We know that dietary fiber is important—here are fast food with fiber which helps maintain regular bowel movements, lower cholesterol, control blood sugar levels and help you feel full. It also plays a role in preventing certain diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
But how do we get enough of it? We could spend hours scouring the websites of our favorite fast food chains, trying to figure out which place has the best option for us. Or we could let us do it for YOU. We’ll keep track of those stats so that when you’re in a hurry, you don’t have to do any heavy lifting—you can just come here and find out which meal will give your gut the most love!
Fast Food With Fiber
Dietary fiber, a key part of a healthy diet, is found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains. Fiber adds bulk to your diet and makes you feel full faster. It aids in digestion, helps prevent constipation and can help control weight. The recommended amount of fiber for adults, adolescents and older children is 20 to 35 grams per day. Some fast-food chains serve foods that are high in dietary fiber. Check online nutrition information prior to ordering to learn what menu options are highest in fiber.
Subway has many different healthy fast-food options that contain high amounts of fiber. Choose either the nine-grain wheat bread or honey-oat bread; each contains 4 grams of fiber for a 6-inch sub. Add avocado onto any sandwich for an additional 3 grams of fiber and a boost of healthy fats. Order “the works” on your sub to include all of their vegetable options. Soup choices that contain 4 or more grams of fiber include chili con carne, minestrone and beef chili. You can order any sandwich as a salad to pack a ton of vegetables into your meal. This also increases the fiber content. Most Subway salads contain 4 to 5 grams of fiber each.
Taco Bell’s Fresco menu skips the sour cream and cheese in favor of its pico de gallo salsa. These items contain 350 calories or less and have 9 grams of fat or less. The restaurant’s Fresco Burrito Supreme with chicken or beef contains 6 grams of fiber. The Fresco Soft Taco has 3 grams of fiber. A side of black beans has 5 grams of fiber. A Veggie Cantina Bowl contains 14 grams of fiber, and the Taco Bell Fiesta Taco Salad with beef has 11 grams of fiber.
Panera Bread has many vegetable, whole-grain and bean-rich menu items that are high in fiber. A bowl of Panera’s all-natural turkey chili has 15 grams of fiber. Panera Bread low-fat garden vegetable with pesto soup has 12 grams of fiber per bowl. High-fiber salads with 6 or more grams of fiber include Thai Chicken, Mediterranean Shrimp Couscous, Fuji Apple with Chicken, Chicken Cobb with Avocado and BBQ Chicken Salad. Sandwiches with 6 grams of fiber or more are the Mediterranean Veggie on Tomato Basil, Roasted Turkey and Avocado BLT and Tomato and Mozzarella Sandwiches.
Although many of McDonald’s menu options are not healthy choices, the chain does have some fiber-rich menu items. McDonald’s Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken contains 7 grams of fiber and is 290 calories. The Egg White Delight contains 4 grams of fiber from the whole-grain English muffin it comes on. The Premium Bacon Ranch Salad has 4 grams of fiber. Choose grilled chicken instead of crispy salad to reduce calories and fat.
high fiber subway
Subway reminds you to “eat fresh,” but their popular tagline doesn’t exactly tell the entire nutritional story. Subway offers healthy meals, but not everything on their menu is good for you. Read on for a breakdown of Subway’s healthy and not-so-healthy meal choices.
Most of Subway’s healthiest items are from their Fresh Fit menu. These items are low in calories an d fat, and high in protein. Most have earned Heart Check Certification status from the American Heart AssociationTrusted Source (AHA).
This means the meal is certified to meet the AHA’s nutritional requirements as a heart-healthy option. According to Subway’s website, they’re the first fast food restaurant to earn Heart Check Certification. Here are the nutrition facts for some of Subway’s healthiest meals.
Heart Check Certification only applies to the following sandwiches when they’re made with 9-grain wheat bread, lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and cucumbers. Also, note that the sodium amount meets the guidelines only if it is the only thing you eat. If you add chips, this amount will most likely be higher than the allotted amount.
Several of Subway’s salads have earned Heart Check Certification. Each salad includes lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, cucumbers, olives, and (if applicable) a meat protein. The nutrition facts for Heart Check Certified salads are as follows.
