If you’re trying to lose weight, you’ve probably heard about all the ways that fast food can be harmful. But what if there was a way to enjoy fast food without all the calories? There is! We’ve put together a list of the top 15 fast food options with the least amount of calories. So if you’re looking for a quick bite to eat, you can still manage your diet and avoid too many extra calories. To get started, try some of these options.
A collection of the healthiest fast foodWe earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
From McDonald’s breakfast to KFC popcorn chicken, from Nando’s chicken wings to Taco Bell beef taco, we’ve rounded up the healthiest fast food options from a variety of popular fast-food restaurants.
Fast food is often associated with a high calorie and saturated fat count however there are a few items on the menu that are actually considered a healthy take out. These items tend to be under the 500 calorie mark as well as being less than 5g of saturated fat per portion. They’re a good option if you’re dieting and don’t want to ruin your progress.
Rachel Clarkson, a Doctify dietician and nutritionist, and the founder of The DNA Dietitian, says; “Fast food options are usually not the healthiest as they are high in inflammatory fats such as saturated and trans fats as well as sodium. They are also high in calories and processed sugar and low in healthy nutrients like high-quality protein, fiber, and whole-grain carbohydrates. So how can fast food be enjoyed in a healthy way? The best way to enjoy fast food is as a mindful indulgence instead of making it a habit.”“Enjoying fast food from time to time in a portion that is right for you whilst being mindful. You can also make some simple swaps and adjustments when ordering to make the meal more nutritious,” adds Rachel. “For example; try and order items labeled as grilled instead of fried, swap out a carbohydrate-rich side like fries for a salad option with dressing on the side (most fast food places will have a salad option), opt for water or sparkling water instead of a high sugar soda drinks or remove the top bun from a burger or sandwich and enjoy it as an open-faced sandwich.” Making these swaps is a healthier choice, especially if you’re hoping to lose weight without diet or exercise.
Healthiest fast food
1. McDonald’s: Spicy Veggie Wrap
Calories: 363 | Saturated fat: 1.4g
Often you’ll find that vegan and vegetarian options – particularly ones without cheese – are healthier and less calorific. This spicy veggie wrap contains veggie dippers, lettuce, tomato, and spicy relish instead of fattening mayo. Skip the soda and plump for a flat white coffee, which contains bone-building organic milk. This will add another 86 calories and 1.9g saturated fat, making your McDonald’s lunch just 449 calories and 3.3g of saturated fat.
2. KFC: Regular popcorn chicken
Calories: 285 | Saturated fat: 1.7g
Made from 100% chicken breast, KFC’s Popcorn Chicken is a great option over a more calorific burger. Eat with two large corn cobettes rather than fries and that will add another 165 calories and 0.4g saturated fat. That’s 450 calories and 2.1g saturated fat and a sizeable portion of veg towards your daily recommendation. And not a fried chip or white burger bun in sight.
3. Pizza Hut: Gluten-free Veggie Supreme x 3 slices
Calories: 363 | Saturated fat: 5.1g
Lovely as it is, pizza is notoriously calorific so opt for slices over a whole one. Gluten-free bases are often lower in calories so if you share a Gluten-free Veggie Supreme three slices will come to 363 calories and just over 5g saturated fat. This comes with veg, too – green chillies, jalapeños, peppers, and red onions – which will nurture your body more than processed red meat such as pepperoni.
4. Nando’s: Grilled Chicken Burger
Calories: 438 | Saturated fat: 2.2g
Grilled meat is usually healthier than fried or deep-fried meat and Nando’s has a range of grilled options. Its Grilled Chicken Burger contains PERI-PERI-infused chicken breast grilled with a spice of your choice plus lemon & herb mayo, lettuce, tomato, and PERI ketchup. All in a Portuguese Roll for under 450 calories. Eat alongside a large mixed salad of four types of leaves, baby plum tomatoes, cucumber, and dressing, and your protein-rich lunch will come to just 465 cals and 2.3g saturated fat.
