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14 Healthy Fast-Food Meals for Weight Loss, According to Dietitians – AOL

8 minutes, 58 seconds Read

May 31, 2024 at 5:24 PM
different healthy fast food items on a blue background
Photos: The brands. Design: Eat This, Not That!

If you were a fan of Super Size Me in the early 2000s, you may have mixed emotions on whether or not you can eat fast food and still be healthy. Fast food typically has a reputation for being high in calories, fat, sodium, and added sugars—but that doesn’t mean you can’t find healthier fast-food options as part of a balanced diet. We spoke to dietitians to find out exactly which fast food meals they recommend for your health and which ones can even help contribute to weight loss.

Keep in mind that one meal cannot make or break your diet. In fact, it’s important that you view your health as an accumulation of choices over time, rather than one specific meal. For more information on healthy fast-food meals for weight loss, read on.

Can you lose weight while eating fast food?

Yes, losing weight while eating fast food is possible, but it requires careful planning and smart choices.

Registered Dietitian Nicole Rodriguez conducted a fun experiment by eating one meal at McDonald’s every day for 30 days and shared her results on Instagram. Her only qualification when ordering each day was to give herself a monetary budget, which she says helped her stick to a lower-calorie budget. “Whether working toward fat loss, weight maintenance, or just more balance, inclusion of something fun every day can lead to better adherence to a balanced diet in the long run,” says Rodriguez.

Nichole shared objective data collected before and after her experiment, showing significant improvements in her lipid panel, including total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, and one-pound weight loss.

This data suggests that the potential harms of fast food might be overstated and its benefits understated.

Let’s discuss some strategies to help you achieve your weight loss goals without completely giving up fast food.

RELATED: The #1 Best Fast-Food Chain for Weight Loss

How to order healthier fast food

When visiting your favorite fast-food chain, consider these quick tips to make more balanced choices that can help you with your weight loss goals.

  • Set a budget: Setting a daily monetary budget can help you avoid larger portions and increased calorie intake.

  • Choose a lean protein: Opt for lean protein sources like chicken, turkey, or fish, which are lower in calories and saturated fat than red meat. According to a study published in PLoS One, a diet that is heavy in saturated fat can lead to greater weight gain.

  • Ask for condiments and sauces on the side. Condiments and sauces can be very calorie-dense due to high levels of fats from vegetable oils. Asking for your sandwiches without mayo or with a packet of mayo on the side can save 70-100 calories.

  • Skip the deep-fried food: To reduce fat and calories, forgo deep-fried options and instead choose grilled, steamed, or boiled items.

  • Look for options high in protein and fiber: Aim for at least 20-30 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per meal. Protein and fiber are two nutrients that can help increase satiety and fill you up after eating, which can help you avoid excess snacking in between meals and support weight loss.

With these things in mind, read on to learn about 14 of the healthiest fast-food meals for your weight loss goals. Then, check out the 30 Best Foods for Weight Loss.

14 healthy fast-food meals for weight loss

1. Chick-fil-A Market Salad

plate of Chick-fil-A Market Salad on a white backgroundplate of Chick-fil-A Market Salad on a white background
Chick-fil-A

Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 340
Fat: 13 g (Saturated Fat: 3 g)
Sodium: 630 mg
Carbs: 25 g (Fiber: 6 g, Sugar: 13 g)
Protein: 32 g

Chick-fil-A’s Market Salad is a nutritious option that offers a good balance of protein, fiber, and healthy fats.

“I love the Market Salad with Grilled Nuggets. It’s high in protein, and I love the added crunch from the granola and slivered almonds. The salad has berries, which add a great natural sweetness and boost of antioxidants. It’s my favorite fast-food salad with tons of nutrients and fun textures,” recommends Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD.

RELATED: 12 Healthy Chick-fil-A Orders, According to Dietitians

2. Chipotle Chicken Bowl

chipotle burrito bowl on a white backgroundchipotle burrito bowl on a white background

Nutrition (Per order, without cheese and sour cream):
Calories: 570
Fat: 13 g
Carbs: 72 g
Protein: 45 g

Hands down, the Chicken Burrito Bowl at Chipotle is a great fast-food meal for weight loss, says Sarah Pflugradt, MS, RDN, CSCS. “With chicken, brown rice, beans, lettuce, extra salsa, and corn, you can’t beat the protein and fiber. The sodium is still going to be high, but that is really hard to avoid with any fast food. Choose water instead of soda and skip the extras, like sour cream or queso, that can increase the calories of this meal,” she shares.

