9 Healthiest Things to Order at These Popular Fast-Food Restaurants

The healthiest eats from Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell and more.

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Fast food consumption is on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, between 2013 and 2016, 36.6 percent of American adults consumed fast food on any given day.

When you think of fast food, you probably think of greasy French fries, processed hamburgers and mile-high ice cream cones. But luckily, more on-the-go restaurants are offering healthier menu options, as well as displaying calorie counts. That means, even though more Americans are consuming fast food, it’s easier to make healthful choices when they do have to eat out.

We talked to nutritionist Diadra Harnden, RDN, of College Park Family Care Center affiliated with Overland Park Regional Medical Center in Kansas to learn what she would choose at these 9 restaurants, plus the meal’s nutritional information so you know how to customize your order. Specific menu items change frequently, but you can use this as a guide for what to look for when choosing fast food meals.

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Starbucks: Protein boxes

If you haven’t tried one of Starbucks’ protein boxes, you should. Most boxes have a combination of protein and fresh fruit or veggies. The packaging allows for easy storing and separated food compartments makes for easy noshing.

The Eggs and Cheese with Apples and Grapes Protein Box is a popular choice—it includes cage-free hardboiled eggs, apples, grapes and white cheddar cheese, multigrain muesli bread and honey peanut butter.

This tasty on-the-go combo has a whopping 23 grams of protein, which will help keep you satisfied until your next meal.

Calorie counter: Eggs and Cheese Protein Box—460 calories, 24 grams of fat, 23 grams of protein. 

Photo credit: Starbucks Corporation 

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Taco Bell: Crunchy Grilled Chicken Tacos

If you’re craving Mexican and need something quick, you can still order Taco Bell without sabotaging your diet.

Opt for two hard shell tacos with basic ingredients like grilled chicken, black beans and lots of veggies. The chicken and beans will keep you full, and the black beans and crunchy shell will satisfy your carb cravings.

Calorie counter: 2 Crunchy Grilled Chicken Tacos with Lettuce, Pico de Gallo and Black Beans—440 calories, 16 grams of fat, 16 grams of protein.

Photo credit: Taco Bell

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Chipotle: Vegetarian Burrito Bowl

Chipotle lets you customize your meal and control how much of the good (or bad) stuff goes into your food. Veggie burrito bowls or salads (sans the dressing!) are picks packed with nutrients like fiber and protein. If ordering a burrito bowl, ask for just half of the rice to cut down your calorie count even more.

Calorie counter: Vegetarian Burrito Bowl with Brown Rice, Fajita Vegetables, Salsa, Lettuce, Black Beans and Guacamole—620 calories 29.5 grams of fat and 15 grams of protein.

Photo credit: Chipotle Mexican Grill

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Chick-fil-A: Grilled Chargrilled Chicken Nuggets

When Chick-fil-A introduced their grilled nugget options a while back, CFA fans rejoiced. Grilled nuggets are always a good bet when swinging through this drive through, says Harnden. These boneless and marinated chicken bites pack a hefty 25 grams of protein.

Not sure which CFA sauce to pick? Pick something spicy. The Sriracha and Zesty Buffalo sauces have about 45 and 50 calories per pack, respectively.

Pair your grilled nuggets with a fruit cup or side salad for extra nutrition, recommends Harnden.

Calorie counter: 8-piece grilled nugget pack—140 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 25 grams of protein.

Photo credit: Chick-fil-A

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Boston Market: Rotisserie Chicken with Veggies

The beauty of Boston Market’s array of sides and proteins is that you can build a healthy to-go meal. To put together a delicious and satisfying Boston Market meal, pick rotisserie chicken made up of all skinless, white meat for your protein. For your sides, choose veggie-based options like Caesar salad, green beans or fresh steamed mixed vegetables. And although it might be difficult to do—skip the standard piece of cornbread.

Calorie counter: One-Quarter Skinless Rotisserie Chicken (White Meat Only), Side of Fresh Steamed Vegetables—300 calories, 10 grams of fat, 41 grams of protein.

Photo credit: Boston Market

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Kentucky Fried Chicken: Grilled Chicken with Veggies

Fried chicken isn’t the only mouth-watering option on KFC’s menu. The beloved chicken chain has a grilled option that’s just as flavorful. When ordering a meal at KFC, opt for the Kentucky Grilled Chicken breast plus two veggie-based sides like coleslaw, corn on the cob, sweet kernel corn or green beans.

Calorie counter: One Grilled Chicken Breast,  Side of Corn on the Cob and Side of Green Beans—270 calories, 7 grams of fat, 34 grams of protein.

Photo credit: KFC Corporation

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Subway: 6-inch Turkey Sub

Craving a sub? Choose simple, fresh ingredients to ensure your sandwich pick is low-cal.

Opt for a 6-inch 9-grain wheat bread roll and choose turkey or ham as your meat. Skip the cheese and instead load up your sandwich with veggies like spinach, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers. Skip some condiments like their Sweet Onion and Chipotle Southwest sauces, which are loaded with sugar and fat, says Harnden. Add extra flavor by choosing more sensible condiments like mustard, or olive oil and vinegar.

Calorie counter: Turkey Breast Sandwich on 9-Grain Wheat Bread, with Cucumbers, Green Peppers, Lettuce, Onions, Tomatoes and Spinach—280 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 18 grams of protein.

Photo credit: Subway

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Dominos: Thin Crust Veggie Pizza

When ordering pizza, always choose thin crust—it’ll save you calories while satisfying your pizza craving.  Load up your thin crust with veggies like mushrooms, sliced tomatoes and fresh green peppers. Another tip: stick to only one or two slices and supplement the rest of your meal with a side salad or a side of veggies

Calorie counter: One-Quarter of a Small, Thin Crust Pizza with Mozzarella Cheese, Mushrooms, Onions, Tomatoes and Green Peppers—190 calories, 9 grams of fat, 7 grams of protein.

Photo credit: Domino’s Pizza 

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Zoës Kitchen: Cauliflower Rice Bowl with Salmon

Zoës Kitchen offers a multitude of fresh Mediterranean food items, from creamy hummus to low-cal kabobs, to pitas and piadinas. Of the mains, the hearty Cauliflower Rice Bowl has much to offer—from the house-made tzatziki, Israeli hot sauce (skhug or zhug) and fresh-tasting dill, this meal provides rich flavor and has major nutrients, like omega-3s and protein. To make this meal gluten-free, just ask for it without the pita bread.

Calorie counter: Cauliflower Rice Bowl with chilled cauliflower rice, Harissa salmon, house-made tzatziki, Israeli skhug, feta cheese and fresh dill—470 calories, 32 grams of fat and 34 grams of protein.

Photo Credit: Zoës Kitchen

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