Even if you’re the most prepared health nut on the planet (we’re looking at you, person with nut butter and avocados in your suitcase!), it’s easy to find yourself stuck in situations where fast food is the only option. Whether you’re at an airport, on a road trip, or simply in an area where finding healthy food isn’t easy, here are some of our favorite wellness expert’s favorite fast-food picks, so you’ll never be stuck in a pinch again.
What The Healthiest People We Know Order at Fast-Food Restaurants
Wendy's Baked Potatoes, Starbucks Oatmeal, or Burger King Veggie Burgers:
Grocery Store Sushi:
El Pollo Loco Salad or Lettuce-Wrapped In-N-Out Burger:
I really try to go on a road trip prepared, and I can’t remember the last time I had fast food, to be honest, but in a pinch I would snag a salad from El Pollo Loco with pinto beans and salsa plus a side of steamed veggies or a lettuce wrapped burger at In-N-Out.
Panera Sandwiches and Salads or Dunkin' Donuts Flatbread and Wraps:
I have a soft spot for Panera—it’s always such a relief to encounter one on a road trip or on-the-go day. My top picks are the Avocado, Egg White, and Spinach Breakfast Sandwich (great combo of protein, complex carbs, and healthy fat); the Seasonal Greens Salad with Chicken, Hard-Boiled Egg, and Avocado added (add an apple as your side instead of bread and you’ve got a winning balance of protein, fat, and carbs); the Green Goddess and Modern Greek salads (also decent options if you want something little that’s mostly healthy but with a slightly indulgent addition like bacon or cheese). Their You Pick Two Menu is a great way to enjoy a half-sandwich or a cup of soup with a half-salad if you want to balance a slightly more indulgent item with something lighter.
Dunkin' Donuts actually has some savory, protein-rich options that are a good alternative to doughnuts, muffins, and bagels. I would recommend an egg-white veggie flatbread, wake-up wrap, or an English muffin with egg.
—Jessica Cording, R.D., founder of Jessica Cording Nutrition
Grocery Store Vegetables, Hummus, or Salad:
I have always told my clients that "fast food" doesn't have to be from a drive-through. Just like fast-food restaurants, you'll find grocery stores all over the place when you are out and about or on a road trip. Instead of stopping at a chain fast-food restaurant, run into a grocery store and quickly grab some pre-cut fresh fruit or vegetables, snack-size hummus with crackers, or a healthy salad from the deli, where you can choose your own dressing! At a grocery store you'll have a lot more healthy options to choose from, it's quick to pop in and out, and it's much easier to stay away from the fried foods!
—Cristal Sczebel, CHN, founder of Nutrition in the Kitch
Wendy's Salads or Chipotle Burrito Bowl:
If you need to grab a quick meal on your next business or road trip, you’ll be pleased to know that a growing number of fast-food chains are spinning out healthier options. No, not perfect, but here are a few meal options that will do in a pinch! Turns out that Wendy’s has some of the best options. Order the Apple Pecan Chicken Salad, the Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad (skip the dressing on this one and use the hummus that comes with for dipping), or the Chili with a Garden Side Salad.
Another great go-to option when you have time to get out and stretch your legs is a Chipotle Burrito Bowl. Here’s how to order: black beans (skip the rice), add a meat, fajita veggies, lettuce, fresh salsa, and guacamole.
—Alyssa O’Brien, R.D., of Nutritional Weight & Wellness