5. McDonald’s: Chicken McNuggets Meal
Calories: 275 | Saturated fat: 1.7g
McDonald’s is now offering meal ideas under 400 or 600 calories and we’re lovin’ it. Its meal suggestion of Chicken McNuggets (6 pieces) with a side salad and medium Coca-Cola Zero Sugar is just 275 calories and 1.7g saturated fat. Even the 600 cal and under meals are free of French fries – the consensus is that if you don’t add fries you’ll make a huge difference to your calorie intake.
6. Pizza Express: Leggera Pizza
Calories: 432 | Saturated fat: 4.3g
Pizzas aren’t a low calorie option but there are ways to treat yourself without over-consuming. The Pizza Express Leggera range offer pizzas under 600 calories. Calories are kept down by the whole in the middle which is filled with fresh, dressed salad. Opt for the Leggera La Reine – a combo of ham, black olives, mushrooms, light mozzarella and tomato on a thin base – and you’ll get some veg and salad with your meal, and a pizza for under 500 calories.
7. Costa Egg Mayo Sandwich & Cappuccino
Calories: 432 | Saturated fat: 2.5g
There are some nice but rather naughty treats to be had at Costa. The toasties, while delicious, are too high in saturated fat to make it onto this list. But Costa’s healthier choice (by the company’s own admission) is a protein-enriched Free Range Egg Mayo Sandwich on oatmeal bread. Containing 316 calories and 2.1g saturated fat if you combine it with a medium cappuccino made with skimmed milk (a great source of calcium, by the way) you’ve got yourself a meal for 432 calories and just 2.5g saturated fat.
8. KFC: Zinger Salad
Calories: 350 | Saturated fat: 2.3g
For fans of the Zinger Burger this is the healthier option. A sliced spiced chicken fillet over crisp lettuce, diced tomato, and sweetcorn drizzled with a garlic dressing, the calorie content comes in at a respectable 350 calories. By choosing this you avoid the refined white bun and creamy dressing that comes in the burger of the same name.
Low-Calorie Fast Food Items
Hunger strikes. Only fast food restaurants are nearby. As a conscientious eater who adheres to the motto, “you are what you eat,” do you dare to order from ubiquitous menus usually associated with empty calories?
Don’t panic. It is possible to find low-calorie, fast food items, and we’re here to help make your decision-making process more informed. We singled out healthier entrees from 25 common fast food chains by selecting foods with 600 calories or less that included fish or poultry instead of beef and ingredients that were grilled instead of fried. We also favored entrees with fruits and/or vegetables rather than plates devoid of color.
Fast food salads were often the healthiest choice, but to offer a balance of entrees, we also included sandwiches, wraps and bowls. So, what’s the healthiest, and where do they rank? Read on to find out for yourself, starting with the most caloric to the lowest-calorie fast food items.
Chili’s: Caribbean Salad With Seared Shrimp (tie)
We’re actually starting this list of 25 menu items with a tie for the 24th spot between Chili’s Caribbean Salad and Jersey Mike’s Tuna Fish Mini Sub. Since 1975, Chili’s has offered southwestern cuisine mainly focusing on burgers, ribs and fajitas. Patrons in 32 different countries continue to support this restaurant with an expanded menu, including a Guiltless Grill menu with five items that include one protein (salmon, sirloin or chicken) and have less than 650 calories.
Instead, we chose a shrimp salad from the salad category. This colorful plate is enhanced with both vegetables and fruit. But individuals needing to restrict their sugar intake should consider selecting an item from the Guiltless Grill.
Caribbean Salad Nutritional Information
Nutrition Facts: 26 grams of total fat, 1,120 mg of sodium, 80 grams of carbs, 66 grams of sugar, 16 grams of protein
Key Ingredients: Shrimp, pineapple, mandarin oranges, dried cranberries, red bell peppers, green onions and cilantro with honey-lime dressing
Potential Allergens: Eggs, shellfish, soy
* We found all of these dietary facts from the restaurants’ websites. To find foods with the highest nutritional value, take a quick look at the total fat content, sodium, carbohydrates, sugar and protein levels and check to see if the values are balanced or include outliers. Remember that consuming too much saturated fat and sodium is associated with cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure, while eating too much added sugar can cause weight gain, high blood sugar and an increased risk of heart disease.