Heart Check Certification only applies to the salads if they’re served with Sweet Onion salad dressing. The dressing adds 40 calories, 0g fat, 85mg sodium, 8g sugar, and 9g carbs to each salad’s nutrition tally.
14 Healthy Fast Food Meals Registered Dietitians Love
1. A tofu burrito bowl from Chipotle
“I get a Chipotle burrito bowl with sofritas, which is seasoned organic tofu, brown rice, black beans, fajita vegetables, lettuce, and occasionally guacamole. This bowl provides 20 grams of filling plant-based protein, and it also offers 20 grams of fiber, according to Chipotle’s website. However, one caveat is that at over 1,000 milligrams, it’s high in sodium. When trying to pick a healthy fast-food option, look to ‘eat the rainbow.’ Red, green, and yellow fruits and vegetables are likely to be high-fiber and help keep you satisfied.”
—Jen Flachbart, M.S., R.D.N.
2. A 1/2 portion of the Ancient Grain And Arugula Salad With Chicken and Roasted Turkey Cranberry Flatbread from Panera Bread
“Panera Bread, a fast food restaurant focused on providing freshly made food to its customers, has a plethora of healthy options. My staple combination is a 1/2 portion of the Ancient Grain And Arugula Salad With Chicken and the Roasted Turkey Cranberry Flatbread. The salad provides chicken, healthy fats from pumpkin seeds, fresh grapes and apples, and a combination of farro, wheat, and barley as its grains. It’s low in sodium and only contains 1.5 servings of carbohydrates in a half portion. The Roasted Turkey Cranberry Flatbread Sandwich is one of Panera’s least fat-containing sandwiches, with only 12 grams compared to others that contain 15-30+ grams. These two options together provide fewer than 550 calories and approximately 23 grams of protein, leaving me feeling full for hours.”
—Gisela Bouvier, M.B.A., R.D.N., L.D.N.
3. A Protein Bistro Box from Starbucks
“Starbucks is now on every corner and at every rest stop—it can definitely be considered ‘fast food.’ My go-to is the Protein Bistro Box, which contains a hardboiled egg, sliced apples and grapes, peanut butter, cheese and a whole-wheat pita. It has the perfect balance of protein, fat, and carbs without all the added sugars and salt of usual fast food options.”
—Eliza Whetzel, R.D. at Middleberg Nutrition in New York City
4. A bowl of breakfast oatmeal from McDonald’s
“I don’t worry too much about the calorie count, but rather what it is I’m eating. McDonald’s has delicious breakfast oatmeal with fresh apples, dried fruits, and a hint of cream. I love that you can order it without the brown sugar! Oats are a great source of fiber, and they digest slower, leading to steady energy levels and longer satiety. The dash of low-fat cream adds a fancy mouthfeel and provides fat and protein to balance the dish.”
—Dianna Sinni, R.D., L.D., wellness dietitian and blogger at Chard in Charge
5. A grilled chicken salad, piece of fruit, and iced coffee at any fast food restaurant
“I’ll pick whichever salad has grilled chicken and the least amount of added ‘treats,’ like crispy onions and bacon. I’ll round it out with a piece of fruit, like convenient sliced apples, and an unsweetened iced coffee. The salad has filling fiber, which is lacking in most fast food items, and the grilled chicken provides enough protein to keep me satiated. As a tip, when you’re trying to choose a healthy meal at a fast food restaurant, avoid the word ‘crispy.’ It just means fried. The terms ‘grilled,’ ‘steamed,’ and ‘roasted’ are good indicators that those foods will be healthier options.”
—Amanda Ryman, M.S., R.D.
6. A bowl of Autumn Squash Soup from Panera Bread
“I love any of the soups at Panera, but especially this one. Not only is it delicious, but it’s only 340 calories in a bowl. Made with butternut squash, it’s filled with antioxidants and fiber to keep me full all afternoon long. When the autumn squash soup isn’t in season, I still love Panera for its selection of fresh and healthy salads.”
—Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D.
