Healthy Eating Guide to Fast Food

Healthy Eating Guide to Fast Food

I am going to admit that sounds like a complete oxymoron...Healthy Eating Guide to Fast Food?  Unfortunately, we live in a world of chaos and sometimes finding time to make a home cooked meal is out of the question.

You have to take your son to soccer at 4:30, pick up your daughter from softball at 5:15, and your oldest from play practice at 6:30.  Or maybe your class finishes at 11:30 and your next class starts at 12:15.  Does this sound familiar?  Everyone has times when our hectic schedules make it impossible to cook a healthy meal.  You find yourself out running around feverishly, and you are starving.  Being crunched for time + hungry = disaster for a weight loss plan.  Here are a couple of fast food options that won't ruin all of the hard work you have done making healthy lifestyle changes.  

First, the main "fast food" rule that will help you succeed, no matter what restaurant, is no dressings, mayo or cheese.  Gasp!  I know what you are thinking...I love those things!  Unfortunately, these three things can destroy your weight loss.  All three are very high in fat, which means they also are very high in calories.  Cutting back on your fat intake will help you stay within your caloric goals for the day.

For instance, Potbelly has a new Turkey Fresco sandwich which has 715 calories.  That's a lot of calories for one meal.  By taking off just one simple item, mayo, you cut the calories from 715 down to 449.  You read that right!  By just removing just the mayo, you take 266 calories off the sandwich!  That's almost practically another meal!  You could eat a 12 pack of Chick Fil A grilled nuggets and a small apple for the same amount of calories as ...MAYO!  (I know what your thinking..."there is no way!"  That's what my husband said too when he read this, but I took all the nutritional information directly from the restaurant's website.  Give it a try yourself, select mayo and no mayo and see the difference in the calories.)

I know it's not easy, but you have to remember if you are trying to lose weight, you are retraining the way your body and mind see food.  There is a funny saying that rings with some truth, "If you eat the way you've always eaten, you'll weigh what you've always weighed."  You have to change the way you eat.  I was a cheese girl too, I had it on everything.  One thing I realized after I stopped having cheese, mayo and dressings on all my food, is that I actually taste the foods now, before the food was just a vehicle to eat dressings and cheese!  

The other key rule to remember, is that when possible, always choose complex carbs.  That means no white anything - white breads, whites rice, white sugar, ect.  When the choice for whole grain breads, brown rice, or fruits and veggies are available, always make that your staple.  It is a very easy transition to request whole grain bread at Subway instead of white.

Sandwiches - Potbelly, Subway, etc

Most sandwich style restaurants are offering at least a couple of healthy options because they realize much of the population is trying to make more intelligent choices when it comes to eating.  Quinoa and kale are popping up everywhere!  That is why most sandwich-style restaurants offer a whole grain option, as well as healthy toppings.  Stick with lean meats, such as chicken and turkey, try to load up with veggies, and remember to avoid the mayo and dressings.  Most restaurants have mustard or a hot sauce that have no calories.  I love adding Franks Buffalo Sauce to my sandwiches, it has zero calories and packs tons of flavor.  

Picture from Potbelly website:

Picture from Potbelly website:

Try Potbelly Turkey Fresco Sandwich with Whole Wheat Bread and NO MAYO

This is a pretty substantial sandwich.  It packs a whopping 34 grams of protein and only 6 grams of fat and 449 calories.   For a smaller appetite, try your sandwich on their multigrain flats, that cuts the calories down to 359.  Another great sandwich alternative is the Grilled Chicken on Whole Wheat with NO cheese, load it with your favorite veggies and it is around 400 calories and 32 grams of protein.

Chick Fil a

Chick Fil a has several healthy options on their menu.  They have really tasty salads, a grilled chicken sandwich on a wheat bun, and they also have grilled nuggets that are packed with protein for very few calories.  The Grilled Chicken Sandwich is a great option with 310 calories, 29 grams of protein and only 6 grams of fat.  I also love their Grilled Chicken Nuggetsit's pretty much a fast food staple of mine.  As far as protein is concerned, it's hard to beat the 38 grams that you get for 210 calories in the 12 piece option, add a side salad or fruit and it's a complete healthy meal! 


Picture from Chick Fil A website:

Picture from Chick Fil A website:

Try the Grilled Market Salad

This is a great salad with only 200 calories!  If you really want a dressing, they offer a light Italian Dressing that only has 25 calories.  Steer clear of the other dressings, which pack a lot of fat and sugar.  The Zesty Apple Cider Vinaigrette has 230 calories, that's more than the salad!  


Chipotle can be really healthy...or a complete diet buster, depending on what you order.  Obviously, you want to stay away from the sour cream and cheese, but also be cautious of the large serving size for the guacamole.  Everyone loves guacamole right now and it has healthy fat, but a full serving has 230 calories and 22 grams of fat, that's a ton for one condiment.  Try getting it on the side and splitting it with someone else.  The steak at chipotle is pretty low fat, so either the steak or the chicken are good options.  

Try the Steak Bowl with Brown Rice, Fajita Veggies, Lettuce and Tomatoes 

A salad is always a low calorie choice, but if you want something a little more hardy, the brown rice bowl may be exactly what you are looking for, especially if you are tired of chicken.  This bowl is only 410 calories and has 26 grams of protein.  You can also ask for a half portion of beans and still keep the calories under 500.  

Here is where the danger lies at Chipotle - just by adding the sour cream, cheese and guacamole to the exact same bowl, the calories jump from 410 to 855!  That's 445 calories for the sour cream, cheese and guacamole - you could eat TWO BOWLS for 820 calories!


Wendy's has added a few healthier options than the normal burger-fare, while none of them are completely clean, they are low calorie options when you are in a crunch.  The Grilled Chicken Sandwich, which isn't exactly ideal because it is on a white bun, only has 300 calories (without the additional 60 calories from the honey mustard).  Another option, is the Grilled Chicken Wrap - if you ask for it without mayo, it is 220 calories and 20 grams of protein.

Picture from Wendy’s:

Picture from Wendy’s:

Try the Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad

Without the light Vinaigrette, this salad drops from 450 calories to 360, and has 40 grams of protein.  It's a pretty substantial salad with hummus and a sundried tomato quinoa blend.  I am a hummus lovin' girl, so this salad is a home run for me! 

No matter where you find yourself trying to grab a bite to eat, if you follow the basic ideas of sticking to low fat options and complex carbs, you won't derail your weight loss!

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All the information from the article, plus few extra options, in one handy sheet.  You can print it out, throw it in your purse and you have the info ready when you need it!  We want to make healthy eating as easy as possible!

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