Jersey Mike’s Subs: No. 10 Tuna Fish Mini Sub on Wheat Bread (tie)
Jersey Mike’s Subs
Starting in the 1950s as a mom-and-pop business in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, the founder’s concept of the newly introduced submarine sandwich expanded over the decades to include more than 2,000 locations. The turning point came in the 1970s when a high school senior, Peter Cancro, arranged financing to purchase the restaurant. After slowly expanding his business in the local market, Cancro eventually offered franchises in the 1980s and changed the name to Jersey Mike’s Subs.
Many followers of the brand are hooked on Mike’s Way (lettuce, onions, tomatoes, oil, vinegar and spices) and the daily homemade bread, including gluten-free options.
Tuna Fish Mini Sub Nutritional Information
Nutrition Facts: 39 grams of total fat, 874 mg of sodium 45 grams of carbs, 6 grams of sugar, 20 grams of protein
Key Ingredients: Homemade albacore tuna salad with chopped celery made with mayonnaise, and topped with onions, tomatoes, lettuce, red vinegar and olive oil blend on wheat bread
Potential Allergens: Egg, fish, soy, wheat
Au Bon Pain: Veggie and Hummus Wrap
Au Bon Pain
Au Bon Pain’s commitment to making breads, pastries and croissants is rooted in the translation of the brand’s name, “from good bread.” Bread lovers supporting the goals of its founder have enabled this restaurant brand to appear in more than 250 locations throughout the world.
Finding a vegetarian option that is not a salad can be challenging in a fast food setting. While this veggie wrap has a hefty calorie level, the sandwich packs a powerful nutrient punch with its array of vegetables. If total fat is a concern, eliminate the feta cheese.
Veggie and Hummus Wrap Nutritional Information
Au Bon Pain/Facebook
Nutrition Facts: 27 grams of total fat, 940 mg of sodium, 67 grams of carbs, 6 grams of sugar, 21 grams of protein
Key Ingredients: A whole wheat wrap stuffed with hummus, cucumbers, tomato basil bruschetta, carrots, chickpeas, romaine lettuce, field greens, feta and balsamic vinaigrette
Potential Allergens: Milk, soy, wheat, sesame
Breakfast items are served throughout the day at this restaurant chain operating throughout the U.S and a handful of locations abroad. High caloric items hovering around 1,000 or more calories are definitely the norm. It is possible to create a vegetarian omelet filled with fresh tomatoes, green peppers, onions, mushrooms and avocado without cheese. But each additional item is an extra charge. An omelet loaded with vegetables can become a bit pricey.
The Rooty Tooty Fresh ‘N Fruity Strawberry Pancakes make a viable option for an entree under $10. It tied for the 21st spot with Jimmy John’s No. 3 Totally Tuna.
Strawberry Pancakes Nutritional Information
Nutrition Facts: 15 grams of total fat, 1,860 mg of sodium, 88 grams of carbs, 28 grams of sugar, 16 grams of protein
Key Ingredients: 4 buttermilk pancakes with glazed strawberries
Potential Allergens: Milk, eggs, wheat, soy
Jimmy John’s: No. 3 Totally Tuna (tie)
With a mediocre high school transcript and no desire to follow the family tradition to enlist in the military, Jimmy John Liautaud borrowed $25,000 from his father and opened a sandwich shop in an Illinois college town. Thirty-five years later, sub lovers can choose from more than 2,800 locations where bread is baked daily, produce is purchased locally and homemade tuna is a signature item.
Looking to lower carb consumption, try the Unwich Option, which features less carbs by substituting fresh lettuce for bread.
