What are the best choices in fast food restaurants?

Marisa Moore
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

It's easier than ever to make healthy choices in fast food restaurants. Some of the best choices include salads, grilled chicken sandwiches, frilled chicken soft tacos, veggie burgers, sandwiches and wraps, baked potatoes and fruit salads.

If you're looking for something quick, skip the drive-thru and consider fast casual restaurants that specialize in a variety of healthy options like those listed above as well as steamed vegetables, stir-fry dishes and soup and salad combinations.

Dr. Lydie Hazan explains how teens can eat healthy and avoid overeating when going to a fast-food restaurant with friends. Watch this video from Discovery Health.

Robert DeVito
Fitness Specialist

This answer is directly from the book 90 days to a New You.

With a recent paradigm shift seen by many Fast Food Chains and restaurants it has become easier to make healthier and "Better Bad Food Choices". Take your time to plan what you will order BEFORE you pull up to the drive-thru window or go inside. Being prepared is quite possibly the best strategy you can utilize.

Better bad food choices–fast food:

  • Try to limit fast food to once or twice per week.
  • Avoid sauces like special sauce, mayonnaise, sour cream, butter, cheese sauces, gravy and tartar sauce.
  • Avoid super-sizing your meal.
  • Choose fat-free or low-fat milk, diet soda, unsweetened iced tea, or water instead of regular sodas and milkshakes.
  • Order the smallest size burger (single hamburger instead of a double hamburger) and leave off the cheese.
  • Select grilled/broiled chicken and fish sandwiches (and salads) instead of fried/ breaded chicken and fish sandwiches (and salads).
  • Choose a side salad (with low-fat or fat-free dressing on the side) or plain baked potato (with salsa and vegetables) instead of fries and onion rings.
  • Select a thin crust pizza with vegetable toppings instead of a deep dish pizza with meat toppings like sausage and pepperoni.
  • Avoid the loaded baked potato (with cheese, sour cream, butter)—instead add extra salsa or vegetables.
  • Choose fruit and/or yogurt for dessert.
  • Plain bagels and English muffins are less damaging than croissants and pastries.
  • Choose wraps or sandwiches on whole wheat bread or pita when possible.
  • Choose baked chips instead of regular chips.

By utilizing these strategies at burger places, sandwich shops and bagel shops you can reduce your calorie consumption, boost the impact on your health and live in the "Real World."

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

While many fast-food restaurants are slowly introducing healthier options to their menus, you can improve your chances of making a healthy choice if you follow these 10 tips.

  • Plan your meals in advance. Oftentimes people duck into a fast-food restaurant because they just don't know what to eat. Take out the guesswork by planning each meal in advance and writing it down. Give yourself a very limited fast-food quota and stick to it.
  • Read the menu closely. If your favorite fast-food joint doesn't post the nutritional information on the menu, they may have it behind the counter. If not, check out its corporate Web site and look up the nutrition content online.
  • Don't up the ante on portion size. Even when the jumbo, double, super, giant, and deluxe size seems like a better value, if you choose the larger size to save money, you might not stay healthy enough to spend it. Always order the regular.
  • Be a side-stepper. Salads are a great healthy option, but not when they are swimming in an oily soup topped with fried croutons. Ask for salad dressing, sauce, and gravy on the side so you can control the amount you'll use or skip it altogether. Try drizzling lemon juice or using salsa instead.
  • Keep it plain. Nothing kills a healthy option like a slathering of secret sauce or a mountain of bacon. Condiments such as ketchup may have added sugar, but full-fat mayo can sabotage a meal in one fell swoop. Mustards might be a better choice. Don't be afraid to ask for substitutions.
  • Skip the soda and shake. This is what shocks people the most. Some large sodas clock in at more than 500 calories and 15 grams of carbohydrates. And that offers no nutrition at all. Instead drink water or seltzer with a wedge of lemon.
  • Blow off the bread. Yes burgers come with two sides to the bun, but that doesn't mean you need both sides to enjoy it. Top the burger with an extra tomato and a layer of lettuce leaves to take its place.
  • Forgo anything fried. No matter how you slice it, foods breaded and deep-fried in oil are an artery-clogging disaster. Chicken, fish, and vegetables that are grilled, broiled or steamed taste just as good as fried, particularly when they are well seasoned.
  • Share it. Many of the fast-food portions are enough for two. Bring a friend and split it in half.

Subway has 7 sandwiches with fewer than 6 grams of fat. Because they offer these low fat options, when you have a choice stop at subway. Even one of their less-lean meat sandwiches, having them hold the mayo can reduce the calories and fat.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.