Between traveling to visit family during the holidays and running around town to do the last of your shopping, you’re more likely to spend time on the go during this time of year. And while you’re dashing from here to there, you’re sure to need fuel for your travels. But that doesn’t mean you have to overdo it on fries and double-stacked burgers—there are a number of health-conscious options at your favorite fast food joints.
Experts say no matter where you end up, there are a few things you can do to make sure your order is better for your body. Dianah T. Lake, M.D., emergency medicine physician and fitness coach, recommends skipping oversized portions to avoid overeating, opting for water rather than soda to keep from overdoing it on sugar, and nixing fried foods to avoid the high fat content.
Read ahead for some specific healthy fast food options, according to experts.
You don’t have to order bread when going to this bakery. Lake recommends the eatery’s grilled chicken salads (there are a number of options) for a few reasons. “They use chicken raised without antibiotics, [as well as] kale, romaine lettuce, arugula, gorgonzola, radicchio, various toasted nuts, tomatoes, and several other nutritious ingredients to build their salads,” she says. “They also allow you to add a hard-boiled egg or avocado to your salad, which increases the protein, choline, antioxidants, and omega-3 acid content of the salad.”
According to Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S, R.D.N., author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club, your favorite coffee spot might be the ideal place to get some healthy meals. Clocking in at 290 calories and 19 grams of protein, the spinach, feta, and egg breakfast wrap makes for a filling meal when paired with a coffee and a piece of fruit, also sold at the store, she says.
Searching for something to eat for lunch? This bowl, which only has 420 calories and a whopping 27 grams of protein (which will keep you satiated) is another great choice, Harris-Pincus says. Even better, you can use the gift card you got last year as a stocking stuffer to pay for it!
By making some strategic decisions at Chipotle, you can end up with a waistline-friendly dish, according to Amy Goodson, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D. She recommends opting for a burrito bowl with beans, brown rice, veggies, meat (chicken, steak or carnitas), and salsa. To make it even lighter, you can cut the rice and add lettuce to make it a salad instead. “Though a lot of Chipotle ingredients are healthy choices, when wrapping them up in a 300+ calorie tortilla, you add lots of calories and extra carbohydrates that the average person may not need,” Goodson says. “Choosing a bowl adds nutrients from vegetables and lowers the calories.”
Subway, a lunchtime staple, can provide several solid choices for your midday break. Goodson suggests ordering a six-inch turkey, ham, or chicken sub on whole wheat or honey oat bread with an apple. “Whole wheat bread adds fiber to your sandwich and choosing a lean meat like chicken or turkey will reduce calories, total fat, and saturated fat,” she says. If you want to slash calories further, you can have your meal on a flatbread instead.
Jenny Dang, R.D. offers one major tip for when you’re rolling through the drive-thru: “Choose meals made with grilled or roasted chicken compared to fried chicken.” Mickey D’s buttermilk crispy chicken sandwich has about 570 calories, compared to the artisan grilled chicken sandwich, which has 380. “The buttermilk crispy chicken sandwich is loaded with more calories because it is fried in oil and includes mayonnaise, which adds extra flavor but not a lot of nutritional value,” Dang says.
Wendy’s Asian Cashew Chicken Salad
Just because you have to pick up nuggets and fries for the rest of your family, doesn’t mean that’s what you have to choose. Goodson says grilled chicken salads, like this one from Wendy’s are a “great way to cut calories and add nutrients over a sandwich or burger.”
Being in a rush in the morning is hardly an excuse for making a poor choice. Goodson recommends grabbing a ham, egg, and cheese on an English muffin with fruit on the side. By subbing an English muffin for a biscuit you can lower fat and calories in your breakfast sandwich, while adding fruit instead of a hash brown will help lower the saturated fat content.
Header image courtesy of McDonald's.