Healthy fast food options

20 Healthy Fast-Food Orders, According to Dietitians

“This bowl provides a mix of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, and vegetables—all of the fixings of a balanced meal. And for a plant-based fast-food dish, it contains a good amount of protein sources (quinoa, hummus, and Greek yogurt),” says Amy Brownstein, MS, RD, of Nutrition Digested. “Plus, the lemon tahini dressing and feta provide some healthy fats, which can contribute to satiety.”

10 Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants

Commissions we earn from partner links on this page do not affect our opinions or evaluations. Our editorial content is based on thorough research and guidance from the Forbes Health Advisory Board.

10 Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants

Editor’s Note: In “Hey, Health Coach,” Sarah Hays Coomer answers reader questions about the intersection of health and overall well-being. Have a question? Send her a message (and don’t forget to use a sleuthy pseudonym!).

Hey, Health Coach,

I’m in sales and on the road for work a lot, driving all over the country. I’m always rushing, and my health is taking a beating from living on fast food. I know there have to be better options than what I’m eating right now. What are the healthiest fast food restaurants or dishes I can look for?

— On The Road Again

Dear On The Road Again,

Fast food doesn’t have to be bad for you. It doesn’t offer much of a chance to slow down, rest and digest, but, like anything else in life, it’s all in the way you approach it.

Fast food can be comforting and easy. It satisfies cravings, and sometimes it’s the most inexpensive and accessible choice. Fast food is part of American life, and, for many people, it’s a lifeline—including folks like you who travel a lot.

When you’re trying to make any healthy change, especially one that requires making a new choice day after day, clarifying your goals can help you stay focused and reduce your odds of experiencing guilt or frustration if things don’t go as planned.

Partner Offers feature brands who paid Forbes Health to appear at the top of our list. While this may influence where their products or services appear on our site, it in no way affects our ratings, which are based on thorough research, solid methodologies and expert advice. Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services

Enjoy A 30-Day Free Trial At Sign Up Only For The Month Of November

Noom Sustainable Weight Loss Program

Noom Sustainable Weight Loss Program

  • Prioritizes a balanced relationship with food
  • Uses a quiz to create a custom plan and estimated timeline
  • Weight, food and exercise logging tool to manage your health
  • $70/mo or $209/year with alternate options available
  • Over 45 million downloads and 45k+ 5-star reviews

What Are Your Goals?

Do you want to significantly change your diet or simply make a few healthier choices?

Both are noble ambitions, and one might be more motivating or realistic than the other. Do you thrive on challenges and love making big changes all at once, or do you prefer to build momentum with incremental changes to avoid feeling stressed out or deprived? Any healthy choice nurtures your body, and the degree to which you make those changes is up to you.

So, what’s your objective? Are you trying to stick with a specific diet on the road (like vegan, gluten-free or high-protein) or simply switch from supersized to small portions? Is the goal to cut back on fat or sugar, or do you want to take a little more time to sit down and eat regardless of where you are?

What exactly do you mean by “fast”?

This question can help you determine how much flexibility you have. Do you need to exit off the freeway and drive through, or can you venture a little further into town for a more nutritious grab-and-go meal?

There are lots of healthy build-your-own salad, noodle and grain bowl restaurants, but many are located in suburban or urban centers. You might not see signs for them on the interstate, but most have apps that allow you to find their locations and place your order in advance. Using these apps can keep you rolling and open up a world of possibilities.

10 Fast Food Restaurants With Healthy Options

Some of the restaurants below are traditional fast food joints for when you need sustenance right off the exit ramp. Others are newer chains that cater directly to health-conscious customers. All have at least 400 locations throughout the U.S. and menu items that cater to specific health concerns.

Panera Bread

Panera’s menu is full of options for a healthy meal. It lists nutritional information on the menu, and you can often find locations not far off freeway exits. You can order salads with a variety of lean proteins, fruits and vegetables, as well as “pick two” dishes from a menu of soups, salads and sandwiches. Just be mindful of dishes that are excessively cheesy, creamy or sugary, and choose whole-grain bread when possible. You can also select an apple as a side rather than chips or a baguette.


Chipotle allows customers to build their own meals. You can create salads or burrito bowls with lots of protein, fiber and not too much fat. Queso, sour cream and chips all add significant calories and fat, but you don’t have to deprive yourself. Smaller portions help, or you can skip the chips entirely.


Starbucks created several healthy options in recent years, including steel cut oatmeal, egg white wraps and egg bites, and it offers a variety of protein boxes that feature fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, whole-grain crackers and nut butter.


Sweetgreen may not pop up often on freeway signs, but with locations in 21 states, it’s widely available in certain areas. The chain offers warm bowls with wild rice or quinoa as a base, as well as salads on a bed of kale, romaine lettuce, arugula or spinach. Toppings include nuts, seeds, beans, a wide variety of vegetables and proteins, and a choice of 15 dressings or sauces. Build your own bowl or select one of the brand’s pre-made menu items.


CAVA is another fast-casual restaurant with customizable hot bowls, salads and pita wraps. The menu leans Mediterranean with options like roasted eggplant, falafel, grilled meats, hummus and tahini dressing. The brand’s RightRice is made from a blend of lentils, chickpeas, green peas and rice. According to the company, RightRice contains double the protein, five times the fiber and 40% fewer net carbohydrates than a standard portion of white rice.

Noodles and Company

At Noodles and Company, you can order a noodle bowl with vegetables, a choice of sauce and proteins that include Impossible “chicken,” tofu, shrimp, grilled chicken, meatballs or beef. The chain also offers an option to substitute regular pasta with zucchini noodles, gluten-free shells or high-protein noodles called LEANguini. Soups and salads are available as well.


Unlike many traditional fast food restaurants, Wendy’s has four mainstay salads on its menu—the cobb, apple pecan, parmesan caesar and taco salads—all of which can be ordered vegetarian. Just be aware of ingredients like cheese, tortilla chips and heavy dressings that can add extra fat and calories. Wendy’s also offers a grilled chicken wrap, baked potatoes and apple bites that can be ordered as a side.

Burger King

For vegetarians, Burger King carries Impossible burgers, but it’s important to note that there’s only a 40-calorie difference between a Whopper and an Impossible Whopper, and all burgers are grilled on the same broilers. Skipping the mayonnaise and cheese or ordering any burger on a lettuce wrap helps cut simple carbohydrates and saturated fat.

Smoothie King

Smoothies can be a good option when you’re low on time and in need of a boost. Smoothie King—and other shops like Robeks, Jamba Juice and Nekter—create blends with a variety of fruits, vegetables, dairy and plant-based milks, protein powders, fiber, probiotics and caffeine from sources like coffee and green tea.

However, smoothies can be less satiating than a meal of whole foods. Also be careful to check the calories on any smoothie you drink regularly. The large sizes can be surprisingly high in sugar, with over 800 calories per drink.

Panda Express

Panda Express offers “Wok Smart” menu items that are guaranteed to have at least 8 grams of protein and contain fewer than 300 calories. The chain also offers steamed brown rice, super greens and several tofu dishes, as well as grilled shrimp and chicken entrees. It also has kids’ meals that come with apple crisps and a bottle of water.

Heads up for gluten-free folks: Everything on the Panda Express menu contains gluten except the brown and white steamed rice.

Partner Offers feature brands who paid Forbes Health to appear at the top of our list. While this may influence where their products or services appear on our site, it in no way affects our ratings, which are based on thorough research, solid methodologies and expert advice. Our partners cannot pay us to guarantee favorable reviews of their products or services



  • Eat the foods you love, and still lose weight with an updated, simplified program
  • Simple, flexible approach with a Points® system and easy tracking in the WW app
  • No boring meals with 12,000+ recipes and a restaurant database
  • Expert support from coaches both online or in person

20 Healthy Fast-Food Orders, According to Dietitians

When you’re in a bind for time or just want to treat yourself, you can still find some healthy fast food.

Chipotle burrito bowl salad

Fast food is an affordable way to grab something to eat whether you’re tired and don’t have the energy to cook, are running out the door and need a quick meal, or are simply craving an indulgence in some of your favorite foods. No matter the circumstances of your fast food ordering, if you’re trying to eat healthy, you’ve probably found it a challenge. The stereotypes about fast food’s poor nutrient density are largely true, and many fast-food chains serve up unhealthy options of fried menu items high in calories, sodium, and saturated fat, and those that are low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. However, dietitians say that there are some healthy fast-food options out there, as long as you know where to look.

