How to Eat Healthy at 16 Fast-Food Chains

We found the healthiest choices at all the major fast-food chains

The half-sized Apple Pecan Chicken Salad from Wendy's contains just 340 calories and 18 grams of fat.

When you’re trying to eat healthy, a fast-food restaurant doesn’t exactly seem like a great dining option. Burgers, fries, and milkshakes probably aren’t your best bet if you’re on a diet. But over the past several years, fast-food chains have taken major strides to offer menu selections that are decidedly healthy. So when we’re hungry and have nowhere else to turn, a quick study of the menu board at these fast-food destinations can show that it’s not all so terrible after all.

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Right off the bat, it would seem that the burger joints would have the least healthy options, but there are some items that, surprisingly, aren't filled with bad ingredients and tons of calories. You're never going to mistake these spots for a wheatgrass bar, but in a pinch you can get out of there with minimal grease. 

Salads may seem the obvious choice, but aren't very healthy if loaded with breaded, fried chicken chunks, and creamy dressings. And keep in mind that while some sandwiches and entrées are healthier, that's often without the add-ons that boost flavor appeal. But the healthy choices don't have to be completely bland: When possible, ask for dressings, sauces, and condiments on the side so you can control the amount put on. And don't rule out combos completely — a combo of two items can be good, as long as the total intake doesn't end up being more than one unhealthy item.

Lean toward items with vegetables, and though they're often hard to find at these places, vegetarian items when possible. These dishes are usually more health-friendly, they're nutritionally adequate, and they're usually not (as) steeped in grease. And if items are offered grilled or steamed, those are obviously a better option than their fried counterparts.
Aside from meals, beverage and dessert choices can also be made healthier. Of course soda is the mainstay beverage of fast-food counters, but it's easy enough to get water or unsweetened iced tea; add lemon to them if available. If you're watching your weight, you may be skipping dessert, but it's nice to have options if you've got a sweet craving. And even the fastest of fast-food places offer a fruit option; we won't pretend that it'll be as fun as a giant shake or sundae, but at least we have more choices now. Nearly every fast-food chain posts nutritional information on their websites and makes it available at their restaurants, so be sure to take a quick look if you want to get the inside scoop on what you're eating.


We checked out the nutrition information for just about all of the leading fast-food brands in search of the healthiest items on their menus. Read on to learn what we discovered.