The Best Fast Food Options According to Nutrition Experts

By Alexandra Caspero on November 30, 2023

Fast food often gets a bad rap for being high in calories, fat, and sodium. But with the right choices, you can enjoy fast food without sacrificing your health goals. To help identify better-for-you picks, we asked registered dietitians what they typically order when grabbing a quick bite from popular fast-food chains.

Here are the 15 best fast food options, according to nutrition experts.

Chicken Italiano Sandwich

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“If you are in the mood for a sandwich, Starbucks offers a Chicken Italiano sandwich that is lowest in fat and saturated fat compared to other lunch entrée choices (2.4 grams fat, .5 grams saturated fat). The Chicken Italiano sandwich offers a nice combination of protein (14 grams protein) and carbohydrate (26 grams carbohydrate) for your meal. This sandwich checks all the boxes for a good choice and is a diabetes-friendly meal with its carb, protein, and low-fat content. Nutritionally, at meals, we are looking for a combination of protein, some carbs, and low in fat to help fill us up, keep us satiated, energetic, and blunt spikes in blood sugar.”

Toby Smithson, registered dietitian and certified diabetes care and education specialist, founder of Diabetes EveryDay and author of Diabetes Meal Planning and Nutrition for Dummies.

Chipotle’s Salad Bowl

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“Chipotle’s Salad Bowl is a great choice, as it allows you to create a filling and healthy meal with plenty of veggies and lean protein.”

Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD, CPT of One Pot Wellness

Panera’s Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken

Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken from Panera Bread
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“My favorite fast food salad is the Strawberry Poppyseed Salad with Chicken from Panera Bread  I love it because it’s bursting with fresh seasonal fruit, and the entire salad clocks in at only 350 calories with an impressive 27 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. The dressing contains fewer calories than most, and with 470mg of sodium, it’s also lower than the majority of fast food options. No dressing on the side needed here- enjoy it as-is.”

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, founder of Nutrition Starring YOU and author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook 

McDonald’s Hamburger

McDonald's Hamburger
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McDonald’s surprisingly has some decent options if you need something quick. A regular hamburger only has 250 calories and 12g of protein, making it a great option to keep you full without feeling overfull like often happens with fast food. I recommend pairing it with some apple slices and a small fry for a full meal that will hit the spot.

Jamie Nadeau, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist The Balanced Nutritionist

Chick-fil-A’s Grilled Market Salad

Chik-fil-a's Grilled market salad
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“Chik-Fil-A has some really great fast food options that are both healthy, quick and delicious. Their grilled market salad has 540 calories, 28g of protein, and 5g of fiber. It’s a bed of greens topped with chicken and blue cheese for a satisfying and filling meal that checks all the nutrition boxes.”

Jamie Nadeau, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist The Balanced Nutritionist

Panera’s Napa Almond Chicken Salad

Panera's Napa Almond Chicken Salad
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“Panera’s Napa Almond Chicken Salad is also a good option, as it is packed with healthy ingredients like chicken, almonds, and grapes with 30g of quality protein.”

Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD, CPT of One Pot Wellness

Taco Bell’s Veggie Power Bowl

Veggie Power Bowl
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“Taco Bell’s Veggie Power Bowl is another healthy option, as it is packed with veggies and beans, making it a filling and nutritious choice for lunch or dinner.”

Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD, CPT of One Pot Wellness

Jack in the Box’s Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad

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“In a rush but looking for a meal that will make you feel good? Try out a Jack in the Box Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad or side salad paired with a delicious Chicken Fajita Pita. This fiber and protein-rich meal will satisfy your hunger without the feeling of greasy fast food.”

Sports Nutritionist Katie Schimmelpfenning, RD

CAVA Greens and Grains Bowl

CAVA Greens and Grains bowl
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“At lunch or dinner, a CAVA Greens and Grains bowl is a healthy choice. Build your bowl with a base of brown rice, black lentils, and a variety of leafy greens. Then, add on grilled chicken for lean protein and an assortment of fresh vegetable toppings for added nutrition. This nutrient-dense bowl is a great way to get a healthy meal on the go.”
Mandy Tyler, M.Ed., RD, CSSD, LD, Nutrition By Mandy

Starbuck’s Chicken and Hummus Protein Box

Startbucks Chicken and Hummus Protein Box
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“For an on-the-go lunch, grab a Chicken and Hummus Protein Box filled with grilled sous vide chicken, carrots, snap peas, red pepper hummus, and naan bread for 300 calories, 22 grams of protein, and 7 grams of filling fiber.”

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, founder of Nutrition Starring YOU and author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook 

Chik-fil-A’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich

VALENCIA, CA/USA - SEPTEMBER 8, 2014: Chick-fil-A restaurant exterior. Chick-fil-A is fast food restaurant chain specializing in chicken sandwiches.
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“Another great option at Chick-fil-A is their grilled chicken sandwich. It has 390 calories, 28g of protein and 3g of fiber.”

Jamie Nadeau, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist The Balanced Nutritionist

The World’s Longest-Living People Eat These 7 Foods Every Day

Happy senior women drinking red wine at bar restaurant - Mature people having fun hanging out on city street - Life style concept with older friends smiling and laughing together
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There are five places in this world where the healthiest and longest-living people gather. These places are Okinawa (Japan), Sardinia (Italy), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Ikaria (Greece), and Loma Linda (California). These places that assembled the highest concentrations of centenarians are known as The Blue Zones.

Ever wonder how the elders in the five Blue Zone countries maintain their youthful lives? While exercise, purpose, and community are also central tenets of the Blue Zones, food and diet play a large role.

These are the 7 staple foods of the Blue Zones.

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The 15 Best Store-Bought Snacks for Healthy Eating, According to Dietitians

Young Asian woman eat potato chips on pink background
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Snacking can seem like a slippery slope when trying to eat better. While nutritious, balanced snacks can curb appetite and help you eat less, those choices are often harder to find. The snack aisle is typically filled with highly processed snacks– chips, cookies, candy, and cheese puffs, not exactly items most of us should be eating more of. 

Having dietitian-approved snacks on hand can make sticking to your health goals much easier when hunger hits. With minimal prep and portion control, these snacks offer an easy way to curb cravings and give your body the fuel it needs.

These are the best store-bought, dietitian-approved snacks.

The 19 Healthiest Foods You Should Be Eating More Of, Say Dietitians

salmon poke bowl (avocado, salmon, carrot, cucumber, red cabbage, radish and rice), top view
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From nutrient-dense vegetables to protein-packed superfoods, these dietary recommendations are not only delicious but also scientifically proven to promote good health. These are the 19 superfoods that nutrition experts want you to eat more of.

These are the 19 Healthiest Foods You Should Be Eating More Of, Say Dietitians

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