Fast Food for Less | What Would A Nutritionist Order At Your Favorite Fast Food Chain?

We all want to get that fast food fix but worry it will impact our waistline. Guess what – it’s still possible to hit the drive-thru without blowing your healthy eating plan.

With an average of 50 billion burgers consumed in America every year, fast food chains have had to up their nutrition game, introducing more vegan-forward and low-calorie meals in order to combat obesity.

Ever wondered what a nutritionist would order from Mcdonald’s, KFC or Subway? Here at Myprotein, resident nutritionist Jennifer Blow reveals exactly what to order so you don’t feel too guilty the next day.

chicken nuggets

This is how you can indulge at Burger King for just 170 calories

We scoured the menus of 30 fast food outlets across the US, from international giants such as McDonald’s and Taco Bell to American favorite Wendy’s, in search of the healthiest food options. We analyzed the portion size, ingredients list and calorie count of the lightest bite on offer.


fast food restaurant calorie chart

Table 1. Show’s the healthiest options in 5 of the largest fast food chains in the US


Out of the 30 healthy option menus we analyzed these were the top 20 with the fewest calories

Fast Food Outlet Healthiest Menu Option Number of Calories Side Dish Number of Calories Total Number of Calories for Both Dishes
White Castle The Original Slider 140 kcal Small French Fries 148 kcal 288 kcal
Pizza Hut A Slice of Cheese Pizza (personal pizza) 150 kcal Mixed Leaf Salad (Side Salad) 103 kcal 253 kcal
Burger King Chicken Nuggets (4 piece) 170 kcal Garden Side Salad 60 kcal 230  kcal
Popeyes Three-Piece Blackened Chicken Tenders 170 kcal Cajun Rice 183 kcal 352 kcal
Taco Bell Grilled Chicken Soft Taco 177 kcal Seasoned Rice 116 kcal 293 kcal
Hardee’s Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich 190 kcal Side Salad 120 kcal 310 kcal
Papa Johns A Slice of Cheese Pizza (personal pizza) 200 kcal Garlic Cheese Sticks 229 kcal 429 kcal
KFC Grilled Chicken 8-piece Bucket 210 per piece (breast), 80 per piece (drumstick) Sweet Kernel Corn 70 kcal 280 kcal
Subway 6” Veggie Delight, on Roasted Garlic Bread (without cheese) 230 kcal Veggie Delight Side Salad 60 kcal 290 kcal
Arby’s Roast Turkey Farmhouse Salad 240 kcal Chopped Side Salad 70 kcal 310 kcal
In-n-out Burger Protein Style Hamburger 240 kcal French Fries 370 kcal 610 kcal
Wendy’s Jr Hamburger 240 kcal Small Fries 230 kcal 470 kcal
A&W Restaurants 3-Piece Breaded Chicken Tenders 260 kcal Small French Fries 210 kcal 470 kcal
Dominos A Slice of Cheese Pizza (personal pizza) 260 kcal Potato Wedges 169 kcal 429 kcal
Dairy Queen Grilled Chicken BLT Salad 280 kcal Small Fries 290 kcal 570 kcal
Five Guys Veggie Sandwich 280 kcal Cajun Fries or Five Guys Fries 530 kcal 810 kcal
Panda Express Grilled Teriyaki Chicken 300 kcal Super Greens 90 kcal 390 kcal
Chick-fil-a Grilled Chicken Sandwich 320 kcal Kale Crunch Side 120 kcal 440 kcal
Quizno’s 4″ Spiced Monterey Sub 330 kcal Side Garden Salad 270 kcal 600 kcal
Jack in the Box Grilled Chicken Salad 345 kcal Small Seasoned Curly Fries 280 kcal 625 kcal

Enjoy The Original Slider from White Castle – for just 140 kcal

Coming in first place in our analysis is The Original Slider from White Castle at 140 kcal per serving. Making up less than 10% of the recommended daily calorie intake, this is one of the healthiest options on our list. The classic beef burger is low in fats and sugars, paired with a vibrant salad will add those much needed nutrients.

Jennifer Blow, the resident nutritionist at Myprotein, specializes in nutritional science for exercise and healthy living.

Jennifer says: “At 140kcal this isn’t going to send your calories soaring, pairing the slider with a nice vibrant salad will be tastier and healthier.”

While this is one of the healthiest options in terms of the number of calories, there are very few vitamins and minerals on offer. Add on the garden side salad to turn this into a more filling, vibrant and guilt-free treat.