When you’re on the hunt for healthier fast food, you’ll want to check the menu for items that are lower in calories, fat, and sodium, and skip over items like “double” or “triple” burgers. Look for things like bowls, wraps, or salads that generally have more fiber, protein, and servings of vegetables, as well as fewer refined carbohydrates and added sugars.

Not every order is doomed to weigh you down with unhealthful ingredients, and more and more restaurant chains are getting hip to the fact that many consumers actually want to eat right. So, here are 20 of the best healthy fast-food orders around, according to dietitians. Read on, and for more healthy eating tips, check out The 15 Best High-Protein Fast Food Meals .

Subway Grilled Chicken No Bready Bowl

Subway grilled chicken bowl

Per bowl : 200 calories, 4 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 480 mg sodium, 9 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 35 g protein

You can certainly find a handful of healthy sub and wrap options at Subway, but if you’re more in the mood for a bowl, their No Bready are a great healthy fast-food choice.

“With only 200 calories and four grams of fat, you can load up the Grilled Chicken No Bready Bowl with vegetables for a satisfying high-fiber, high-protein, and low-carbohydrate choice,” says Mary Sabat MS, RDN, LD.

Panera Bread Greek Salad

Panera Greek Salad

Per salad : 410 calories, 9 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 1,080 mg sodium, 17 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 8 g protein

When you’re craving a hot cup of coffee with your lunch, Panera is the perfect fast-food choice—especially if you’re also trying to stick to some healthier options. If it’s a flavorful and light salad you’re in the mood for, Sabat suggests the Greek Salad from Panera.

“It’s a healthy choice because it includes a variety of vegetables and healthy fats from olives and feta cheese,” Sabat says. “Plus, it’s a lighter option, just 410 calories, compared to some of the calorie-heavy sandwiches and pastries on the menu.”

Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Grilled chicken sandwich Chick-fil-A

Per sandwich : 390 calories, 12 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 770 mg sodium, 44 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 28 g protein

Chick-fil-A is famous for its chicken sandwiches—original and grilled. Good fast-food grilled chicken is harder to find these days, but Chick-fil-A is one of the experts. For a healthier sandwich option, try their Grilled Chicken Sandwich.

“Chicken is lean protein, and opting for whole-grain bread and minimal toppings keeps the sandwich relatively low in calories and saturated fat,” says Sabat. “It comes in at 390 calories and 12 grams of fat.

Chipotle Balanced Macros Bowl

Chipotle Balanced Macros Bowl

Chipotle doesn’t have the exact nutrition information listed for their Balanced Macro Lifestyle Bowl, but when you learn what it’s made of, you’ll see why it’s on the list for healthy fast-food orders.

“The Balanced Macro Bowl at Chipotle is an excellent healthy option when craving a Mexican dish, as this bowl consists of rice, chicken, black beans, fajita vegetables, fresh salsa, guacamole, and extra romaine lettuce,” says Lisa Young, PhD, RDN. “This bowl consists of all the macronutrients, as well as other vitamins and minerals, and the chicken and black beans are great sources of protein. The black beans also contribute to the fiber content of the meal, and the guacamole gives the meal heart-healthy fats.”

Taco Bell Fresco Soft Tacos

Taco bell soft taco

Per taco : 180 calories, 8 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 500 mg sodium, 18 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 9 g protein

You can personalize quite a bit about the soft tacos at Taco Bell, and if you choose a Fresco Style Soft Taco—which adds diced tomatoes—you’ll be able to add some veggies to your order as well as limit your calories to just 180 per taco with only four grams of saturated fat.

“Choosing Fresco-Style substitutes high-calorie ingredients like cheese and sour cream with a flavorful pico de gallo, reducing overall calorie and fat content,” Says Sabat. “These changes make for a better choice when you’re going to Taco Bell.”

Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Ranch Wrap

Grilled Chicken Ranch wrap

Per taco : 420 calories, 16 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 1,230 mg sodium, 41 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 27 g protein

The Wendy’s menu is packed full of calorie-dense burgers and sides, but hidden in there are a handful of healthier, lighter options, such as the Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Ranch Wrap. “Grilled chicken is a lean protein source, and the use of a whole-grain wrap adds fiber while reducing refined carbohydrates,” says Sabat.

KFC Kentucky Grilled Chicken

KFC Grilled Chicken

Per breast : 210 calories, 7 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 710 mg sodium, 0 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 38 g protein

You may have a hard time imagining anything other than fried chicken from KFC, but their grilled options are just as flavorful and satisfying. Save the fried chicken for special occasions when you’re really craving that crispy outer layer, but if it’s juicy chicken you’re craving, the grilled varieties will fulfill those needs.

