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Healthy Fast Food Options When You’re Traveling & On the Go

Sometimes the only option is fast food, and that’s okay.

Fastfood
Headshot Crop By Cara O'Bleness August 02, 2022

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When you’re prepping for travel, you’re likely busy double checking your packing list and finding someone to water your plants while you’re away. And while you may always try to plan your breakfast, lunch, and dinner ahead of time at home, meal planning can fall to the wayside when you’re on the go. If you’re flying or taking a road trip, the easiest, quickest, and guaranteed meal option is usually fast food. Whether you shudder at the thought of a drive-thru or love travel days to get your dose of fried foods, there are healthy fast food options out there if you’re interested. Keep reading to learn how to decipher the menu to find tasty and satisfying meals on the go.

1. Be Mindful of Portion Sizes

Similarly to eating healthy at restaurants, keep portion sizes in mind when it comes to ordering at the drive-thru or at the airport. A hamburger with a double (or triple!) patty can pack up to 900 calories. No one is saying you can’t indulge in that cheeseburger, just consider opting for a single patty instead if you’re watching your calorie intake.

2. Skip the Soda

Traveling can be tiring, and sometimes you need a caffeine boost to get through the last leg of your trip. Turns out being dehydrated can actually be one of the main reasons you feel so tired. Have you been drinking water? Skip the fountain drink and opt for H20 (like sparkling water) as a caffeine alternative at the next rest stop to put some pep in your step.

3. Don’t Always Opt for the Salad

Wait, what? Greens aren’t always the way to go? The answer is, it depends.

For example, Wendy’s popular Apple Pecan Salad is packed with grilled chicken breast, romaine lettuce, apples, and dried cranberries, so it must be a healthy choice, right? The salad (with dressing) contains 550 calories, 26 g of fat, and 1,280 g of sodium. On the other hand, a Jr. Hamburger at Wendy’s contains only 250 calories, 11 g of fat, and 420 mg of sodium.

While the salad does pack more protein (39 g vs. 13 g), the right option for you really depends on what your dietary goals are — are you looking for more protein, to eat fewer calories and less sodium? While we won’t fault you for ordering either, we suggest taking a look at the nutritional information on fast food menus (when available) to make an informed choice.

4. Go for the Grilled Sandwich

While many fast food sandwiches are deep fried and slathered in mayo, consider choosing a grilled option when possible. For example, instead of ordering a fried chicken sandwich or tenders, opt for the grilled sandwich (without the breading), and ask for toppings on the side so you can add as much (or as little) as you want.

Healthy Fast Food Options: What to Order From These Top Chains

Keeping in mind the above tips, here’s what to order at the top five fast food chains in America when you’re on the go:

McDonalds

  • Breakfast: Sausage McMuffin® (400 calories) and Black Coffee (0 calories) or Iced Latte (90 calories)

  • Lunch or Dinner: Classic Hamburger (250 calories) or Cheeseburger (300 calories) and Small Fry (220 calories)

Starbucks

  • Breakfast: Turkey Bacon, Cheddar, and Egg White Sandwich (230 calories) or Egg White and Roasted Red Pepper Egg Bites (170 calories) and Tall Cafe Americano (10 calories) or Tall Iced Coffee with Nonfat Milk (80 calories)

  • Lunch or Snack: Chicken and Hummus Protein Box (300 calories) or Berry Trio Parfait (240 calories)

Subway

  • Lunch or Dinner: 6” Oven Roasted Turkey on Italian with Yellow Mustard, American Cheese, Lettuce, Spinach, Tomato, Green Pepper, Red Onion, and Pickles (280 calories) or 6” Grilled Chicken on Italian with Shredded Mozzarella, Lettuce, Spinach, Tomato, and Jalapeños (300 calories)

Taco Bell

  • Breakfast: Fiesta Potato Cheesy Toasted Breakfast Burrito (340 calories) with Salsa (0 calories) and Black Coffee, Hot or Iced (0 calories)

  • Lunch or Dinner: 2 Soft Chicken Tacos (320 calories) or 2 Crunchy Beef Tacos (340 calories) with Black Beans and Rice (160 calories)

Chick-fil-A

  • Breakfast: Egg White Grill (290 calories) or Greek Yogurt Parfait (270 calories) with Iced Coffee (150 calories) or Black Coffee (0 calories)

  • Lunch or Dinner: Grilled Chicken Sandwich (380 calories) or Grilled Nuggets (130 calories) with Fruit Cup (60 calories)

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About the author

Cara O'Bleness

Writer

Cara is a passionate writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience in print and online media. She loves storytelling and believes that words have the power to change the world. In her free time, Cara is an avid reader, enjoys meditating, and loves spending time with her husband and their chihuahua pug mix, Callie, streaming the latest horror flick or true crime documentary. She is a graduate of Michigan State University's School of Journalism.

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