Hungry for a slice? Pizza Hut’s Classic Cheese pizza – just 150 kcal per slice

Not far behind is a slice of Pizza Hut’s Classic Cheese Pizza. At just 150 kcal per slice, this bite offers a healthy dose of carbs and cheese, without a side dish of guilt! However, the size of the serving may leave you feeling hungry, as the slice doesn’t contain many vitamins or minerals and has very little protein.

chicken sandwich

Chicken dishes revealed as the highest calorie dishes – with an average of 447 calories each

It’s common knowledge that chicken dishes are a popular choice for those trying to eat healthy without compromising on flavor. Chicken is a versatile ingredient that is packed with protein and is easy to prepare.

While chicken is often swapped for the lighter option of turkey within salads and wraps, there were more chicken dishes than any other meat or veggie/vegan option within our top 30 healthy menu offerings. However, packed with protein, the succulent meaty ingredient did result in higher calorie intake.

Out of the 30 healthy options we analyzed the below 10, contained the most calories for when you want to treat yourself that little bit more

Fast Food Outlet Healthiest Menu Option Number of Calories Side Dish Number of Calories Total Number of Calories for Both Dishes
IHOP Chicken Sandwich 650 kcal French Fries 320 kcals 880 kcal
Waffle House Grilled Chicken Sandwich 490 kcal Bowl of Cheese Grits 140 kcal 630 kcal
McDonald’s Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad 320 kcal Small Fries 237 kcal 557 kcal
Sonic Grilled Chicken Sandwich 470 kcal Small Fries 250 kcal 720 kcal
Tim Hortons Chicken Wrap 430 kcal Kettle Cooked Potato Chips 220 kcal 650 kcal
Whataburger Grilled Chicken Sandwich 410 kcal Onion Rings 300 kcal 710 kcal
Chipotle Chicken Salad, Black Beans, Salsa and Fajita Vegetables (no wrap) 410 kcal Side of Guacamole 230 kcal 640 kcal
Culver’s Butter burger 390 kcal Premium Side Salad 50 kcal 440 kcal
Starbucks Grilled Chicken & Cauliflower Tabbouleh 390 kcal Prosnax Carrots, White Cheddar Cheese, and Almonds Snack Tray 140 kcal 530 kcal
Steak and Shake Grilled Chicken Sandwich 360 kcal Small Garden Salad 60 kcal 420 kcal

IHOP’s Chicken Sandwich has the most calories but is still healthier – at just 650 kcal

Of all the menus analyzed, IHOP’s Chicken Sandwich comes up top for the healthiest option with the highest amount of calories. At 650 kcal per serving, the Chicken Sandwich is still one of the healthiest fast food options available. While there may be a higher amount of salt and sodium, this option is also packed with protein – making you feel fuller for longer.

Love McDonald’s? The Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad is just 320 kcal per portion

Following closely in third place (and one of only four salads to make the list) is the Southwest Grilled Chicken Salad from fast food giant McDonald’s.

Jennifer says: “At 320kcal per portion, this salad isn’t the absolute lightest salad you can get (thanks to the cheese and tortillas, it contains more calories than a double cheeseburger). But with leaner meat, fewer refined carbohydrates and more veg, this salad still prevails as one of the healthier McDonald’s options. At 51% of your daily value of sodium however, this meal should be a treat and not your work lunch on the regular!”

It’s all about balance

While too many fast food binges will naturally not be good for you, everyone fancies, and deserves, a cheat day now and then. It’s important to remind ourselves that nutrition is all about balance – everything in moderation. A balanced diet – combined with regular exercise – ensures that you get all the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you need for a healthy mind and body.

In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle, the HHS recommends that people should:

  • Eat at least 5 portions of varied fruit and vegetables each day
  • When consuming foods and drinks which may be high in fat, salt or sugar, have these less frequently and in smaller amounts
  • To ensure a wide range of nutrients, opt for a variety of different foods from the 5 main food groups
  • Drink plenty of water (at least 6 to 8 glasses per day)
  • Partake in regular exercise (some type of physical activity every day. Any type of activity is good for you)

If you think you could benefit from some guidance on maintaining a balanced diet, check out our nutrition products.


We analyzed the food menus of 30 of the most popular and well-known fast food outlets in the US. Taking into account the portion size, ingredients list and calorie count, we discovered the lightest bite on offer from each menu.

Breaking down the ingredients list and comparing the nutritional information per serving size, we looked at the daily calorie intake information available from the HHS

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2020-02-25 14:40:38By Josh Hunt

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.



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