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26 Healthy Fast Food Choices

What to Order at 13 Fast Food Joints
  -- By Liza Barnes, Health Educator
Updated on 8/24/16 by Melissa Rudy

Your fridge is stocked with fresh produce, lean meats and low fat dairy products, there’s a whole grain baguette in the bread box, and your pantry has been purged of tempting junk foods. Eating healthy at home is a breeze.

But when you’re out and about in the midst of a hectic day of errands and you have precisely 30 minutes to scavenge and wolf down lunch before your next appointment, squeezing in food of any sort becomes a challenge—a challenge to which fast food restaurants have risen. Tasty, convenient, and cheap, there are plenty of reasons they’re popular. But if you’re watching your weight, or watching your health, a fast food menu is like a minefield! One wrong step and a 2,100-calorie sandwich winds up in your stomach (and later on your thighs). But if you’re careful, you can come out intact, with a meal in your hands, not on your hips.

Dining at a fast food restaurant doesn’t have to be a diet disaster. We’ve scoured the top 10 most popular fast food chains for their healthiest picks, so you don’t throw all of your hard work out the (car) window. Use this list as a guide, or visit the websites provided to tally up totals for your preferred favorites. And remember that these selections are healthier options for the occasional fast-food meal, but they may have other nutritional flaws (like high sodium), so you might not want to make it a regular part of your nutrition plan.

Chipotle
With its fresh ingredients and wide choice of wholesome fixings, Chipotle has the potential to be one of the healthiest fast-food restaurants. Below are some of the smarter choices; visit www.chipotle.com for more nutritional info.
Starbucks
Go beyond the java and try some of this coffee chain's healthy lunch and breakfast options. Learn more at www.starbucks.com.
Dunkin' Donuts
Go beyond the donut with these healthier choices. Visit www.dunkindonuts.com for more nutritional info.
McDonald's
No one can say that McDonald’s isn’t convenient—you can find one on just about every corner in some cities. But can it be healthy, too? Depends on what you choose. Visit www.mcdonalds.com for more healthy ideas. Panera
This popular bakery and sandwich shop has some lighter fare made with fresh ingredients. All nutritional information is posted at www.panera.com. Wendy's
Try these best picks for your next lunch on the run. Get more nutrition facts at www.wendys.com. Burger King
A salad and veggie burger top the healthy list at Burger King. Their website, www.bk.com, offers more nutrition information. Taco Bell
When you order “fresco style,” the regular cheese and sour cream are replaced by a flavorful combo of tomatoes, onions and cilantro, all fresh (and much healthier). More nutrition facts are available at www.tacobell.com. Subway
Sandwiches from the Subway "Fresh Fit" menu each have fewer than 6 grams of fat. Visit www.subway.com for more information. Arby's
For the healthiest fare, steer clear of the roast beef sandwiches altogether or visit their website, www.arbys.com, to see more choices. Chick-fil-A
Just because it isn't beef doesn't mean it's always better—especially when the chicken is breaded and fried. Try the items below, or see all the facts at www.chickfila.com. Jack in the Box
Whole grains, from this fast food joint? Believe it! Visit www.jackinthebox.com for more menu items. Carl's Jr.
Steer clear of big, meaty burgers and try these chicken options instead. The Carl's Jr. Website, www.carlsjr.com, has all of the nutritional information. This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople's Licensed and Registered Dietitian, Becky Hand.

Share your healthy and diet-friendly fast-food picks in the comments section!