“Kentucky Grilled Chicken is a healthier alternative to fried chicken because of its lower fat content,” says Sabat. “For 210 calories and only seven grams of fat, this is the healthiest option on the menu. Also, opting for a side salad can add more vegetables to the meal.”

In-N-Out Burger Protein Style Burger

in-n-out protein style double double

Per breast : 240 calories, 17 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 370 mg sodium, 11 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 13 g protein

Have you tried the “Not So Secret Menu” at In-N-Out yet? It feels like a secret menu because it includes items that aren’t on their regular list, but these options are also completely open to the public eye and featured on their website. One of the healthier burger styles on the “Not So Secret Menu” is the Protein Style Burger, “which removes the refined carbohydrates from the bun and replaces it with lettuce, reducing overall calorie intake,” says Sabat.

Panda Express String Bean Chicken Breast

Panda express chicken and green beans

Per breast : 210 calories, 12 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 560 mg sodium, 30 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 12 g protein

One of the benefits of eating at Panda Express is being able to customize your experience. You can choose a base of either low mein, white rice, brown rice, or steamed vegetables, and can then choose from a long list of deliciously savory protein toppings. One of their popular flavor choices, the String Bean Chicken Breast, is also one of the healthier choices on their menu.

“This dish is a better choice because it features lean chicken breast and steamed vegetables, minimizing the use of high-calorie sauces,” says Sabat. “For just 190 calories and only two grams of saturated fat, this makes a great choice if eating at Panda Express.”

Starbucks Spinach, Feta, and Egg White Wrap

Starbucks Spinach, Feta and Egg White Wrap

Per wrap : 290 calories, 8 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 840 mg sodium, 34 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 20 g protein

Starbucks has more to offer at breakfast than just coffee. If you’re swinging through the drive-thru in the morning, try their Spinach, Feta, and Egg Wrap for a healthy first meal of the day.

“It’s a good source of fiber and protein, which help us to start our day out feeling full and energized,” says KeyVion Miller RDN, LDN, culinary nutritionist and owner of The Miller’s Kitchen. “The second ingredient on the ingredient list is whole wheat flour. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a common characteristic of a diet associated with positive health outcomes includes whole grains.” Miller points out that the wrap also comes pre-loaded with veggies.

Taco Bell Veggie Power Bowl

taco bell veggie cantina bowl

Per bowl : 420 calories, 20 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 870 mg sodium, 47 g carbs, 11 g fiber, 12 g protein

Plant protein is increasingly having a heyday at fast-food restaurants, including Taco Bell. Their Veggie Power Bowl highlights the protein power of—you guessed it—veggies and beans. “This bowl includes seasoned black beans, seasoned rice, lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole, and a tangy sauce. It’s a vegetarian option that offers a balance of protein, fiber, and veggies,” says Dan LeMoine, RD, co-founder of Re:Vitalize Weight Loss and Wellness and author of Fear No Food.

Panera Napa Almond Chicken Salad

Panera Bread Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich

Per sandwich : 640 calories, 25 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 970 mg sodium, 78 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 27 g protein

At lunchtime, check out Panera’s Napa Almond Chicken Salad. “Unlike most other chicken sandwiches out there, Panera’s aren’t fried,” says Aditi Biswas, certified holistic nutrition consultant. “Instead, the chicken is seared in a pan, then cooked. This makes it less oily than other preparations.”

Chick-fil-A Spicy Southwest Salad

Chick fila southwest salad

Per salad : 690 calories, 49 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 1,570 mg sodium, 29 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 33 g protein

“I’m obsessed with Chick-fil-A’s Spicy Southwest Salad featuring cold grilled chicken,” says Stacey Bender, MA, RD. “It’s a protein and fiber powerhouse, thanks to the abundance of pepitas. These pumpkin seeds are a nutritious snack loaded with heart-healthy fats and all nine essential amino acids, making them a complete protein source.” Meanwhile, this salad’s eight grams of fiber make it one of the highest-fiber options on the Chick-fil-A menu.

