Fast Food Recipes You Can Make At Home
10 Fast-Food Meals That Can Help You Lose Weight
Fast food ain't what it used to be—and that's a good thing. Traditional fast-food chains like Taco Bell and Subway are now hawking healthier options, while new brands like LYFE Kitchen and Tender Greens are springing up across the country to offer whole, organic, and even vegan menu items. Luckily for us, this means a bevy of fast-food meals that are lower in calories and added sugar, and much higher in protein, fiber, and healthy fat, with more nutrients to keep you feeling full and prevent overeating.
But buyer beware: Just because a fast-food chain markets a meal as healthy doesn't mean that it is. Instead, it pays to do a little online research to make sure a meal has the right nutrition facts before you eat it. Look for options with 500 calories or fewer, says Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, a contributor to . Your choices should also have as little sugar as possible, with at least 5 grams of fiber and 10 grams of protein, she says. "I also tell people to deliberately choose complete meals," Bazilian says. "For example, an entrée salad or quinoa bowl is an entire meal, but if you get the typical burger or wrap, you might be tempted to add fries or another side dish to make it complete." (Lose up to 15 pounds WITHOUT dieting with the .)
No time to shop around for your fast-food meals? We get you. (Um, hello, that's why it's called fast food.) So we've combed the menus of multiple fast-food chains to give you the 10 best, healthiest fast-food meals that will fill you up—not out.
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1. Chipotle Chicken Burrito Bowl
Chipotle may offer lots of fresh ingredients, but that doesn't mean it's nutritional perfection: In fact, the menu is loaded with high-calorie pitfalls (have youseenthe size of those tortillas?!) and oversize portions. But if you choose carefully, you can assemble a healthy meal that's insanely filling. A salad with romaine lettuce, chicken, fajita veggies, guacamole, and fresh tomato salsa has 460 calories and is a good source of satiating healthy fat (thanks, guac!), plus 10 g fiber and a whopping 37 g protein.
2. Panera All-Natural Turkey Chili
Salad may seem like your best bet, but many fast-food chain salad bowls, some of Panera's included, can top 600 calories and come drenched in sugary dressing. Instead, opt for the chain's turkey chili, which combines turkey breast, chickpeas, and kidney beans to deliver 17 g protein with 12 g fiber—about half your daily requirement—in each 320-calorie bowl. Pair it with an apple (skip the hunk of bread and bag of chips), and you'll add an additional 4 g fiber, plus a little bit of satisfying sweetness to cap off your lunch.
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3. Tender Greens Salt & Pepper Chicken with Butter Lettuce Simple Salad
This West Coast chain's salads are littered with exciting gourmet toppings like fingerling potatoes, roasted fennel, and homemade bacon (the list goes on and on), but many of these options are highly caloric. (In fact, one of their salads has almost 1,000 calories!) Luckily, the menu allows you to bypass preexisting combos and create your own from a selection of plain proteins and lettuce blends. (Here's how to build the healthiest salad.) Pair the Salt & Pepper Chicken with the Butter Lettuce Simple Salad, and your meal maxes out at 490 calories with 41 g protein and 1 g—seriously, just 1 g—of sugar.
4. Zoe's Kitchen Mediterranean Tuna Pita
This Mediterranean chain (with locations throughout the South and the mid-Atlantic) serves up a swath of veggie-infused options, but it's tough to beat this whole wheat pita stuffed with fresh tuna salad (flavored with capers, red onions, and olives), plus crunchy lettuce and juicy tomatoes. It packs 20 g protein, 4 g fiber, and just 390 calories total.
5. LYFE Kitchen Mahi Fish Tacos
This super-healthy restaurant (founded by former McDonald's execs) has totally redefined what it means to serve a happy meal: The Mahi Tacos, piled on corn tortillas with chayote squash slaw, avocado, fresh salsa, and chipotle aioli, are packed with healthy fat and 25 g protein. And even though tacos feel like an indulgence, they actually tend to be less caloric than similar options like burritos or quesadillas. These ones have just 487 calories.
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6. Taco Bell Cantina Power Bowl
We're definitely not endorsing Taco Bell as a regular dining destination, but we have to admit: When you're trapped in a forlorn food court, staring down double-bacon cheeseburgers and giant pizza slices, Taco Bell isn't so bad. The best option is the Cantina Power Bowl—basically like a Chipotle burrito bowl, but smaller. That means you can go topping crazy (rice, beans, cheese, salsa, sour cream,andguac) and end up with way fewer calories than you'd get from one of Chipotle's fully loaded bowls. Opt for the vegetarian version with all the fixings and you'll get 380 calories with 12 g protein, 8 g fiber, and just 3 g sugar. Add chicken and your total jumps to 490 calories—but with 29 g filling protein to boot. You could do a whole lot worse when you're in a rush.
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7. Jason's Deli Quinoa Shrimp and Mango Salad
In a world where some salads go really, really wrong, this one gets it just right: It's loaded with organic greens, wild-caught shrimp, avocado, quinoa, mango, and salsa, all for just 310 calories, 17 g protein, and 9 g fiber.
8. Nature's Table Spicy Asian Salad
This is one of the lowest-calorie fast-food salads we've ever seen: The bowl full of chicken breast, spinach, napa cabbage, red pepper, scallions, almonds, and house-made dressing has a grand total of just 247 calories, plus 24 g protein and 5 g fiber.
9. Veggie Grill Papa's Portobello
This grilled Portobello burger is topped with some intense flavor boosters: garlic-basil tomato sauce, caramelized onions, pesto,andred onion. That's good news, since research suggests that subjecting your taste buds to deep flavors can tire them out faster, helping you feel satisfied more quickly. Plus, it delivers 6 g fiber and 9 g protein (plus a super-low 300 mg sodium) for just 350 calories.
10. Pei Wei Asian Diner Asian Chopped Chicken Salad
Asian dishes are usually served with giant heaps of rice and syrupy-sweet sauces—aka fast-digesting carbs that crank up blood sugar and the release of insulin, your body's fat-storing hormone. This salad bucks the trend, clocking in at 470 calories with 31 g protein, 6 g fiber, and only 6 g sugar. (You could do even better by skipping the crispy wonton wrapper topping.) But be warned: Those nutrition stats don't include the sesame ginger vinaigrette, so use the dressing sparingly to keep the calorie count reasonable.
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