Fast Food Nutrition - Low Calorie Fast Food

Eating Low Calorie At Fast Food Restaurants

It is possible to eat fast food and stick to a healthy, low calorie diet. The key is to chose to the right foods and condiments. We'll tell you how.

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Quick Tips

  • Always refuse cheese. Cheese contains a high level of fat and adds unnecessary calories to sandwiches and salads. 

  • Go for grilled over fried. Fried foods have more calories, more fat, and often more sodium. A salad containing fried chicken and regular dressing can equal the number of calories in a hamburger and side of fries.

  • Choose water over soda. Sugary soda contains too many calories per serving. Diet soda contains aspartame, which we recommend avoiding.

  • Wheat bread is best. On average, wheat bread will be the lowest calorie bread at most restaurants.

  • Mustard instead of mayonnaise. Mustard is simply healthier. If you don't like the taste of mustard, ask for low fat mayonnaise or ask the restaurant to go easy on the mayonnaise.

  • Low fat dressing on the side. Regular dressing contains a surprising high amount of calories. Balsamic is generally low, though many chains offer other low calorie options if you ask. If you pour on the dressing gradually, you'll use less and the lettuce will stay crispier longer - a double bonus.

  • Order a fries unsalted and in a small portion. They'll be cooked fresh and will have considerably less sodium.

  • For general diet and weight loss advice, we strongly recommend. Though we receive compensation for referring people to Weight Watchers, we'd recommend them if we were not an affiliate. Weight Watchers®

Fast Food Chains

Baja Fresh

Orginal Baja Taco  - The tacos at Baja Fresh are a decent option. The chicken and shrimp tacos have just 200 and 210 calories respectively. The steak tacos have a higher percentage of fat, but at 230 calories (70 from fat), you could do far worse. Just say no to the complimentary chips (210 calories).

Baja Ensalada - The charbroiled chicken and the shrimp salads are both low calories, though high in sodium (1210mg and 1110mg respectively). The pork carnitas won't bust your gut either at 370 calories, though the sodium count is even higher. Just opt for the fat free salsa verde dressing; the ranch dressing and olive oil vinaigrette are high in calories and fat.

It is possible to get a salad for under 350 calories. Order chicken, fajita vegetables, tomato salsa, and lettuce. Two ounces of the vinaigrette will add 282 calories to the meal. (In comparison, the chicken only has 219 calories.) Avoid the  tortilla, avoid the sour cream, guacamole and cheese.

Baja Fresh nutritional information

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Burger King

Hamburgers  - The Whopper Jr. 290 calories, 150 of which come from the buns. (It also has has less calories than any of the chicken sandwiches.) Take advantage of having it your way by saying no to the mayonnaise and opting for ketchup or mustard.

Salads - The Tendergrill Chicken Filet salad is the way to go. Including Ken's Light Fat Free Ranch Dressing, the salad has just 300 calories without the croutons. Just beware that the dressing is high in sodium.

Burger King Nutritional Information

Chipotle

Burrito  - The regular size tortilla has 330 calories by itself (and no, this not a typo). Add rice (240 calories), black beans (130), fajita vegetables (100), tomato salsa (5) and you have an 800 calorie meal. Chicken or Steak, cheese, sour cream and guacamole only add to the caloric count.

Salads - It is possible to get a salad for under 350 calories. Order chicken, fajita vegetables, tomato salsa, and lettuce. Two ounces of the vinaigrette will add 282 calories to the meal. (In comparison, the chicken only has 219 calories.) Avoid the  tortilla, avoid the sour cream, guacamole and cheese.

Chipotle nutritional information (pdf) 

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McDonalds

Salads  - The Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad is the best choice of anything on the menu with 220 calories and 0 grams of fat. (Without chicken, it is just 140 calories). Newman's Own Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing is a good choice at 40 calories and 3 grams of fat. The Newman's Own Low Fat Family Recipe Italian Dressing is a viable alternative at just 50 calories.

Just be aware that adding grilled chicken to a McDonald's salad raises the sodium content by 710 mg or about 30% of the recommended daily intake. This does not include the additional sodium that is present in dressing, bacon bits or anything else you choose to add to your salad.

The low fat dressings offered by McDonald's aren't any better, each offering around the same level of sodium.

Hamburgers - The basic hamburger contains 250 calories and 9 grams of fat, including the bun. The bun accounts for 150 calories and 7 grams of fat by itself.