11 fast food items that are surprisingly under 300 calories
What if rolling through the drive-thru on your way home from work didn’t have to mean giving up on that calorie goal? Turns out there are some low-cal options amongst the not-so-great waist-wideners that are usually taking up space on fast food menus. From snacks to full-on meals, we’ve rounded up 11 orders that you can drive home with — and pencil into your food journal — guilt-free. They may be fast food, but they’re still better than The #1 Worst Menu Options At 41 Popular Restaurants.
Jack in the Box Breakfast Jack
No need to feel bad the next time you can’t resist a breakfast Jack. The sandwich may be filling, thanks to the eggs, cheese, and ham between the buns, but it stays just under 300 calories while still packing on the protein. Of course, if you can, always go for these 15 Healthy Breakfast Ideas instead for fresher ingredients from your own kitchen.
Arby’s Jalapeno Bites
You might think five jalapeno bites won’t keep you satiated for long, but think again. With hot peppers and cream cheese dipped in fried batter, each bite will have you reaching for your water. You’ll fill up on liquids while chewing on such a spicy snack. Plus, it’s far less calories than a traditional Arby’s sandwich, which averages about 500 calories!
Burger King Bacon Cheeseburger Deluxe
While this “deluxe” menu item may sound like it’s crammed with calories, it’s got even less than a small order of fries at Wendy’s. With more grams of protein than fat and only 640 milligrams of sodium, this is a bacon burger you can brag about buying.
Wendy’s Value Fries
In the mood for something salty? Wendy’s has your back. Indulge in a value-size order of French fries for just 230 calories. With a number like that, you don’t have to skimp on the sauce as much.
Taco Bell Gordita Supreme Steak
How this jam-packed flatbread manages to stay beneath 300 calories is beyond us, but we aren’t questioning it. With almost twice as much protein as fat, not to mention only 550 milligrams of salt, this will leave you much more satiated than the lower-cal soft tacos on the menu.
Burger King Chicken Fries 9 piece
To fulfill your fry cravings while still filling your belly, ask for a 9-piece order of chicken fries next time you find yourself at Burger King. They’re thicker and more flavorful than a normal order of fries, and they’ve got way more protein. Just watch your fat intake for the rest of the day after chowing down on this. 17 grams is a pretty sizeable chunk, if you ask us.
It’s no surprise that you can order grilled nuggets at Chick-Fil-A for less than 300 calories, but you probably didn’t know that their normal breaded nuggets fall under the same umbrella. The 200 calories and 28 grams of protein can justify the almost quadruple-digit sodium levels, as long as this you don’t make this order a regular routine. See how these nuggets stacked up against other options when we made a list of Every Item At Chick-Fil-A—Ranked!.
Hold the cheese, please! Looks like removing that one slice of dairy is enough to push a McDonald’s hamburger below the 300-calorie mark. It may look plain without that orange square sticking out from under the bun, but with pickles, onions, and ketchup, it’ll be flavorful and filling, we promise.
Taco Bell Cool Ranch Doritos Tacos Supreme
Turn to tacos next time you’re at your favorite Mexican fast-food joint because Taco Bell’s Doritos options are so weird that they’re worth a try. And you won’t have to sacrifice on your daily calorie goal to do so! This cool ranch supreme version is loaded with ingredients, but still manages to fall under 200 calories.
KFC chicken drumstick 2 piece
For a quick chicken fix that doesn’t put a major dent in your calorie consumption, order a couple of drumsticks from KFC and call it a day. You’ll get the crunch you craved as well as nearly 25 grams of protein.
Hardee’s Apple Turnover
Sometimes your sweet tooth wins out, and in those cases, it’s best to look for low-cal ways to satisfy it. Like this apple turnover from Hardee’s, for instance, which is only 270 calories. With a warm filling and a crispy outer layer that barely passes 10 grams of sugar, you’ll be keeping your scale and your sweet tooth in check. Keep up the good work with any of these 20 Healthy Desserts For Weight Loss.