7. A Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad from Wendy’s
“It’s better than most other options because it’s packed with protein (40 grams per salad!) and loaded with tons of heart-healthy fats and fiber that keeps me full and satisfied longer. Plus, it’s super delicious with tons of great toppings like hummus, quinoa, feta, sun-dried tomatoes, and more that provide a unique blend of textures and flavors.”
—Shoshana Pritzker, R.D., C.D.N., C.S.S.D., C.I.S.S.N.
8. A veggie burger from Burger King
“It’s a great option not only for vegetarians, but those looking to stay heart-healthy by cutting back on saturated fat. The veggie burger only has two and a half grams of saturated fat compared to 11 grams in the standard Whopper. It also contains 22 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber, which can help keep you full while on the road. And it actually tastes pretty darn good! One rule of thumb is to look for healthy clues in the name of the meal. I always avoid menu items that contain ‘creamy,’ ‘crunchy,’ or ‘cheesy.’ That’s usually just code for high-calorie and high in saturated fat.”
—Nora Minno, R.D., C.D.N.
9. A veggie-loaded sandwich from a deli or sandwich shop
“I prefer restaurants where you can customize your order to select the healthiest ingredients available. My go-to order is a hummus and veggie wheat wrap or a turkey breast and avocado on wheat, then I make sure it’s loaded with fresh vegetables. No matter where I’m eating, I always select whole-wheat bread over refined, white flour products. And I swap out mayonnaise for heart-healthy and omega-3 rich avocado as a sandwich spread, or hummus, which is a good source of plant-based protein in addition to being rich in heart-healthy fats and fiber. Turkey and chicken breast are both low in fat and excellent sources of lean protein. Finally, piling the sandwich high with fresh, brightly colored vegetables provides fiber and antioxidants such as beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, and lycopene.”
—Suzanne Fisher, M.S., R.D., L.D.N.
10. A chicken or barbacoa bowl from Chipotle
“I go tortilla-less, order a bowl (so many calories in tortillas!), and fill it with chicken or barbacoa (the leanest meat options on the menu), black beans, which are full of fiber, fajita veggies, tomatillo green chili salsa, which has half the sodium of the other salsas on the menu, lettuce for crunch, and guacamole to add a bit of healthy fats and decadence. That comes in at 570 calories. In general, when eating fast food, I avoid anything fried, anything with the word ‘smothered’ because that means ‘loaded with cheese’ and anything ‘glazed’ because that means ‘lots of sugar.’ I always order any sauce on the side so I can decide how much of it I want to use, and if I can’t vouch for the quality of meat, I go vegetarian instead.”
—Rebecca Lewis, in-house R.D. at HelloFresh
11. A Black Bean Burger from Fresh To Order
“This is my first choice for healthy fast food. I get it on a whole-wheat flatbread sans the mayo-based sauce. I just love this option since the bean burger is made with high-fiber black beans, which offer protein and iron, and because the flatbread is whole-wheat, it’s more nutrient-dense than white bread. The burger also comes with fresh tomatoes, lettuce, corn salsa, and even avocado for some healthy fats, potassium, carotenoids, and more fiber. As far as calories are concerned, I never count them. Instead, I consider the ingredients and look for vegetables and fiber in everything I get, plus some sort of plant-based protein, such as beans, nuts, or seeds.”
—Nichole Dandrea, M.S., R.D.
12. A Fuji Apple Chicken Salad or Tomato Mozzarella Flatbread from Panera Bread
“Panera recently made over their menu to include many healthy options. They also removed additives from many of their ingredients. The Fuji Apple Chicken Salad contains a whopping 29 grams of protein, mostly from the chicken. If I get the flatbread, the mozzarella helps me take in my three daily servings of dairy and also provides a nice source of calcium and protein, while the tomato serve up the antioxidant vitamin C.”
—Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen
13. A grilled fish taco and a grilled shrimp taco from Wahoo’s Fish Tacos
“I get them both with citrus slaw and no cheese. These tacos are delicious, fresh instead of fried, and a convenient way to get in my weekly fish meal for the omega-3 fats and lean protein that are good for my heart and brain health. If they double-up the tortillas, I always take the outer one off to save on calories—that way, there’s more fish and veggies per bite—and I always grab a fork in case I want to enjoy the filling separate from the tortilla.
