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Healthiest Fast Food: How to Wisely Choose Eating Options On the Go

Fast foods are convenient, but combo meals aren’t always the best choice for your health. Fortunately, you can learn how to pick the healthiest fast foods while on the go. Keep reading to learn how.

How to pick healthy fast foods

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There are some moments when fast food may be your only option, such as when you’re traveling or away from home. To pick healthy fast foods, choose restaurants that allow you to customize your order, such as a sandwich or burrito shop. This way, you can add plenty of nourishing vegetables to your meal to help you feel full.

Quick tips for healthy eating on the go

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When dining out, meals may contain higher amounts of salt, fat, and added sugars combined with low amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Fortunately, you can substitute ingredients in your fast food meals to make them instantly healthier.

  • Choose whole grain over white flour products to increase the overall fiber content of your meal
  • Add fresh vegetables to your pizza, sandwiches, burritos, etc., to increase the overall nutrition
  • Ask the workers to use less salt when preparing your dish
  • Request sauces and condiments on the side to control how much dressing is added to your meal
  • Enjoy plain water over a sweetened beverage, like sodas or juices
  • Pick lean protein sources like chicken or fish over full-fat ground beef, and more processed meats like sausages and bacon

Healthy fast food options

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Here are some healthy fast-food options to enjoy the next time you’re on the road.


Subway grilled chicken sandwich on whole grain bread can be a healthy fast food lunch. To add nutrition, top with cheese, lettuce, peppers, tomato, light mayo, pickle, onion, and mustard.

If you want more variety, you can also choose tuna salad, which is naturally a lean source of protein.


A steak salad bowl from Chipotle has over 20g of protein and includes plenty of delicious vegetables. You can add a base of brown rice and black or pinto beans to increase the fiber and make it a more nutritious fast food item.

Although guacamole can be high in calories from avocados, these green fruits contain healthy fat and will help you feel satisfied after eating.

Panera Bread

One of our recommended healthy picks is a bright salad with strawberry, blueberry, orange slices, lettuce, walnuts, and chicken from Panera Bread.

The dressing is tangy, and a couple of tablespoons will help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins that support your overall health.


Image credit: Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Sometimes it can be hard to find time to make and eat breakfast at home. An egg McMuffin from McDonald’s on a whole-grain English muffin (no meat) can be a healthier drive-through option than other restaurants.

Panda Express

Panda Express has several veggie-filled dishes, and the string bean chicken breast order can fit into a balanced diet. Add brown rice to add more fiber and high-quality carbohydrates to your meal so that you feel full and have energy after eating.

Consider your sides and drinks too

Deep-fried foods will have more calories and fat than grilled or baked options. Instead of fried onion rings or french fries, try some of these healthier sides instead:

  • A baked potato
  • A mixed green salad
  • Grilled vegetables (carrots, zucchini, cauliflower, etc.)
  • Fresh fruit, when available

Focus on adding nutrition to your meals

Instead of restricting your diet, try to focus on healthy ingredients you can add to a dish to make it more nutritious. For example, instead of saying, “I’ll never eat pizza because it’s high fat,” try, “I’ll have one slice of pizza and pair it with a plate of my favorite salad.”

Finding ways to inject an “everything in moderation” approach into your fast food meals can help make them healthier and more enjoyable.

The takeaway

The healthiest fast foods are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals and lower in fat, salt, and added sugars. To maximize your nutritional value of a meal, opt for customized dishes which can easily be modified, like sandwiches, wraps, salads, and grain bowls. Don’t forget to choose healthier side and beverage options to help round out your overall meal.


Image credit: Quin Engle on Unsplash

How can you eat healthier if you choose fast food?

Pick customized meals, like sandwiches, wraps, salads, and brain bowls. To increase the nutritional value, choose grilled protein (over fried), whole grain carbohydrates, and add fresh vegetables.

Why do we choose fast food over healthy food?

Buying a fast food meal is convenient, which can be hugely appealing on a night when you’re hungry and just want to eat something quickly. Other times, fast food can satisfy a craving. It’s ok to occasionally enjoy fast food as long as it’s done in moderation.

How do you choose healthy foods when eating out?

Some restaurants have started to use symbols that showcase healthier options, which can be helpful. Otherwise, choose meals prepared with lean cooking methods (like baking, grilling, or sautéeing) and focus on adding nutritious ingredients, like fresh vegetables and fruits.

















Julia Zakrzewski

Julia Zakrzewski is a Registered Dietitian and a lifelong foodie. Her passions include eating great food, debunking nutrition myths, and educating people on how they can improve their health! Her specific interests include diabetes and cardiovascular health. In her spare time Julia teaches yoga, and walks her miniature schnauzer.

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