McDonald's nutritional information

 

Panera Bread

Muffins - The Banana Nut Muffin has 230 calories and 11 grams of fat. If you need to eat breakfast on the go, this is not a bad option. The fruit cup is better, however.

Fruit Cup - It's 70 calories and full of vitamins. A good choice anytime of day.

Bread - You can specify whatever bread you want with any meal or sandwich. So go with the Lower-Carb Italian Herb loaf or our favorite, the Pumpkin Seed loaf. They are 80 and 90 calories per slice.

Sandwiches  - The Smoked Turkey Breast is just 380 calories if you opt to have it on the Lower-Carb Italian herb bread. Say no to the mayonnaise and save even more calories.  The Mediterranean veggie can work if you don't have the feta cheese on it and go with lower carb bread. Make sure to ask for fruit (or at least the baked chips).

Salads - The Fandango salad is listed at 390 calories, but actually has much less if you say no to the cheese. Ask for the Fat-Free Raspberry dressing (50 calories and just 110mg of sodium).

Panera Bread nutritional information

Quiznos

Sandwiches  - Quiznos provides nutritional information on just two sandwiches: the small Turkey Lite and the small Honey Bourbon Chicken. The Turkey Lite has 334 calories, but over 1900mg of sodium (about 75% of the recommended daily intake). The Honey Bourbon has 359 calories, but 1500mg of cholesterol. If you get either sandwich, do not order chips and/or watch your sodium intake throughout the rest of the day.  

(Quiznos has removed the limited amount of nutritional information they provided on their web site. The above information was gathered before Quizno's changed their web site.)

Starbucks

Coffee - A grande Cafe Au Lait contains 140 calories and eight grams of fat. If you simply request nonfat milk in your coffee, you can cut out all of the fat and more than 40% of the calories. The daily dose of coffee will still cost you 90 calories, without sugar, but given the lack of fat, it won't increase your waistline.

For those of you who opt for soy instead, a grande coffee contains 110 calories and three grams of fat. Just don't order the breve with your coffee, it jacks up the calories to a gut busting 300 calories. 

Starbuck's nutritional information

Taco Bell

Tacos - The Fresco Style Chicken Ranchero Taco and the Regular Style Chicken Ranchero Taco have just 170 calories and four grams of fat, if you order correctly. The key is to request only the followig ingredients: chicken, fiesta salsa, lettuce and tortilla. Those of you on low sodium diets should note, however, that the tacos contain 560mg of sodium each (24% of the recommended daily allowance).

Salads - the regular style Express Taco Salad, which includes seasoned ground beef could be a decent option if the chips are not eaten. The salad is about 500 calories with the chips and we are guess thing that the chips could account for about 20% of the calories. Sodium is still a factor, however, at 740mg. However, we can't tell how much of this is related to the chips

Taco Bell nutritional information

Subway

Sandwiches - In general, stick to the 6 grams or less menu and you'll get a sandwich with 330 calories or less. The exception is the Chicken Teriyaki at 380 calories, 100 more than the Veggie Delight. The bigger secret is choosing the right condiments. Best options are: vegetables, vinegar (1 calorie),  the mustard (8 calories/no fat), honey mustard select sauce (28 calories). Say no to the cheese and do not ask for oil.

Subway nutritional information

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Wendy's

Salads  - The Mandarin Chicken Salad (our favorite) and the Spring Mix Salad have 170 and 180 calories, respectively.  The seemingly innocent Chicken BLT salad has 330 calories!  As far as dressings, the Fat Free French has the fewest calories (80).  The Reduced Fat Creamy Ranch has 100 calories, but 8 grams of fat.  Low Fat Honey Mustard is the only other viable option at 110 calories and 3 grams of fat.

Hamburgers  - A plain Junior patty (2 oz) without a bun has 100 calories and 7 grams of fat. With bun, ketchup, mustard, pickles and onions, the sandwich is 280 calories and 9 grams of fat. The Classic Single patty (4 oz) has 210 calories and 14 grams of fat.  The plain bun has 160 calories, 2 grams of fat, and 31 grams of carbohydrates.  

Sandwiches - The Ultimate Grilled Chicken Sandwich can be a decent choice if ordered correctly. As featured on the menu, the sandwich has 360 calories and 7 grams of fat. 40 calories and 2.5 grams of fat can be eliminated by simply requesting a plain bun instead of the Kaiser roll that normally is used. 

Wendy's nutritional information

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All of the calorie, carbohydrate, and fat measurements were gathered from each restaurant's web site. 

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