When in doubt, ask questions so you can make an informed decision and act on it. For example, the tacos at Wahoo’s usually come with cheese. The cheese doesn’t do anything for me on a fish taco, so I ask for them to hold the cheese, and then I get to save on saturated fat, sodium, and calories.”
—Maggie Moon, M.S., R.D.N., LA-based dietitian, owner of Everyday Healthy Eating, and author of the forthcoming book, The MIND Diet.
14. A veggie sub on Honey Oat bread from Subway
”When I’m on the road, my fallback fast-food joint is Subway because it’s never hard to find! I typically order a 6″ or foot-long veggie sub on their Honey Oat bread, loaded with all the veggies, plus pepper jack cheese to boost flavor. To keep added sodium and sugar under control, I skip the condiments and ask for the oil and vinegar instead. We need some of those heart-healthy fats to better absorb some of the vitamins in the vegetables! When I’m traveling and end up at other fast food restaurants, I just remember to keep portion sizes under control—I want to enjoy my fries as much as the next person, but ordering off the kids’ menu or value menu ensures that I don’t go overboard with the occasional treat.”
11 Surprisingly Healthy Fast-Food Orders, According to Experts
Diet plans can be time-consuming. Sometimes it seems like fast food is the only way to cram a meal into a busy schedule. Or, maybe you just LOVE the taste of a Wendy’s burger. Either way, we all know it’s easy to overload on fast-food menu items with high counts of trans fat, sodium, and additives that can do some serious harm to your health.
Did you know there are healthy fast food options on the menu, too? While most nutritionists say eating fast food isn’t one of the best weight loss tips they could give to clients, there are plenty of dishes loaded with nutrients and low in calories they recommend for when you’re in a bind. If you’re curious about scary ingredients hiding in your favorite entree, check out the nutrition and ingredient information on the restaurant’s website to decide whether or not to order.
Save yourself some time and read on for nutritionist-approved menu items you can trust. Some of these are sure to surprise you! While you’re keeping up with your healthy eating goals, be sure you’re stocked up on The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
PER CLASSIC OATMEAL: 160 calories, 2.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 125 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (4 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 5g protein
“I will stop off at Starbucks when I’m flying,” says Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD, and owner of Marisa Moore Nutrition. “In the morning, the oatmeal is a tummy saver. It’s an easy way to get some fiber and protein. I love that they provide the dried fruit, nuts, sugar and other toppings on the side so you get to control how sweet you want it to be—if any at all.”
Chick-Fil-A’s Grilled Chicken Nuggets
PER 4-COUNT: 130 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 610 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 13 g protein
“Believe it or not, Chick-Fil-A has a grilled chicken nugget option,” says Leah Kaufman, MS, RD, CDN, a New York City-based registered dietitian. “With only 130 calories and 13 grams protein, this is a great alternative to the traditional fried chicken nuggets. Make sure to pair this with a vegetable and you can create a complete and well-rounded meal.”
Wendy’s Junior Hamburger
PER BURGER: 250 calories, 11 g fat (4 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 420 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (1 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 13 g protein
“We would go for a Junior Hamburger with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mustard or ketchup, as well as a garden side salad with pomegranate vinaigrette and spicy cashews and apple slices, all clocking in at 460 calories in total,” Willow Jarosh MS, RD, and Stephanie Clarke, MS, RD, co-owners of C&J Nutrition and co-authors of The Healthy, Happy Pregnancy Cookbook tell us. “We like this meal because it’s still a burger, but adding the salad and apples rounds out the nutrition, providing more fiber and a meal that is lower in sodium than most fast food meals.”
Panera’s You Pick Two
“The soup and salad are the perfect pair as part of the ‘You Pick Two’ option,” says Moore. “Add [a soup] to the Green Goddess Cobb Salad or the Fuji Apple Salad for a complete and satisfying lunch or dinner. These combinations help you meet at least half the daily vegetable recommendation easily. That’s important since the large majority of adults miss the recommended daily vegetable mark.”
