If you don’t eat fast food, don’t start. In fact, continue to deliberately not eat fast food. The reason I recommend steering clear is that most fast food options are loaded with sodium, high in fat and contain preservatives and other ingredients (most of which we can’t even pronounce!)
However, if your overbooked, overextended schedule crammed with work and family means that you sometimes pull up to that drive-through window, all semblance of nutrition doesn’t have to be lost.
We’ve gathered our 10 top picks for best options nutrition-wise. Are these ideal? No, but compared to other options in fast-food land, these are your best bet!
Best Salad: Chick-Fil-A Grilled Market Salad
- Romaine and baby greens topped with grilled chicken, blueberries, strawberries, red and green apples, red cabbage, carrots and blue cheese.
- Per salad (including granola and roasted nut blend, but not dressing): 560 calories, 28 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 1,090 mg sodium, 47 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fiber, 16 grams (mostly naturally occurring) sugar, 34 grams protein
- Why I like it: It’s one of few fast food options that includes a rainbow of produce. One suggestion: Bring your own favorite salad dressing to keep nutrition in line.
Best Smoothie: Smoothie King Gladiator
- Choice of chocolate, vanilla or strawberry Gladiator Protein and choice of two add-ins. I recommend no-sugar or low-sugar add-ins like almonds, peanut butter, matcha green tea, or real whole no-sugar-added fruit and veggies including raspberries, blueberries, mango, pineapple, banana, spinach, kale, carrots and ginger.
- Per 20-ounce smoothie (before add-ins): 230 calories, 6 grams carb, 1 gram fiber, 3 grams sugar, 45 grams protein
- Why I like it: It’s super low in sugar, rich in protein and gives you one more way to fit in more real fruits and vegetables.
Best Breakfast: Starbucks Spinach, Feta and Cage Free Egg White Breakfast Wrap
- Egg whites, spinach, feta and tomatoes in a wheat wrap.
- Per wrap: 290 calories, 10 grams fat, 3.5 grams saturated fat, 830 mg sodium, 33 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams fiber, 4 grams sugar, 19 grams protein.
- Why I like it: This is rich in protein and fiber, and it squeezes a bit of veggies into our morning. And even though the bread isn’t 100 percent whole grain, it at least has more whole grains than white flour.
Best Breakfast Runner Up: Starbucks Sous Vide Egg Bites: Egg White & Red Pepper
- Egg bites made with egg whites, cottage cheese, cheese, red bell pepper, spinach and feta.
- Per two-bite serving: 170 calories, 7 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 500 mg sodium, 13 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 2 grams sugar, 13 grams protein.
- Why I like it: If you’re looking for more of a snack than a full breakfast, this is a lower-carb, lower-calorie option that’s naturally gluten-free.
Best Blended Coffee Drink: PJ’s Coffee Eat Fit- approved Protein Velvet Ice
- PJ’s Cold Brew coffee concentrate blended with protein powder and milk.
- Per medium 16-ounce serving: 250 calories, 6 grams fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat, 230 mg sodium, 23 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 8 grams sugar (less than 2 grams added sugar), 26 grams protein.
- Why I like it: It’s loaded with protein and can double as a breakfast or snack on the run. It’s especially good for those who like to start their day with coffee but aren’t big breakfast eaters.
Best Grilled Chicken: Chick-Fil-A Grilled Nuggets
- Grilled Nuggets, nothing else. Available in 8- and 12-piece servings.
- Per 6-piece serving: 190 calories, 9 grams fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 730 mg sodium, 7 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 0 sugar, 21 grams protein.
- Why I like them: It’s just chicken, no veggies or whole grains, but if you need a car-friendly finger food, these nuggets can do the trick.
Best Fried Chicken: Popeyes Blackened Tenders
- Nonbattered, nonbreaded version of Popeyes’ chicken tenders, with seasoning; formerly called Naked Tenders.
- Per 3-piece serving: 170 calories, 2 grams fat, 0 saturated fat, 550 mg sodium, 2 grams carbohydrate, 0 fiber, 0 sugar, 26 grams protein.
- Why I like it: Ounce for ounce, these tenders are essentially as lean as grilled skinless chicken but with the famously flavorful Popeyes blackened seasoning.
Best Grilled Chicken Sandwich: Bud’s Broiler Eat Fit Grilled Chicken Sandwich
- Grilled chicken breast with Hickory Sauce on 100 percent whole wheat bun.
- Per sandwich: 350 calories, 9 grams fat, 1.5 grams saturated fat, 610 mg sodium, 32 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber, 35 grams protein.
- Why I like it: Bud’s Broiler is a New Orleans original, plus it’s one of the only truly whole-grain buns in fast food.
Best Mexican-Inspired Dish (Tie): Chipotle - Customized Bowl
- Burrito bowl with no rice, filled with chicken, black beans and fajita vegetables, topped with chili salsa.
- Per Bowl: 335 calories, 8.5 grams fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 995 mg sodium, 30 grams carbohydrate, 13.5 grams fiber, 4.5 grams sugar, 40 grams protein (Guacamole adds 230 calories, 22 grams (plant-based) fat, 375 mg sodium, 8 grams carbs).
- Why I like it: It’s a convenient way to get black beans and vegetables on the go without processed carbs.
Best Mexican Inspired Dish (Tie): Taco Bell Power Menu Chicken Bowl
- Specify no rice, and you’ll get a bowl with grilled chicken, black beans, guacamole, cheddar cheese, pico de gallo and avocado ranch sauce.
- Per Chicken Power Bowl: 330 calories, 17 grams fat, 950 mg sodium, 19 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams fiber, 2 grams sugar, 24 grams protein.
- Per Veggie Power Bowl: double black beans, no rice: 380 calories, 17 grams fat, 5 grams saturated fat, 880 mg sodium, 43 grams carbohydrate, 17 grams fiber, 2 grams sugar, 15 grams protein.
- Why I like it: Taco Bell’s Power Bowl option makes it easier to make healthy choices for late-night or anytime snacking.
A version of this article originally appeared on Nola.com. See the full article here.
Note: Registered dietician Molly Kimball offers brand-name products as a consumer guide; she, along with Ochsner Health System, do not solicit product samples nor are paid to recommend items.