How to Order Healthier Fast Food

Let's face it. We all end up in the drive-thru lane of a fast food joint at some point in our lives. It's convenient, inexpensive, and readily available. It can also be part of a balanced, nutritious diet when consumed occasionally.

If you're trying to limit your calorie, fat, and/or sodium intake for health or weight loss reasons, healthy fast food options are available. The key is to know what those options are, as well as to plan ahead.

Plan Your Fast-Food Order

Many fast food chains allow you to order your meal with an app. Often, these apps have a nutrition calculator, making it easy to plan a meal according to the diet you follow. Some even provide additional information, such as vitamins and fiber, to help you pick more nutrient-dense food options.

If an app isn't an option, the next best step is having a plan in place before stepping inside. The sights, sounds, and smells of fried food can be hard to ignore.

To inform your fast food order, consider using other smartphone apps or online nutrition guides to decide what you will eat in advance. If you know what you're going to order before you get in line, you're less likely to be influenced by enticing low-cost and high-calorie meal deals.

Tips for a Healthier Fast Food Meal

There are a few general guidelines that can help you select a healthier fast food item or meal. These include:

  • Choose a meal that has fewer than 500 calories. If no pre-made options are available, create your own. This can be accomplished by removing high-calorie items like cheese.
  • Leave toppings off salads that are outside of your dietary plan. Also, get the dressing on the side or forego it completely.
  • Opt for healthier condiments like mustard, bypassing the mayo and BBQ sauce.
  • Order fruits and veggies as sides instead of other options like fries or onion rings. Fruit also make good desserts if you like to end your meals with something sweet.
  • Order grilled items versus fried, which is usually an option with chicken, for instance.
  • Order the smaller size when different options exist (a one-patty burger instead of two, or a 6-inch sub over a footlong).
  • Select a no-calorie beverage to drink—coffee, unsweetened tea, and diet soda are all good options (or even bottled water).
  • Skip the extras on your sandwich, like bacon and cheese. You may even want to skip the bun if you're trying to lower your calorie count or follow a low-carb diet.

McDonald's

fast food for under 500 calories

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Yes, you really can get a full meal at McDonald's that will satisfy your cravings and keep you feeling full. Choose from several different complete meals that total 500 calories or less. Some meals even include a McDonald's treat!

Taco Bell

low calorie Taco Bell food

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When you think of diet-friendly foods, you probably don't think of the food at Taco Bell. But there are several items at Taco Bell (including tacos!) that you can enjoy when you're trying to lose weight.

KFC

KFC Low calorie meals

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Sure, chicken is healthy. But the chicken on the KFC menu is often fried and very high in calories. Use these Kentucky Fried Chicken menu guides to find out how to stay true to your diet and still get a yummy meal.

Wendy's

Wendy's Menu
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Fast food isn't usually a great choice for a diet, but the Wendy's menu is one of the better ones when it comes to traditional "junk" food. Find out why and what to order when you visit the home of the Frosty.

Sonic Drive-In

Hot dog

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Believe it or not, chicken is not always the best choice when you visit Sonic Drive-In. Find out which items to eat and which Sonic menu items provide over 1,000 calories and 60 grams of fat.

Arby's

Roast beef sandwich and pickle slice

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Arby's calories can add up quickly if you don't know what to order. So should you avoid this roast beef restaurant if you're on a diet? You don't have to. There is low-calorie food at Arby's. You just have to know what to order.

Chick-fil-A

Healthy Chick-fil-A menu items

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With some smart planning, you can eat a full meal at Chick-fil-A for under 500 calories. And you can even keep a fried chicken sandwich on your menu. See how to do it and other healthy choices at the popular restaurant.

Burger King

Healthy Food at Burger King?

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Looking for low-calorie menu options at Burger King? Some of the items that sound healthy are the items that are highest in calories. Find out which burger and which combos to order to stay lean.

Panera Bread

Classic Salad with Chicken
Panera Bread

Not everything on the Panera Bread menu is good for your diet. If you order a double protein option, some sandwiches total over 1,000 calories! But there are delicious low-calorie items too. This guide shows you what to order and what to avoid.

Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen Ice cream
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Need a sweet fix? Yes, you can go to Dairy Queen and find diet-friendly treats and meals. The entrees on the "most nutritious" list are under 500 calories, and both can be combined with an ice cream treat!

Subway

Low Calorie Subway sandwiches

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Not every meal at Subway is healthy. Some wraps at Subway top 1,000 calories. Surprised? The food at this "healthy" restaurant can ruin your diet. Learn to avoid the biggest blunders at Subway.

Jamba Juice

Healthy Jamba Juice Menu Items
Jamba Juice

Juice drinks usually sound healthy. But the fact is that many of them are loaded with sugar and excess calories. If you go to Jamba Juice, find out which drinks and foods to eat and which ones to avoid.

Dunkin' Donuts

Donuts

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Donuts may not sound like the best diet food, but there are some options that are better than others. If you're going to indulge, make it one of these choices.

Starbucks

coffee drinks
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Coffee calories can ruin your entire weight loss program. Some coffee drinks contain more calories than a full meal! But you don't have to skip your morning cup of java. Just order one of these diet-friendly drinks.

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