I know, I know, you might be skeptical at that title. I’m not a huge fan of fast food in general, since I don’t think it takes that long to whip up dinner, but I know that sometimes life just gets in the way. Whether you’re traveling, stuck at an office without good cafeteria options, or just having one of those days where you need to pick up dinner on the way home, there really are some healthy fast food options out there. Follow a few simple tips, and you’ll be good to go.
I pulled together a few meals from popular chain restaurants that you’ll find in most cities. These are really more of the kind-of-a-step-up-from-fast-food-places, because I can’t in good conscience recommend anything from a true “fast food” spot. Sorry, McArches, you’re not fooling me with those “salad” options you have.
So these are some tips for those restaurants that you’ll find in almost every suburban area. Hope you find this helpful!
This was one of my favorite spots in college, and it will always have a special place in my heart. I love this place for a quick lunch, because not only do they offer a delicious vegetarian sub, they also offer lettuce wraps! This means less bread & more veggies! If you get the vegetarian sub without mayo as a lettuce wrap, you’ve got a super-veggie packed lunch! You might even have some room for Skinny Chips, the baked version of their kettle chips. I know some people actually like mayonnaise (I literally hate it) but I’m telling you, the guacamole spread gives you all the creaminess you need!
I was telling someone about how much I loved the healthy options at Chipotle, and they literally rolled their eyes at me, telling me that there was no way those huge burritos could be good for you. They almost had a point. The burritos are kind of a disaster. (There are over 300 calories in the tortilla. JUST the tortilla!) But the bowl option is fantastic, and the salad option is even better. If you opt for a bed of lettuce instead of a bed of rice, you’ll save tons of calories, and with all the delicious salsas they offer, you’ll still have plenty of flavor! I like to get lettuce, black beans, peppers and onions, tomato salsa, corn salsa, and guacamole. That huge bowl clocks it right around 450 calories. Not bad, right? This is also vegan and gluten free, so it’s a great options for those with food allergies!
Ok, so it’s not exactly fast food, but this build-your-own-bowl is sort of like the stir fry equivalent of Chipotle. Similar to Mongolian BBQ (which is what we had in Ohio) this place can offer you some healthy options if you know what you’re looking for. You’re given a bowl that you can load up with anything your heart desires. It does require a little self control, to focus on adding in veggies rather than some of the other more tempting toppings.
They even have a little healthy bowl builder on their website. (I love when restaurants have these!) I find it’s helpful to check before you go, because sometimes the things you think are healthy aren’t so great for you. In the end I filled my bowl with carrots, onions, black beans, soybeans, corn, chickpeas, broccoli, and a little tofu. For the seasoning, I opted for the Stir Fry sauce, since I checked the ingredients list online and it looked pretty good. (Warning, a lot of the sauces contain High Fructose Corn Syrup! So if you’re avoiding that, definitely look it up online.) My combo was quite delicious!
So what are the takeaways?
Load up on raw veggies wherever you can! They fill you up, and are super nutrient dense.
Leave out the extra carbs or opt for whole grains like brown rice or wheat bread.
Be careful with sauces and seasonings, because those things can contain some questionable ingredients!
Fast food doesn’t have to mean bad food. Next time you’re grabbing a bite out, think of those three things!