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Low Calorie Fast Food

Updated on May 6, 2014

Fast Food doesn't have to mean Fat Food

I love fast food but I don't like what it does to my waistline. For the longest time I thought eating fast food meant having to cheat on my diet. But it doesn't. With a little fast food knowledge, I (and you) can order with confidence and enjoy your meal without worrying about your diet.

I've researched many of the larger fast food chains and found that most of them actually have lower calorie options available (you just have to know how to order them).

I've listed the lowest calorie foods and laid out an "under 500 calories" meal plan for each fast food restaurant. To download and print the nutrition information (in pdf), just click a fast food restaurant logo.

Do you have trouble picking out healthy choices at a fast food restaurant?

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McDonald's Nutrition Information
McDonald's Nutrition Information

Low calorie food at McDonalds

The thing to look out for at McDonald's is the little extras. Just one ketchup packet has 15 calories. The dipping sauce for the chicken nuggets has 50-60 calories per pack. Regular salad dressing can have as much as 190 calories and 18 grams of fat per packet. While low fat salad dressing has only 40-60 calories.

  • Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich has 420 calories and 10 grams of fat (save calories by ordering it without mayo)
  • Southern Style Crispy Chicken Sandwich has 400 calories and 17 grams of fat (save calories by ordering it without mayo)
  • Chicken McNuggets® (6 piece) have 280 calories and 17 grams of fat
  • Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken has 320 calories and 9 grams of fat (without the chicken it's only 140 calories and 4 grams of fat)
  • Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with Grilled Chicken has 260 calories and 9 grams of fat (without the chicken it's only 140 calories and 7 grams of fat)
  • Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken has 220 calories and 6 grams of fat (without the chicken it's only 90 calories and 4 grams of fat)
  • Side Salad has 20 calories

For a McDonald's meal under 500 calories, pair a Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich with a Side Salad (with light dressing) and a water or Diet Soda.

Burger King Nutrition Information
Burger King Nutrition Information

Low calorie food at Burger King

If you pre-plan your trip to Burger King, you can actually build your meal online and know beforehand exactly how many calories are in it. Here are a couple of their lower calorie items to get you started.

  • 6-pc Chicken Tenders has 270 calories
  • Tendergrill Garden Salad with fat free dressing has 290 calories
  • Whopper Jr has 340 calories (order without mayo and it's only 260 calories)
  • Tendergrill Chicken Sandwich w/o mayo has 410 calories
  • Original Chicken Sandwich w/o mayo has 420 calories
  • Side Garden Salad with fat free dressing has 100 calories
  • Fresh Apple Fries with Low-Fat Caramel Sauce has 70 calories

For a Burger King meal under 500 calories, pair an Original Chicken Sandwich (without mayo) with some Fresh Apple Fries with Low-Fat Caramel Sauce and a water or Diet Coke.

Wendy's Nutrition Information
Wendy's Nutrition Information

Low calorie food at Wendy's

Wendy's salads can be both delicious and nutritious.....if you order right. Every salad comes with a pack of gourmet croutons. Although they seem harmless, that little pack actually contains 80 calories and 3 grams of fat. Ordering regular salad dressing can add up to 160 calories and 15 grams of fat. Instead, go with Fat Free French (40 calories and 0 fat) or Light Classic Ranch (50 calories and 4 fat grams). Some Wendy's locations also carry a delicious Pomegranate Vinaigrette Dressing with only 60 calories and 3 grams of fat.

  • Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwich has 370 calories and 7 grams of fat (order without mayo and it's only 330 calories and 4 grams of fat)
  • Grilled Chicken Go Wrap has 260 calories and 10 grams of fat (order without sauce and it's only 220 calories and 7 grams of fat)
  • Crispy Chicken Sandwich has 350 calories and 15 grams of fat (order without mayo and it's only 310 calories and 12 grams of fat)
  • Side Salad The Garden Side Salad has 25 calories. The Caesar Side Salad has 60 calories and 3 grams of fat
  • Apple Pecan Chicken Salad has 350 calories and 12 grams of fat

For a Wendy's meal under 500 calories, pair a Crispy Chicken Sandwich (without mayo) with a Garden Side Salad (with light dressing) and finish it off with a water or Diet Coke.