Starbucks’ Protein Box
PER GRILLED CHICKEN AND HUMMUS BOX: 300 calories, 11 g fat (4 g saturated fat, 0.5 g trans fat), 420 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (1 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 13 g protein
“At Starbucks, you can’t go wrong with a Protein Box! All [the] box options are considered a good source of fiber. Each box contains a good balance of healthy carbohydrates, lean proteins, healthy fats, and contain either fruit or vegetables or a combination of both,” Gina Hassick, RD, LDN, CDE tells us. “For lunch, the protein boxes—filled with nuts, fruit, cheese, and sometimes boiled eggs—are a fun twist on bento boxes,” adds Moore.
Panera’s Turkey Chili
PER BOWL: 300 calories, 10 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 690 mg sodium, 31 g carbs (14 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 21 g protein
“It’s way more satisfying than other soups due to the protein in the turkey and protein and fiber in beans. Plus, it’s total comfort food,” Lauren Slayton, MS, RD of Foodtrainers says. We agree! Turkey chili also happens to be one of our favorite healthy crockpot recipes.
Chipotle’s Salad Bowl
“I’m a fan of their salad bowls,” says Amy Shapiro MS, RD, CDN Real Nutrition NYC. “I recommend asking for greens instead of rice then adding beans, the fajita veggies, one of their delicious proteins, and salsa. Then I recommend picking one: guacamole, sour cream, OR cheese. These are all high fat ingredients that can take your meal to the next calorie bracket! I also recommend skipping the chips! I love this meal because it can serve carnivores and vegetarians alike (edit to your dietary preference), it provides lean and flavorful protein, heart-healthy fats, loads of fiber, and veggies. These are ingredients to success!”
Starbucks’ Sous Vide Eggs
PER SERVING: 170 calories, 8 g fat (5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 470 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (0 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 12 g protein
“I’m a big fan of their Sous Vide Eggs!” exclaims Shapiro. “They taste great, are loaded with protein, and are under 170 calories but will keep you full for 2-3 hours! They are gluten-free so acceptable for celiacs and anyone watching their carbs, contain some veggies (peppers, yay! Therefore some vitamin C).” Slayton adds, “our clients are giving the sous vide eggs major thumb’s up.”
Subway’s Tuna Salad Sub
PER SANDWICH: 450 calories, 25 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 610 mg sodium, 38 g carbs (2 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 19 g protein
“My go-to Subway selection is the tuna salad sandwich, partly because I limit my consumption of deli meats,” Michelle Dudash, RDN, chef and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families tells us. I order it on a six-inch nine-grain wheat roll with spinach, green peppers, olives, cucumber, and banana peppers, which comes in under 500 calories, with 5 grams fiber, 19 grams protein, and a good source of vitamins A and C, calcium, and iron. I also add on avocado, which adds on just 60 calories with good fats. Sometimes I just enjoy the sandwich with water, or if I’m feeling extra hungry I order the combo with a bag of baked barbecue potato chips and a fresh-brewed unsweetened iced tea.”
Chick-Fil-A’s Grilled Market Salad
PER SALAD: 540 calories, 31 g fat (6 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,020 mg sodium, 41 g carbs (4 g fiber, 26 g sugar), 28 g protein
“There’s a Chick-Fil-A on many corners in Atlanta and across the country making it easy to grab one of their salads. The Grilled Market Salad with lean protein, fruit, and vegetables can be a healthy lunch or dinner pick. Try it with the Light Balsamic Vinaigrette to keep calories in check,” says Moore.
Chipotle’s Steak Soft Tacos
PER 3 TACOS: 560 calories, 15.5 g fat (3 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,570 mg sodium, 68 g carbs (12 g fiber, 3 g sugar), 36 g protein
“These tacos have 560 calories, provide 12 grams of fiber and have a whopping 36 grams of protein. The meal is also an excellent source of calcium, iron, and vitamins C and A. The bad news is, like most quick-serve food, this dish is very high in sodium—but it is lower than many other options on the menu. To make this dish vegetarian-friendly, ask for [just] black beans instead of steak,” says Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN.