When many people think about fast food, greasy fries and unhealthy foods can come to mind. But these restaurants are responsive to their customers and many have adjusted their menus to add some healthy options that aren't just short on fat, but also big on protein and taste. Whether you work at a fast food restaurant and you're looking for a healthy option to try during your lunch break or you want a snack you can grab at the drive thru without messing up your diet, try some of these options from some of the largest fast food restaurants in the U.S.
Grilled chicken wraps at McDonald's
McDonald's made CBS News' list of the 10 healthiest fast food restaurants in the U.S. recently. The fast food restaurant has worked to make better options available and overhauled some old practices in favor of healthier ones, such as using lower calorie canola oil for their french fries.
CBS pointed to McDonald's' snack wraps made with grilled chicken as one of the healthiest, yet substantial options on the menu. They come in ranch, chipotle BBQ and honey mustard flavors like the crispy, less healthy types. The Chipotle BBQ Snack Wrap, for example, has 260 calories, 8 grams of fat and 16 grams of protein, according to McDonald's.
Other fast food giants, including Wendy's and Burger King, also carry grilled chicken wraps, which can be healthier than other menu items as well.
Taco Bell's Fresco Menu
Taco Bell, well-known for quick, inexpensive Mexican food, responded to customers clamoring for healthier options by adding a whole new menu. The Fresco Menu offers many Taco Bell favorites, such as tacos and burritos, but with healthier ingredients and lower calorie counts.
Men's Health magazine pointed to the Fresco Steak Soft Taco as a tasty and healthy option. The magazine recommended combining two tacos with a side of black beans for a protein-rich meal, but the taco by itself is much healthier than the standard Taco Bell steak taco. For example, the Fresco Steak Soft Taco has 150 calories, 4.5 grams of fat and 12 grams of protein, whereas a regular grilled steak taco has 200 calories, 10 grams of fat and 13 grams of protein.
One of the biggest reasons for calories in your burrito is the tortilla. The tortilla is about 300 calories on its own. Rice can also weigh down your meal, with white rice carrying 185 calories and brown having 200. Everyday Health explained that not including the rice and tortilla is the smartest way to make your own healthy, delicious meal.
"At Chipotle, skip the rice and the burrito … and build your own salad, featuring chicken, fajita vegetables, black beans, lettuce, and salsa," the news source advised. "The lean meat, beans, and fresh veggies will keep you full while a heaping spoonful of salsa adds flavor without fat. If you want any additional toppings, skip sour cream and go for guacamole for its added fiber, healthy fat, and other nutrients."
Subway's sandwiches under 6 grams of fat
Fox News pointed to Subway's sandwiches as one of its healthiest fast food picks. The restaurant features 11 6-inch or mini sandwiches that have less than 6 grams of fat each, including the 6-inch Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki and Subway Club. Many of these sandwiches have around or well below 300 calories. Many of the 6-inch sandwiches that have meat also provide about 20 grams of protein.
The key to keeping these sandwiches healthy and low on fat is to watch what you add. Although one of the benefits of Subway is its made-to-order sandwiches, certain sauces, seasonings and cheese can quickly add to the fat and calorie counts of these meals.
Healthy breakfast options
Although commuters and others on the go need breakfast fast, they don't want to sacrifice health to get it. Like with lunch and dinner foods, many fast food restaurants also feature nutrition-conscious menu items for breakfast. Cooking Light magazine featured Au Bon Pain's Cinnamon Oatmeal dish as a fiber-filled, low-calorie hot breakfast option that tastes great. The Dunkin' Donuts Egg White & Cheese Wake-up Wrap, McDonald's' scrambled eggs, Subway's Egg White Sandwich and Starbucks' Protein Bistro Box were also highlighted by the magazine.
Several magazines and online news sources also pointed to Einstein Bros for their low-fat take on bagels. Bagels aren't usually thought of as the healthiest with cream cheese and carbohydrates, but Einstein Bros features an array of low-fat schmears and other healthy toppings such as hummus.
Next time you're at a fast food restaurant, remember that most establishments now have healthy options available. Feel free to ask employees or check out a nutritional chart to find which tasty food is the most nutritious.
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