Hardees Nutrition Information
Hardees Nutrition Information

Low calorie food at Hardee's

Hardee's happens to be my favorite fast food restaurant. That's why I get so frustrated with their small healthy menu selection. But to be fair, they do give you the option to wrap your burger with a large piece of lettuce instead of a bun. That takes 210 calories off your burger!

  • Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich has 400 calories and 6 grams of fat
  • Regular Roast Beef Sandwich has 310 calories and 15 grams of fat
  • Big Hot Ham Sandwich has 380 calories and 8 grams of fat
  • Side Salad has 120 calories and 7 grams of fat
  • Mashed Potatoes has 90 calories and 2 grams of fat

For a Hardee's meal under 500 calories, pair up a Regular Roast Beef Sandwich with a Side Salad (with light dressing) and some water or Diet Soda.

Taco Bell Nutrition Information
Taco Bell Nutrition Information

Low calorie food at Taco Bell

If you know you're planning on eating at Taco Bell, first visit their website to calculate the nutrition content of your meal. Thankfully, they have a Fresco menu that's designed for dieters. For everything on their Fresco menu, they substitute salsa for the cheese. Here's what you can expect to see.

  • Fresco Crunchy Taco has150 calories and 7 grams of fat
  • Fresco Soft Taco - Beef has 180 calories and 7 grams of fat
  • Fresco Burrito Supreme® - Chicken has 350 calories and 8 grams of fat
  • Fresco Burrito Supreme® - Steak has 340 calories and 8 grams of fat
  • Fresco Ranchero Chicken Soft Taco has 160 calories and 4 grams of fat
  • Fresco Grilled Steak Soft Taco has 150 calories and 4 grams of fat
  • Fresco Bean Burrito has 350 calories and 8 grams of fat

For a Taco Bell meal under 500 calories, pair a Fresco Burrito with a Fresco Crunchy Taco and a water or Diet Coke.

Taco John's Nutrition Information
Taco John's Nutrition Information

Low calorie food at Taco Johns

Taco Johns actually has 8 menu items with less than 10 grams of fat. Of course to keep it under 10 grams, you have to know how to order.

Just remember one phrase: "No Cheese!".

  • Chili (without cheese) has160 calories and 6 grams of fat
  • Chicken Softshell Taco has 190 calories and 6 grams of fat
  • Sierra Chicken Sandwich has 350 calories and 11 grams of fat
  • Refried Beans (without cheese) has 260 calories and 2 grams of fat
  • Taco Burger (without cheese) has 250 calories and 9 grams of fat
  • Bean Burrito (without cheese) has 310 calories and 5 grams of fat

For a Taco John's meal under 500 calories, pair a Taco Burger (without cheese) with a cup of Chili (without cheese) and either water or Diet Coke.

Personally, I think it's worth the extra 10 calories to pair up a yummy Sierra Chicken Sandwich with a bowl of Chili (without cheese).

KFC Nutrition Information
KFC Nutrition Information

Low calorie food at KFC - Kentucky Fried Chicken

A lot of people think that once they start a diet, they can no longer eat at KFC. But that's just not true. Thanks to KFC's grilled chicken, their menu now offers a variety of healthy food options. In fact, it's been my experience that I can eat more food with less calories at KFC.

