Healthiest fast food

8 healthy fast food picks for when you’re eating on the go

It might be considered a “breakfast sandwich” but Sheth believes the Wake-Up Wrap is a good option at any time of the day because it’s low in carbohydrates and calories and offers 7 grams of protein. Ordering the veggie version (with no bacon or turkey sausage) helps lower the fat and sodium content.

The 7 Healthiest Fast-Food Restaurants, According to Dietitians

For a nutritious meal on the go, consider stopping by any of these RD-approved fast-food restaurants.

Panera Bread drive-thru

According to the CDC, it’s estimated that six in 10 adults in the U.S. have at least one chronic disease, while four in 10 have two or more. Since poor nutrition is one of the leading causes of chronic diseases like heart disease, kidney disease, cancer, diabetes, and more, making healthier food choices should be at the top of everyone’s mind. This starts with seeking out the healthiest fast-food restaurants in your local area.

Most fast-food choices are incredibly high in fat, sodium, and calories, and too much of any of these nutrients increases the risk of a number of health problems. That double patty burger with bacon, cheese, and medium French fry? It will cost you up to 1,570 calories, 34 grams of saturated fat, and 3,535 milligrams of sodium. That’s 154% of the recommended sodium limit of 2,300 mg for one entire day in one meal.

Fortunately, fast-food chains have listened to our desire to eat convenient food and manage our health. At the same time, some fast-food joints have been better listeners than others. Healthier fast-food choices tend to be lower in calories—or at least less than half your day’s worth in one meal. These meals also tend to be lower in saturated fat and sodium while including vegetables, fruit, and other high-fiber ingredients.

If you’re looking for fast-food options that won’t derail your health goals, hop in the car and head to one of these seven dietitian-approved healthiest fast-food restaurants.

1. Chipotle

chipotle exterior

“My favorite fast-food restaurant is Chipotle because they offer a nice assortment of meal options with fresh ingredients,” says Kimberley Wiemann, MS, RDN, a Long Island, NY-based dietitian. Among the almost limitless combinations, Wiemann recommends packing a salad with veggies and beans and adding a protein option like chicken or steak or keeping it vegetarian with soffrito or beans with rice.

Some dietitian-approved choices you can find on Chipotle’s menu include:

  • Corn tacos
  • Salads or bowls topped with any of Chipotle’s fresh ingredients, including beans, brown rice, a protein choice like steak, chicken, or tofu, salsa, and veggies

2. MOD Pizza

A pizza joint may not seem like a healthy fast-food option initially, but it’s all about the toppings.

Melissa Altman-Traub MS, RDN, LDN, recommends MOD Pizza. “They have a ton of vegetable toppings all included and vegan cheese on a thin crust,” she says.

You can also make your artisan-style pizza any way you like and enjoy one of the many salads they offer.

A few dietitian-approved choices you can find on MOD Pizza’s menu include:

  • Pizza on the original or cauliflower crust topped with a wide assortment of veggies and proteins
  • The garden salad
  • The Greek salad
  • The Italian chopped salad

3. Starbucks

Starbucks exterior

Your favorite coffee shop has more than just sugar-laden pastries to accompany your coffee.

“Starbucks offers numerous food options that contain both carbohydrates and protein, which is part of the combination to help keep blood sugar levels steady, especially for people with diabetes,” says Toby Smithson, registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist, founder of Diabetes EveryDay, and author of Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies.

A few dietitian-approved choices you can find at Starbucks include:

  • Oatmeal
  • Jerky
  • String cheese
  • Perfect Bars ®
  • Protein boxes
  • The spinach, feta, and egg white wrap
  • Sous-vide egg bites

4. Jason’s Deli

“Jason’s Deli is a great option for individuals looking for a quick, healthy meal to enjoy,” according to Mandy Tyler, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, LD. She recommends the Mediterranean Bowl, filled with chicken, quinoa, hummus, and plenty of fresh vegetables, or the Wild Salmon-wich for a sandwich filled with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Some other dietitian-approved choices you can get at Jason’s Deli include:

  • The Modern Mediterranean bowl
  • The Wild Salmon-wich
  • The Greek chicken wrap
  • The Mesa Chicken salad

5. Panera Bread


“Produce is scarce at most fast-food restaurants, and Panera offers a treasure trove of veggie-packed salads, soups, and grain bowls with major customization available for every taste preference or allergy need,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, founder of and author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook.

From salads to sandwiches, soups, and warm bowls, and plenty of seasonal options, finding a healthy breakfast or lunch is simple at Panera.

A few dietitian-approved choices you can find on Panera’s menu include: 6254a4d1642c605c54bf1cab17d50f1e

  • The Mediterranean Bowl with chicken
  • Autumn squash soup
  • The Mediterranean Veggie sandwich
  • A Fuji apple salad with chicken
  • Turkey chili
  • Greek yogurt with mixed berries
  • Fresh fruit cups

6. Cava

This Mediterranean-style fast-food restaurant makes it easy to eat healthful, veggie-packed Greek- and Mediterranian-inspired dishes on the go.

“You can customize a bowl or pita to fit a plant-based diet and can modify carbs if needed by swapping super greens and amping up the protein with RightRice ® ,” says Alexandria Hardy, RDN, LDN.

Most bowls are under 800 calories and can be loaded with various vegetables and lean proteins for a satisfying and nutrient-dense meal.

A few dietitian-approved choices you can order from Cava include:

  • The Lentil Avocado bowl
  • A Greek salad
  • A Tahini Cesear salad
  • A chicken and RightRice bowl
  • Roasted eggplant dip

7. Chick-fil-A

Chick-fil-a exterior

While not everything at this fried-chicken joint is packed with healthy ingredients, there are quite a few nutritious options at Chick-fil-A.

“I love the Chick-fil-A Cool Wrap for a quick meal or even a large snack if I am out and about and know I’m getting too hungry. It’s packed with nutrition and delivers a whooping 43 g of protein and 14 g of fiber from the wrap! That’s fast food that I can feel good about when I am in a pinch,” says Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES, a Virginia-based dietitian who helps women stop dieting and find confidence with food.

A few dietitian-approved choices you can order at Chick-fil-A include:

  • The Cool Wrap
  • Grilled Chicken Nuggets
  • The grilled chicken sandwich
  • Greek yogurt parfait
  • The Egg White Grill
  • The Cobb Salad
  • Fruit cups
  • The Kale Crunch Salad

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8 healthy fast food picks for when you’re eating on the go

Healthiest fast food

Need to grab a meal on the go? Join the club. In the U.S, 50% of consumers eat fast food at least twice a week—and the number is increasing thanks to rising grocery costs.

But fast food meals can be a nutrition nightmare, containing an average of 1,193 calories, 2,110 milligrams of sodium, 68 grams of sugar and 14 grams of saturated fat. That’s nearly the recommended daily limit of sodium for adults, and more than the daily limit of saturated fat—just in one meal. Too much saturated fat, sugar, and sodium is linked to heart disease. And eating too many ultra-processed foods, like burgers and fries, may lead to cognitive decline.

“One meal is not going to make or break your overall health; all foods, including indulgent foods, can fit into an overall healthy diet,” says Vandana Sheth, RDN, CDCES, FAND, registered dietitian nutritionist and author of My Indian Table: Quick and Tasty Vegetarian Recipes. “When it comes to making healthy choices, pay attention to portion size, protein, fiber, fat, sodium and added sugars.”

The next time you’re on the road, pressed for time, or too tired to cook, choose one of these eight healthy options.

1. Dunkin: Wake-Up Wrap

It might be considered a “breakfast sandwich” but Sheth believes the Wake-Up Wrap is a good option at any time of the day because it’s low in carbohydrates and calories and offers 7 grams of protein. Ordering the veggie version (with no bacon or turkey sausage) helps lower the fat and sodium content.

