The Insider’s Guide to Healthy Hawaii: 9 Healthiest Things to Order at These Popular Fast-Food Restaurants

The healthiest eats from McDonalds, Zippy’s, 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 and Monica Esquivel, PhD, RDN, Dietetics Program Director at UH Manoa in Honolulu to learn what they 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.

Medically reviewed in November 2019.

Starbucks: Protein Boxes

2 / 10 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

Taco Bell: Crunchy Grilled Chicken Tacos

3 / 10 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

Zippy's: Asian Chicken Salad

4 / 10 Zippy's: Asian Chicken Salad

Nothing screams comfort food in Hawaii like Zippy’s. While many menu options are laden with calories, fat and sodium, the chain has made an effort to include a few healthier choices. Their diabetes-friendly menu and mini specials can make for lighter meals, and according to Dr. Esquivel, the Asian Chicken Salad is a winner for health-conscious consumers. One thing she notes—the salad is still high in sodium, which should be taken into account when planning the rest of your meals for the day.

Calorie counter: The Asian Chicken Salad with Tossed Greens, Chicken Breast Fillet, Cucumber Slices, Fried Wun Tun and Char Sui—480 calories, 17 grams of fat, 38 grams of protein.

Photo credit: Zippy’s Restaurants

McDonald’s: Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken

5 / 10 McDonald’s: Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken

Next time you spot McDonald’s golden arches, try one of their new calorie-conscious salad options. One particularly tasty meal is the Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken.

This south-of-the-border salad is made up of greens like romaine and baby spinach and kale. It’s topped with black beans, roasted corn and tomatoes, plus cheddar and jack cheeses. It even comes with Newman’s Own organic Southwest dressing so you don’t have to worry about mystery ingredients.

Calorie counter: Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken, Salad Lettuce Blend, Southwest Vegetable Blend, Cheese, Cilantro Lime Glaze and Chili Lime Tortilla Strips—350 calories, 12 grams of fat, 37 grams of protein.

Photo credit: McDonald’s

Teddy’s Bigger Burgers: Salmon Burger

6 / 10 Teddy’s Bigger Burgers: Salmon Burger

As the name implies, Teddy’s Bigger Burgers specializes in larger-than-life burgers that are full of flavor but might not be the healthiest options for daily consumption. Thankfully, at least one bigger burger is also lower on fat—the Salmon Burger is a health-conscious sandwich that doesn’t skimp on taste. The burger can be paired with any of Teddy’s signature sauces or eaten plain.

Calorie counter: Salmon Burger, Lettuce, Tomato, Onion and Pickle—600 calories, 30 grams of fat, 27 grams of protein.

Photo credit: Teddy’s Bigger Burgers

L&L Hawaiian Barbecue: BBQ Chicken Bowl

7 / 10 L&L Hawaiian Barbecue: BBQ Chicken Bowl

Looking for your barbecue fix? Next time skip the plate lunch and grab a BBQ Chicken Bowl from L&L instead. Get the same mouth-watering BBQ chicken you love with nutritious steamed veggies on a bed of rice. This lighter option is less than half the fat of the regular BBQ Chicken plate lunch, making it a smart choice for any diner.

Calorie counter: The BBQ Chicken Bowl, Steamed Vegetables and Rice—460 calories, 10 grams of fat, 26 grams of protein.

This photo is not a depiction of the BBQ Chicken Bowl from L&L Hawaiian Barbecue

Kentucky Fried Chicken: Grilled Chicken with Veggies

8 / 10 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

Subway: 6-Inch Turkey Sub

9 / 10 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

Dominos: Thin Crust Veggie Pizza

10 / 10 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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