3. Subway 6-inch Turkey Sub

Subway Turkey Sub on a white backgroundSubway Turkey Sub on a white background

Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 270
Fat: 4 g (Saturated Fat: 1 g)
Sodium: 820 mg
Carbs: 40 g (Fiber: 5 g, Sugar: 6 g)
Protein: 21 g

Subway makes it easy to customize a low-calorie, fast-food option on the go. A 6-inch turkey sub can contain as few as 270 calories if you are prudent with your condiments, and a 6-inch wheat roll will deliver fiber and protein, two nutrients that help keep you full and prevent drops in energy levels as the day goes on.

RELATED: 9 Healthiest Subway Sandwiches To Order, According to Dietitians

4. Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Ranch Wrap

Wendy's grilled chicken wrap on a white backgroundWendy's grilled chicken wrap on a white background

Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 420
Fat: 16 g (Saturated Fat: 5 g)
Sodium: 1,170 mg
Carbs: 42 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 2 g)
Protein: 27 g

Wendy’s has some of the most calorie-dense items on their menu, like the Pretzel Baconator at 1,050 calories or the Big Bacon Classic Triple at 1,220 calories! But thankfully, you can find a few lighter, healthier options at Wendy’s that can fit with your weight loss goals, like their Grilled Chicken Wrap, which is in calories, has 27 grams of protein, and even has a few grams of fiber.

5. Taco Bell Cantina Chicken Power Bowl

Taco Bell Chicken Cantina Power Bowl on a white backgroundTaco Bell Chicken Cantina Power Bowl on a white background

Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 490
Fat: 24 g (Saturated Fat: 7 g)
Sodium: 1,150 mg
Carbs: 44 g (Fiber: 11 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 25 g

Taco Bell actually has some of the healthier fast-food menu options if you know what to order! Take their Cantina Chicken Power Bowl, for example. It has 25 grams of protein and 11 grams of fiber, and finding this much fiber in a fast-food meal is quite challenging. Not only that, but it has under 500 calories and only 3 grams of sugar. This bowl will keep you feeling full until your next meal and help you stick to your daily goals.

RELATED: 9 Healthiest Dishes to Order at Taco Bell

6. McDonald’s Egg McMuffin

Egg McMuffin from McDonald's on a white backgroundEgg McMuffin from McDonald's on a white background
McDonald’s

Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 310
Fat: 13 g (Saturated Fat: 6 g)
Sodium: 770 mg
Carbs: 30 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 17 g

The McDonald’s Egg McMuffin is a classic that you can still enjoy when you have a weight loss goal. With 17 grams of filling protein for just 310 total calories, you will find that this small but mighty breakfast sandwich has a lot of staying power.

RELATED: 8 Healthiest McDonald’s Orders

7. Starbucks Spinach, Feta&Egg White Wrap

starbucks spinach feta wrapstarbucks spinach feta wrap

Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 290
Fat: 8 g (Saturated Fat: 3.5 g)
Sodium: 1,060 mg
Carbs: 50 g (Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 24 g

For a healthy breakfast option, head to Starbucks to get their Spinach, Feta&Egg White Wrap. This wrap has under 300 calories but still packs in 24 grams of filling protein, and the 4 grams of fiber is something you may struggle to find in many classic fast-food breakfast sandwiches.

RELATED: The Best Starbucks Breakfast Order for Weight Loss

8. In-N-Out Protein Style Burger

in-n-out protein style double doublein-n-out protein style double double
Melissa Z. / Yelp

Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 240
Fat: 17 g (Saturated Fat: 4 g)
Sodium: 370 mg
Carbs: 11 g (Fiber: 3 g)
Protein: 13 g

In-N-Out has its famous “Not So Secret Menu,” which features variations on its classic burgers, such as Double Meat, Animal Style, and our favorite healthier option, the Protein Style Burger. It’s just your favorite In-N-Out burger with lettuce instead of a bun, keeping calories on the lower end.