The wrap might help stave off afternoon hunger pangs but Sheth warns that at just 180 calories, it’s not going to be super filling.

“You may still be hungry so consider enjoying this sandwich with some fruit or side salad,” she adds.

2. Starbucks: Tomato and Mozzarella on Focaccia

The vegetarian sandwich made with mozzarella cheese, roasted tomatoes, basil pesto and spinach is a good source of protein and contains just two grams of sugar and 360 calories.

Although the combination of veggies, carbs and protein will leave you feeling full, according to Joan Salge Blake EdD, RDN, program director and clinical professor of nutrition at Boston University, consider adding an apple to up the fiber content of the meal.

3. Panera Bread: Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken

The fresh salad is chock full of healthy veggies like romaine, mandarin oranges, strawberries, blueberries and pineapple and topped with grilled chicken.

The entrée size salad is filling enough for lunch or supper and comes in at just 350 calories with 23 grams of protein, eight grams of fiber and 1.5 grams of saturated fat.

“The protein and fiber [in the chicken and poppyseeds] provide satiety that will help you feel full,” Blake says. “It’s a lot of food without a lot of calories.”

4. Subway: 6-inch Veggie Delite Sandwich

Go ahead and pile on the veggies. Spinach, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, green peppers, pickles, olives and other fresh vegetables add minimal calories and a lot of flavor and make the six-inch vegetarian sandwich extra filling.

Request multigrain bread; it’s fewer calories, fat and carbs than options like Italian herb or honey oat breads.

Even with all of the toppings, including cheese, the sandwich is just 210 calories and has three grams of fat and 10 grams of fiber. Vicki Shanta Retelny RDN, a nutritionist and author of The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods, calls it “an excellent source of fiber.”

5. Burger King: Impossible Whopper

The next time you go through the drive-thru, order an Impossible Whopper. Calorie-wise, there isn’t a big difference between the Impossible Whopper (630 calories) and the traditional Whopper (670 calories) but the plant-based protein patty is lower in overall fat and saturated fat.

With 1,350 milligrams of sodium and 13.5 grams of sugar, the Impossible Whopper is far from a health food but it’s a good option when a burger craving hits.

6. Taco Bell: Soft Taco Supreme

The best thing about the soft taco supreme is the ability to customize the ingredients: Blake suggests skipping the ground beef in favor of grilled chicken to reduce the saturated fat, and add black beans for fiber and guacamole for healthy fat.

“You can also ask them to double the amount of tomatoes and lettuce to make sure you’re getting enough vegetables,” she adds. Onions and jalapeno peppers can be added, too.

Even with the extras, a single taco is just 285 calories and has 3.5 grams of saturated fat. Blake admits that 290 milligrams of sodium is high but “good for fast food.”

7. Chipotle: Lifestyle Bowl

The fast casual chain has vegan and vegetarian bowls and bowls that are suitable for paleo and keto diets; their high protein bowl, made with black beans, double chicken, cheese, rice, salsa and shredded cheese contains a whopping 82 grams of protein.

“The combination of plant-based protein, brown rice, black beans or pinto beans provide an unbelievable amount of fiber,” Blake adds.

You can also request extras like roasted chili-corn salsa, fresh tomato salsa and guacamole to up your veggie intake.

8. Chick-fil-A: Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Of all of the sandwiches on the chicken chain’s menu, Blake gives the grilled chicken sandwich top honors.

The sandwich, made with a multigrain brioche bun, grilled chicken, lettuce, tomato and honey roasted BBQ sauce, has 390 calories, 28 grams of protein and two grams of saturated fat. To cut back on the 44 grams of carbs in the sandwich, Blake advises taking advantage of the menu option to swap the bun for a lettuce wrap.

Compared to the other chicken sandwiches on the Chick-fil-A menu, which have upwards of 1,700 milligrams of sodium—a whopping 73% of the recommended daily sodium intake—there are 770 milligrams of sodium in the grilled chicken sandwich.

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