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15 Surprisingly Healthy Fast Food Picks

By: H.K. Jones, RD

Is the drive-thru the fast lane to a heart attack? On the one hand, it's true: One slipup ("okay, sure, I'll take the large fries and apple pie with that") and you can add more than 800 high-in-saturated-fat calories to your takeout. But there is good news. Some of the burgers, sides, sandwiches, and even desserts aren't as bad for you as you might think. In fact, some are downright light! Here are 15 fast-food picks that are all figure-friendly -- unless of course you order them all at once.

Related: "I Lost Weight on a Fast-Food Diet"

McDonald's Picks

  • McDonald's Chicken McNuggets with Sweet 'N Sour Sauce (4 pieces, 220 calories, 10g fat, 2g saturated fat)
The sauce is low in calories and sodium. But since you get only four measly nuggets, go ahead and add a Fruit & Walnut Salad (310 calories, with yogurt dressing) for additional sustenance.
  • McDonald's Hamburger (260 calories, 9g fat, 3.5g saturated fat)
This less-than-two-ounce burger is pretty small, so it's one of the diet-friendliest sandwiches in the biz. Pair it with a Side Salad drizzled with a packet of Newman's Own Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette (60 calories total) and a bottle of water.

  • McDonald's Egg McMuffin (300 calories, 12g fat, 4.5g saturated fat)
With its lean Canadian-style bacon and English muffin, this breakfast sandwich is a better choice than the 500-calorie Sausage Biscuit with Egg.

  • McDonald's Vanilla Reduced Fat Ice Cream Cone (150 calories, 3.5g fat, 2g saturated fat)
With their velvety vanilla flavor, McDonald's perfectly sized cones don't taste like they're made with reduced-fat ice cream -- but thank goodness they are!

Related: Healthy Fast Food Lunch Picks

Taco Bell Picks

  • Taco Bell Fresco Style Crunchy Taco (150 calories, 7g fat, 2.5g saturated fat)
When you ask for your meal Fresco Style, you get fresh salsa (packed with cancer-fighting lycopene) instead of fatty cheese and sauce. Pair your taco with a safe but filling side (like beans or rice), so you won't be hungry again before you leave the parking lot.
  • Taco Bell Gordita Nacho Cheese--Chicken (270 calories, 10g fat, 2.5g saturated fat)
Not all our picks come from the healthier Fresco Style menu. This one is smothered in cheese but still manages to squeeze in under 300 calories.

  • Taco Bell Fresco Style Grilled Steak Soft Taco (170 calories, 5g fat, 1.5g saturated fat)
Although red meat does deliver a little fat, it also adds protein, zinc, iron, and vitamin B12.

  • Taco Bell Fresco Style Tostada (200 calories, 6g fat, 1g saturated fat)
A flat corn shell topped with fiber-rich beans, Fiesta salsa, tangy red sauce, and lettuce makes a healthy taco alternative.

Related: 6 Smart On-the-Go Snacks

Pizza Hut Picks

  • Pizza Hut 12" Fit 'N Delicious Pizza with Diced Chicken, Red Onion, and Green Pepper (2 slices, 340 calories, 9g fat, 4g saturated fat)
A dietitian's dream: thin crust, lean chicken, and vegetable toppings, plus half the cheese of the regular Thin 'N Crispy Pizza.

  • Pizza Hut 12" Veggie Lover's Hand-Tossed Pizza (1 slice, 220 calories, 6g fat, 3g saturated fat)
One slice is sometimes just as satisfying as more, as long as it has a thick crust and a full allotment of cheese. Though not quite as light as the Fit 'N Delicious, the Hut's Hand-Tossed pies are still lower in calories than its deep-dish pan pizzas.

  • Pizza Hut Cherry Dessert Pizza (1 slice, 240 calories, 3.5g fat, 0.5g saturated fat)
It's not as virtuous as a bowl of cherries, but Pizza Hut's dessert pie has half the calories and less than a quarter of the fat of homemade cherry pie.

Related: Comfort Foods Without the Calories

Wendy's Picks

  • Wendy's Jr. Hamburger (280 calories, 9g fat, 3.5g saturated fat)
This junior-size sandwich is almost as low-cal as the McDonald's burger. Skip the side of fries and have a Low-Fat Strawberry Flavored Yogurt with Granola Topping (250 calories) for dessert.

  • Wendy's Large Chili (330 calories, 9g fat, 3.5g saturated fat)
Packed with folate-, iron- and fiber-rich beans, the 12-ounce serving will fill you up. Round out your meal with a Mandarin Orange Cup (80 calories).

  • Wendy's UItimate Chicken Grill (360 calories, 7g fat, 1.5g saturated fat)
It has half the fat of Wendy's other non-burger sandwiches, thanks to Honey Mustard Sauce instead of mayo and grilling instead of deep-frying.

  • Wendy's Jr. Frosty (160 calories, 4g fat, 2.5g saturated fat)
Thicker than a milk shake but thinner than a sundae, the four-ounce Jr. Frosty packs plenty of satisfaction into a quarter-pint cup.


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