When you need to grab a quick meal on the go, you may feel like you have no other choice than to slam down a burger and fries. However, many fast food places now serve healthier items that won’t completely dismantle your diet and actually taste delicious. By choosing veggie-forward and lower-calorie meals, you can get nutritious options on the fly. Of course, you want to select the best one, so what is the healthiest fast food place?
Below, you’ll find some of the most popular restaurants ranked from least healthy to most nutritious. The top pick might just surprise you.
Coming in at last place is McDonald’s. It’s most famous for its burgers and fries, and you wouldn’t think anything healthy could come from it. However, after the film “Supersize Me” debuted in 2004, it began adding a few healthier options to the menu. Now, the chain offers salads, yogurt parfaits, grilled chicken sandwiches, oatmeal and more. You just have to have enough willpower to order these items over a Big Mac.
Arby’s tagline “we have the meats” may not put it very high on the list of healthy fast food joints. However, some of its most popular sandwiches have very few calories — or at least fewer than other places. If you came for the meat, choose the iced tea, the King’s Hawaiian Brown Sugar Bacon BLT, the Beef’n Cheddar Classic, a Ham and Swiss Melt or a Roast Turkey Farmhouse Salad. These options all contain 600 calories or less.
Like McDonald’s, Wendy’s is famous for its burgers, which it claims are fresh and never frozen. While the menu mostly consists of these meaty patties, fries and Frosties, it also serves a few healthier items. For example, instead of ordering the Baconator yet again, you might choose the Grilled Chicken Wrap, the Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad or the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad. These yummy options have 600 calories or less and are certainly more nutritious than other menu items.
Depending on what ingredients you choose to put in your burrito or bowl, Chipotle can be a pretty healthy choice. The restaurant prides itself on using fresh ingredients and even offers Sofritas, a tofu-based vegan protein option that’s low in fat and contains zero milligrams of cholesterol. Additionally, you might add fajita vegetables, salsa and lettuce to the mix, as well as some black or pinto beans. A bowl containing all these ingredients would only have about 330 calories.
Everyone from “Biggest Loser” contestants to Michael Phelps has appeared on Subway commercials, touting the restaurant as a healthy pick. However, what you choose to put on your sub often determines whether or not you get a nutritious meal there. Like Chipotle, everything is customizable, so stick with healthier ingredients like chicken, turkey, whole-grain bread, guacamole and Swiss cheese— the least salty option on the menu. Cut your calorie intake in half with the 6-inch sub, and you’re good to go.
Panera has a slew of healthier options — if you manage to forego the baked cookies and brownies. Instead of soda, order one of its unsweetened teas or cut that sugary green tea with unsweetened black. You might also choose sandwiches like the avocado, egg white and spinach bagel flat. With 21 grams of protein, it’ll keep you feeling full without weighing you down. The chain also serves salads, wraps, broth bowls and oatmeal as healthy alternatives.
1. Taco Bell
Ah, Taco Bell, the late-night snack of drunk college students and night shift workers. You wouldn’t think it to be the healthiest option out there, but, surprisingly, it is. You can customize practically anything on the menu to make it vegan, vegetarian or diet-friendly, and almost 75% of the options are less than 500 calories. Order anything fresco style to substitute pico de gallo for cheese, sour cream, guac and mayo-based sauces and instantly create a healthy meal.
Choosing the Healthy Alternative
Nowadays, nearly every fast food restaurant offers healthy alternatives to their main menu items. Whether or not you actually feed your body well is ultimately up to you. Next time you enter the drive-thru, be on the lookout for fresh and fit items that’ll keep you on track and support your active lifestyle. Just don’t forget to treat yourself every now and then.