Taco Bell Bean Burrito Fresco

Taco Bell bean burrito fresco

Per burrito : 350 calories, 9 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 1,040 mg sodium, 55 g carbs, 10 g fiber, 13 g protein

Some Mexican fast food tends to be heavy and high-calorie—but not Taco Bell’s Bean Burrito Fresco! “This healthy fast-food meal has 410 calories, 13 grams of fat, 13 grams of fiber, and 12 grams of protein,” says Lori A. Stevens, RD, LDN, of The CHF Dietitian. “Like many fast-food meals, it is quite high in sodium with 960 milligrams. But opting for the smaller-portioned soft taco with the same fillings will decrease the calories to 240 and the sodium to 540 milligrams.”

Chick-fil-A Cool Wrap

Chick-fil-A Cool Wrap

Per wrap : 660 calories, 45 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 1,420 mg sodium, 32 g carbs, 14 g fiber, 43 g protein

What’s so cool about a Chick-fil-A Cool Wrap? “It’s packed with fiber and protein and will keep you feeling full without the sluggish feeling after fast food,” says Caroline Thomason, RD, CDCES. “For fun, I love to wash it down with a diet lemonade!”

Chipotle Salad Bowl

Chipotle burrito bowl salad

Per chicken salad : 580 calories, 25 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 50 g carbs, 42 g protein

In terms of health, Chipotle stands out for its totally customizable smorgasbord of Tex-Mex ingredients and healthy fast-food options. Next time you’re at the fast-casual chain, make your own salad bowl of nutritious veggies. “I usually ask for a little less rice and add sautéed peppers and onions,” says Carrie Gabriel, MS, RDN, of Steps 2 Nutrition. “This way I get more vegetables in my meal, which adds more fiber. The vegetables are also naturally more filling with fewer calories.” You can also go easy on the sour cream and cheese for fewer calories and less fat.

Panda Express Mushroom Chicken

Panda express mushroom chicken

Per entree : 170 calories, 9 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 750 mg sodium, 11 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 12 g protein

Mushrooms are a rich source of potassium and B vitamins, and when you combine them with lean chicken and a savory sauce in Panda Express’ Mushroom Chicken entree, you’ve got a tasty and healthy Asian meal. “The Mushroom Chicken offers a good balance of protein and vegetables, making it a healthier choice compared to some other options on the menu,” says Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD, of One Pot Wellness. “Pairing it with steamed rice and a side of mixed vegetables can create a well-rounded meal.”

Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Nuggets

8ct grilled nuggets chick fil a

Per 8-count : 130 calories, 3 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 440 mg sodium, 1 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 25 g protein

Chick-fil-A wins again with their Grilled Chicken Nuggets. “These are a healthy fast-food option for individuals looking to add a lean source of protein to their meal. An 8-count grilled nuggets provides 25 grams of protein and less than 1 gram of saturated fat,” says Mandy Tyler, MEd, RD, LD. Add a tasty veggie side with an order of the Kale Crunch Side.

Panera Mediterranean Bowl

Panera Meditteranean Bowl

Per bowl : 510 calories, 28 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 1,100 mg sodium, 51 g carbs, 7 g fiber, 15 g protein

You’re probably aware of the array of benefits of a Mediterranean diet, from reduced inflammation to lower risk of chronic disease. When you’re trying to stick with this healthy eating plan, opt for the Mediterranean Bowl at Panera.

“This bowl provides a mix of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, and vegetables—all of the fixings of a balanced meal. And for a plant-based fast-food dish, it contains a good amount of protein sources (quinoa, hummus, and Greek yogurt),” says Amy Brownstein, MS, RD, of Nutrition Digested. “Plus, the lemon tahini dressing and feta provide some healthy fats, which can contribute to satiety.”

Wendy’s Apple Pecan Chicken Salad


Per salad : 440 calories, 22 g fat (8 g saturated fat), 790 mg sodium, 30 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 33 g protein

At certain fast-food joints, even the salads can pack excessive calories and fats. Wendy’s Apple Pecan Chicken Salad is a noteworthy exception and a healthy fast-food option. According to LeMoine, its ingredients are mostly healthy, whole foods. “This salad features a blend of greens, grilled chicken breast, diced apples, dried cranberries, roasted pecans, and crumbled blue cheese. It’s a flavorful and filling salad option,” he says.

A previous version of this story was published on May 24, 2023. It has been updated to include additional copy and proofreading revisions, additional research, and updated contextual links.

Sign up for our newsletter!