should check out my eBook, The Healthy Fast Food Restaurant Survival Guide. For a limited time, you’ll get the following FREE bonuses with your order:
- 5 No-Fail Tips for Losing 5-10 Pounds While Still Eating the Fast Food You Love
- Healthy Fast Food Restaurant Quick Reference Guide
- How to Lose 5 Pounds in 30 Days the Right Way eBook
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