Healthy Fast Food Options At Popular Drive-Thru Restaurants

by Joshua

Dieting, Fast Food, healthy foods, Low-Fat, Travel Tips

As a guy on the go, I don’t spend as much time in my home kitchen as I’d like to. So, I’m often on the prowl for healthy fast food options.

Healthy Fast Food Options - There are many healthy options at fast food restaurants, you just have to know what to look for. photo by m01229 on Flickr

Of course, many would think that the terms “fast food” and “healthy” are mutually exclusive.

However, this isn’t 1990 anymore — when fast food menu options were limited to large hamburgers, french fries, greasy pizza, and soda.

Now more than ever, fast food restaurants across the United States are responding to the push for healthier foods by expanding their menu options.

Some fast food restaurants (most famously McDonald’s) have done away with the super-large sodas, fries, and other massive menu items that were notoriously connected with fast food culture.

There are even organic fast food restaurants these days, including 2 of my favorites: Chipotle and Evos.

While I frequent places like Evos and Chipotle, sometimes the nearest-to-me options are the more traditional fast food restaurants, which — perhaps to your surprise — really do have some relatively healthy options.

Here are 7 of my favorite healthy fast food options, followed by the healthiest choices on the menu at popular restaurants.


#1 – Salad… Instead Of A Burger

It seems like every fast food restaurant I stop by today has a few good salad options available.

The varieties range from a basic house salad to more elaborate chef salads and Cobb salads.

Healthy Fast Food Options - A fast food salad is a healthy alternative. photo by hile on Flickr

When it comes to overall nutrition, the best kinds of salads will have lots of greens topped with fruits and veggies. If you want to add meat, consider grilled chicken instead of fried chicken.

Finally, easy does it with the salad dressing. Go for the low-calorie, low-fat options (I prefer a basic vinaigrette when available).


#2 – Grilled Chicken Sandwiches… Instead Of Burgers

When chicken sandwich began appearing on fast food menus all across the country years ago, it was like a revolution for the epicurean world — no longer were hamburgers the only sandwich you could get from a drive-through window.

Healthy Fast Food Options - This grilled chicken sandwich is one of the best healthy fast food options available. photo by Dave_Murr on Flickr

These days, fast food chicken sandwiches seem to come in 101 varieties, including plenty of grilled options.

Virtually all the major fast food restaurants have grilled chicken sandwich options, and these are much healthier than the fried or breaded chicken sandwiches out there.

If you can skip the bacon and heavy sauces, that will make your grilled chicken sandwich even healthier.


#3 – Small Or “Junior” Hamburgers… Instead Of Regular Burgers

Go to any of the major fast food restaurants these days and you’ll probably find a few different types of double cheeseburgers and triple cheeseburgers. In fact, Burger King and Wendy’s both offer “secret menu” hamburgers consisting of 4 (yes, 4!) patties.

Healthy Fast Food Options - A regular, single-patty hamburger is much healthier than the ooey-gooey, multi-decker burgers at fast food restaurants. photo by evelynishere on Flickr

But, what do I do when I want a fast food hamburger yet don’t want to consume a full pound of red meat? I order the “regular” hamburger, which has a single patty.

These single-patty hamburgers may not be the healthiest item on the menu, especially as compared to a salad or grilled chicken sandwich, but they’re much healthier than their double- and triple-decker counterparts!

Another way to incorporate portion control: order off the kids menu.


#4 – Healthier Sides… Instead Of Fries

Often times, the best part of a fast food meal is the side order of French fries. But isn’t there something healthier than fried potatoes?

Healthy Fast Food Options - A side salad is a great alternative over French fries. photo by Ambernectar13 on Flickr

In most cases, yes — there are many options available. Long John Silver’s, for example, has green beans (just 29 calories!), and Wendy’s offers the baked potato (healthier than the fries). Boston Market is a great fast food restaurant because they have a plethora of veggies to choose from.

But no matter which fast food restaurant you go to these days, they’re almost all going to have a side salad.

Even better? Many fast food restaurants will let you directly substitute the fries with a side salad.


#5 – Yogurt Parfaits… Instead Of Ice Cream

I love (let me repeat: LOVE) hot-fudge sundaes.

But, let’s face it — eating too many hot-fudge sundaes probably isn’t going to help me stay my fittest.

So, instead of scarfing down a hot-fudge sundae, I’ll choose a parfait.

Healthy Fast Food Options - Parfaits make an excellent alternative to ice cream sundaes. photo by mroach on Flickr

A parfait is usually a combination of low-fat vanilla yogurt, fruit, and granola. It’s sort of like a colorful, healthy version of a sundae.


#6 – Water… Instead Of Soda

This has actually been one of the toughest choices for me to make, because anyone who really knows me is pretty cognizant of the fact that I love Coca-Cola and Pepsi products.

Healthy Fast Food Options - Water is always the healthier option over soda. photo by stevendepolo on Flickr

But I’ve really made an effort at opting for a bottle of water at least some of the time I pull up to the fast food restaurant drive-thru windows.

I’m not alone, bottled water is poised to overtake soda as the #1 drink.


#7 – Coffee With No Sugar & Low-Fat Cream… Instead Of Soda

Just as I love soda, I also enjoy drinking coffee.

Healthy Fast Food Options - Coffee, if ordered unflavored and with minimal or no sugar and cream, really isn't bad for you at all. photo by Mr.TinDC on Flickr

But, in the interest of reducing my intake of sugars and fats, I’ve completely eliminated sugar from my coffee and have cut down significantly on my cream.

I’ll even ask for light cream instead of regular cream.

Again, fast food restaurant coffee doesn’t have to wreck your diet. You just need to know how to moderate the amount of damage it might do.

Technically, coffee is a healthy beverage, but the problem is that today almost everyone likes it flavored — which is where you can get into trouble with your waistlines.


Healthy Fast Food Options At Popular Restaurants

Of the 20 biggest fast food restaurants in America, these are the ones that list healthy options on their menus: