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Swap Your Big Mac for These Healthier Fast Food Choices

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Utah chapter.

While fast food is definitely not the best way to fuel your body, sometimes, things happen, and we find ourselves faced with the dilemma of trying to make the healthiest choice at the drive-through window.  Much of the food served at fast food restaurants is high in sodium and sugar, so they are not places you want to rely on as the basis for your diet. However, some fast food choices are much better than others. Here is your quick cheat sheet for those times when you need some fast food.  

McDonald’s: Egg White Delight

I am a hardcore fan of breakfast food.  No matter what time of day (hello, all day breakfast!), this sandwich from McDonald’s always hits the spot.  Plus, it’s one of the only choices at McDonald’s that is low calorie. This sandwich consists of an English muffin, egg whites, Canadian bacon, white cheddar cheese, and butter.  If you’re a vegetarian like me, just order this with no Canadian bacon.

Calories: 260

Protein: 16g

Fat: 8g

Carbohydrates: 29g

Dietary Fiber: 2g

Sodium: 750mg

Sugar: 3g

Chipotle: Sofritas Bowl

Chipotle has a special place in my heart for being such a great fast food option.  Here, it’s best to avoid all the wraps and shells and just stick with a plain burrito bowl or salad (adding a burrito shell to your order adds a whopping 320 calories!). If you do order the salad, be careful with the vinaigrette! This delicious upgrade to your bowl adds an additional: 220 calories, 16g of fat, 850mg of sodium, and 12g of sugar. Yikes! If you do opt to use the dressing, just make sure to use it in moderation instead of dumping the whole thing on.  When it comes time to add toppings, most of the options are great choices.  For the healthiest choice possible, choose a lean meat (or choose sofritas or beans as your protein) and avoid the sour cream, cheese, and queso.  You can add guac to your bowl too — just make sure to get it on the side because it adds a lot of calories!

An example of a healthy meal at Chipotle would be a sofritas bowl made with brown rice, black beans, sofritas, corn salsa, and lettuce.  At Chipotle you get a lot of food, so it’s best if you save some of your bowl to eater later.

Calories: 575

Protein: 23g

Fat: 19g

Carbohydrates: 84g

Dietary Fiber: 16g

Sodium: 1290mg       

Sugar: 11g

Subway: Veggie Delite 6” Sub

At Subway, you have a lot of options for a well-balanced meal. Choose the 9-Grain Wheat bread (only 78 calories!) and go crazy with the veggies. Add a meat too, if you like — just don’t go nuts! Avoid sauce and cheese here to prevent piling on extra calories and fat.

An example of a healthy, light sub is the Veggie Delite. This sub comes on the 9-Grain Wheat bread and is filled with lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, and onions.  If you need a little bit more food, try a side of their apple slices.

Calories: 230

Protein: 8g

Fat: 2.5g

Carbohydrates: 44g

Dietary Fiber: 5g

Sodium: 280mg

Sugar: 7g

Starbucks: Roasted Tomatoes, Mozzarella, Spinach and Basil Pesto Toasted Focaccia

Seriously- yum! This sandwich is the perfect choice for your lunch.  This Starbucks option is the perfect combo of warm, toasted bread with tomatoes, melty cheese and spinach.  Pair it with a Peach Tranquility Herbal Tea for a yummy drink with no added calories or sugar.

Calories: 350

Protein: 15g

Fat: 13g

Carbohydrates: 42g

Dietary Fiber: 3g

Sodium: 570mg

Sugar: 2g

Dunkin’ Donuts: Egg White Veggie Wake-Up Wrap

You should stay far, far away from most of the things on the Dunkin’ Donuts menu– seriously.  Many people don’t think about how many calories and sugar are in their fancy coffee drinks, but the extra sugar and fat in your favorite morning drink can sneak up on you. Their large Caramel Swirl Frozen Dunkin’ Coffee with Cream (32oz) has 1,060 calories and 172g of sugar! These super sugary drinks have no place in a healthy diet (sorry). One of the better options there is the Egg White Veggie Wake-Up Wrap.  This wrap is a warm flatbread topped with egg whites, red and green peppers, mushrooms, green onions, and white cheddar cheese.

Calories: 190

Protein: 11g

Fat: 11g

Carbohydrates: 14g

Dietary Fiber: 1g

Sodium: 380mg

Sugar: 1g

Café Zupas: Half Roasted Veggie and Quinoa Soup & Half Mango Berry Salad

Café Zupas is one of those restaurants that you expect to be mostly healthy- but unfortunately, it is not.  Many menu items at Café Zupas are very high in calorie — even their salads! For example, the full-size California Protein Cobb Salad with Fresh Herb Vinaigrette has 720 calories, while the Pesto Chicken Panini on wheat bread has 670.  This is a restaurant where you need to make sure you pay attention to the nutrition facts of what you’re ordering! One good option here is a half soup and half salad combination with the Half Roasted Veggie and Quinoa Soup and the Half Mango Berry Salad.

Calories: 320

Protein: 7g

Fat: 15.5g

Carbohydrates: 39g

Dietary Fiber: 5g

Sodium: 910mg

Sugar: 29g


Wendy’s: Grilled Chicken Sandwich

For a grab and go lunch or dinner, the Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich is a good option.  This sandwich comes with a piece of grilled chicken breast, honey mustard, lettuce, and tomato on a multigrain bun.  This is a great way to make a healthier choice than a big cheeseburger without having to eat a sad, fast food salad.

Calories: 360

Protein: 35g

Fat: 8g

Carbohydrates: 38g

Dietary Fiber: 3g

Sodium: 820mg

Sugar: 11g

Burger King: Veggie Burger

Try this out for Meatless Monday or as a way to make your burger habit a bit more healthy.  To compare, a Whopper has 660 calories, while this choice only has 310.  The bun comes loaded with a Morningstar brand veggie burger, lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, ketchup, and mayonnaise.  Make sure you ask them to hold the mayo because it adds an extra 80 calories and 8 grams of fat.

Calories: 310

Protein: 22g

Fat: 7g

Carbohydrates: 42g

Dietary Fiber: 6g

Sodium: 990mg

Sugar: 9g

These fast food options will come to your rescue on days when you have to grab lunch fast without wrecking your healthy habits. Be sure to swap these healthy options the next time you find yourself craving a Whopper or a Big Mac!

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I am a sophomore at the University of Utah currently pursuing a major in Communications, with an emphasis in Strategic Communications, as well as a minor in Political Science.  I was previously Miss Teen Ohio United States, and I am now a writer for Her Campus Utah. I enjoy outdoor activities, cooking, volunteering, traveling, and writing. I am a passionate advocate for mental health and suicide prevention.  After graduation, I plan on starting my own business. I hope to inspire more women to enter into leadership positions or even become their own bosses. 
Her Campus Utah Chapter Contributor