RELATED: The Best&Worst Menu Items at In-N-Out Burger

9. Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Grilled chicken sandwich Chick-fil-AGrilled chicken sandwich Chick-fil-A
Chick-fil-A

Nutrition (Per TK):
Calories: 390
Fat: 12 g (Saturated Fat: 2 g)
Sodium: 770 mg
Carbs: 44 g (Fiber: 3 g, Sugar: 12 g)
Protein: 28 g

Karolin Saweres,MS, RDN, LD loves Chick-fil-A for a healthy fast-food option for weight loss. “I love the Grilled Chicken Sandwich from Chick-fil-A, which contains only 390 calories. Pair it with their Fresh Fruit Cup or Kale Crunch Salad for a boost of filling fiber, or an order of 5-piece Grilled Chicken Nuggets for additional protein if you need.”

RELATED: 7 Healthiest Chick-fil-A Breakfast Items

6. Panera Tuna Salad Sandwich

Panera Tuna Salad SandwichPanera Tuna Salad Sandwich
Panera Bread

Nutrition (Per whole sandwich):
Calories: 550
Fat: 29 g (Saturated Fat: 4.5 g)
Sodium: 1,060 mg
Carbs: 50 g (Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 4 g)
Protein: 24 g

Panera has a ton of sandwich options, some much healthier than others, but their Tuna Salad Sandwich is a clear winner every time. This sandwich is a great choice for a healthy fast-food meal with 24 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, and only 550 calories.

RELATED: The 15 Healthiest Menu Items at Panera

11. Sweetgreen Super Green Goddess

Sweetgreen Super Green Goddess SaladSweetgreen Super Green Goddess Salad
Sweetgreen

Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 455
Fat: 29 g
Carbs: 39 g
Protein: 12 g

Sheri Berger, RDN, CDCES loves to pop into Sweetgreen for a balanced meal on the fly. “You can choose pretty much anything from Sweetgreen and get a satisfying meal that is overflowing with veggies, packed with lean protein, balanced with a whole grain, and topped with a tasty sauce. For plant-based eaters, I recommend the Super Green Goddess, a hearty salad that is packed with 20 grams of plant protein from chickpeas and lentils and is under 500 calories.”

RELATED: The Best&Worst Menu Items at Sweetgreen, According to a Dietitian

12. Chick-fil-A Chicken Cool Wrap

chick fil a chicken wrapchick fil a chicken wrap
Courtesy of Chick-fil-A

Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 350
Fat: 13 g (Saturated Fat: 4 g)
Sodium: 900 mg
Carbs: 29 g (Fiber: 13 g, Sugar: 3 g)
Protein: 24 g

Chick-fil-A’s Cool Wrap boasts a balanced option on the go, and Caroline loves to recommend this option to clients who are working towards weight loss or making blood sugar-friendly choices when eating out. With only 32 grams of total carbohydrates, of which 14 grams come from fiber, this wrap is bound to keep you full and satisfied for hours to come. If that isn’t enough, you’ll get 43 grams of protein from a lean chicken source.

13. Arby’s Classic Roast Beef Sandwich

Arby's Roast Beef SandwichArby's Roast Beef Sandwich
Courtesy of Arby’s

Nutrition (Per order):
Calories: 360
Fat: 14 g (Saturated Fat: 5 g, Trans fat: 0.5 g)
Sodium: 970 mg
Carbs: 37 g (Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 5 g)
Protein: 23 g

With 360 total calories, Arby’s knows how to pack a ton of flavor into a balanced meal with their Classic Roast Beef Sandwich, which delivers a leaner protein option. With 23 grams of protein to boot, this sandwich will tide you over until your next meal.

RELATED: The Best&Worst Menu Items at Arby’s

14. CAVA’s Greens + Grains Bowl

healthy fast-food for weight loss—lemon chicken CAVA bowlhealthy fast-food for weight loss—lemon chicken CAVA bowl
Courtesy of CAVA

*Nutrition information is based on how you build your bowl

“The Grains and Green Bowl at CAVA is packed full of nutrition! I recommend choosing the RightRice in your bowl, which is a plant-based rice made with lentils, chickpeas, peas, and rice. Then, add on a variety of greens and lean protein, as well as healthy fats from avocado and olives. It is filling, nutritious, and delicious,” says Mandy Tyler, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, LD.

This story has been updated to include new information, fact-checking, and copyedits.

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