Posted: 07/06/2015 11:33 am EDT Updated: 4 hours ago
Main Photo Credit: Laura Murray/Thrillist
You might’ve seen a headline like this before. The subsequent list was probably filled with dressing-less salads and veggie burgers wrapped in lettuce and it probably made you go, “Welp, guess I’m not eating healthy at those places anytime soon.” DO NOT DESPAIR. We aren’t having any of that, because people should know how to be relatively healthy at these places and still come away from the experience feeling full. That’s your right, dammit!
To that end, we’ve compiled this list of the (more-or-less) healthiest entrée and the healthiest side to accompany that entrée at a selection of national fast-food chains, based on calories and fat content, and — in the case there’s a close race between two items — other factors like carbs and sodium levels.
Before we begin, let’s lay down some ground rules. No “junior” or “mini” items were considered, nor were any breakfast items — we’re sticking to normal lunch and dinner fare here. If the healthiest entrée option at any given chain is a salad, the accompanying side cannot also be a salad. Absolutely no apple slices. And finally, any serving of chicken nuggets under eight pieces was not considered, because four nuggets does not a meal make.
Two Fresco Soft Tacos with shredded chicken: 280 calories, 7g of fat, 39% daily value of sodium
Black beans & rice: 180 calories, 4g of fat, 18% daily value of sodium
The very foundation of Taco Bell’s Fresco menu is reduced calories — it concentrates on replacing heavier sauces with its pico de gallo, a move that pays off well when combined with a soft taco and shredded chicken: two of its lower-calorie ingredients. Beans and rice are great together, but you can also just get the black beans if you’re trying to avoid starch overload.
Corn dog: 230 calories, 15g of fat, 24% daily value of sodium
Small Natural-Cut Fries: 280 calories, 13g of fat, 12% daily value of sodium
Many of Sonic’s menu items are region-specific, but not its corn dog, which is relatively low in sodium and arguably constitutes a full meal when paired with its… small natural-cut fries. Yeah. Sonic doesn’t have any salads.
Credit: Flickr/Hideya HAMANO
Tendergrill Chicken Sandwich w/o mayo: 350 calories, 9g of fat, 25% daily value of sodium
Value-sized onion rings: 150 calories, 70 from fat, 8g of fat, 17% daily value of sodium
Go for the Tendergrill Chicken Sandwich without the mayo, and while other places would recommend you order the apple slices as a side, we know that’s not going to satisfy anyone except people looking to avoid doctors. Go for the value-sized onion rings, which are comparable to its Satisfries but with fewer calories.
Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich: 390 calories, 7g of fat, 41% daily value of sodium
Garden side salad with low fat balsamic vinaigrette dressing: 145 calories, 6g of fat, 15% daily value of sodium
Going charbroiled is the key at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s — stay away from the aptly named Thickburgers and even their turkey burgers, which have a tendency to go heavy on the condiments.
8-count Grilled Chicken Nuggets: 140 calories, 3g of fat, 22% daily value of sodium
Side salad: 80 calories, 4.5g of fat, 4% daily value of sodium
If the chicken isn’t breaded at Chick-fil-A, is it still Chick-fil-A chicken? Well, yeah, technically! These grilled nuggets are the lowest-calorie entrée on its menu, and — of course — a side salad