  • Grilled Chicken Pieces A wing has 80 calories and 5 grams of fat. A drumstick has 80 calories and 4 grams of fat. A thigh has 160 calories and 11 grams of fat. A breast has 210 calories and 8 grams of fat.
  • Grilled Chicken Filet has 140 calories and 3 grams of fat
  • Honey BBQ Snacker has 210 calories and 3 grams of fat
  • Grilled Chicken Caesar Salad has 220 calories and 7 grams of fat
  • Grilled Chicken BLT Salad has 230 calories and 8 grams of fat
  • Mashed Potatoes with Gravy has 120 calories and 4 grams of fat (order without gravy and it's only 90 calories and 3 grams of fat)
  • Green Beans has 20 calories
  • Sweet Kernel Corn has 100 calories

What I love about KFC is their drink selection. They have 4 sodas with zero calories. They have 2 different teas with zero calories. And they have delicious Tropicana Sugar Free Lemonade with only 10 calories.

For a KFC meal under 500 calories, order up a Grilled Chicken Filet, a Honey BBQ Snacker, some Mashed Potatoes with Gravy and some Green Beans. Plus you can wash it all down with diet soda, tea or lemonade!

Sonic Nutrition Information
Sonic Nutrition Information

Low calorie food at Sonic

Sonic is another fast food restaurant with very little to offer for dieters. The menu items that have low calories are extremely high in fat, and those low in fat have a lot of calories. So beware that your healthy food options are very restricted.

  • Jr. Burger has 310 calories and 15 grams of fat
  • Corn Dog (from the kids menu) has 210 calories and 11 grams of fat
  • Chicken Strips (2) (from the kids menu) has 200 calories and 11 grams of fat
  • Grilled Chicken Salad has 250 calories and 10 grams of fat
  • Crispy Chicken Salad has 340 calories and 19 grams of fat
  • Grilled Chicken Wrap has 390 calories and 14 grams of fat
  • Tots - Small have 130 calories and 8 grams of fat

I can't stress the need to order light or fat free salad dressing enough. Sonic's regular dressing can have up to 220 calories and a shocking 21 grams of fat! Compare that to the 25 calories in their Fat Free Italian, and I'm sure you'll know what the healthier choice is.

Also, I know Sonic is famous for their drink selection, but did you know that their drinks can have up to 670 calories in them? Even the flavor add-ins can add up to 100 calories to your meal.

For a Sonic meal under 500 calories, order a Grilled Chicken Salad (with light dressing), a Corn Dog and water or Diet Soda.

Arby's Nutrition Information
Arby's Nutrition Information

Low calorie food at Arby's

Arby's is a great place to eat on a diet. They have many healthy food options to choose from. In fact, every single item on their value menu is under 350 calories. The biggest thing you have to stay away from is their side items. Most of them are fried and that skyrockets the fat grams.

  • Regular Roast Beef has 340 calories and 11 grams of fat
  • Ham & Swiss Melt has 300 calories and 8 grams of fat
  • Chopped Farmhouse Salad - Turkey and Ham has 250 calories and 14 grams of fat
  • Chopped Farmhouse Chicken Salad - Roast has 250 calories and 13 grams of fat
  • Chopped Side Salad has 70 calories and 5 grams of fat
  • Jr. Roast Beef has 200 calories and 6 grams of fat
  • Jr. Ham & Cheddar Sandwich has 210 calories and 6 grams of fat
  • Jr Deluxe Sandwich has 260 calories and 12 grams of fat

For an Arby's meal under 500 calories, order up a Jr. Roast Beef, a Jr. Ham & Cheddar Sandwich and a Chopped Side Salad (with light dressing). Add a water or Diet Soda and you're good to go!

Don't be caught off-guard!

Keep one of these fast food nutrition books in your car and you'll never wonder what safe to order again.

Eat This Not That! Restaurant Survival Guide: The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution
Eat This Not That! Restaurant Survival Guide: The No-Diet Weight Loss Solution

This book will show you the best and worst foods to eat at over 80 of restaurants. Also includes 50 restaurant meals under 500 calories.

 
Stop & Go Fast Food Nutrition Guide
Stop & Go Fast Food Nutrition Guide

This book teaches you how to identify the healthy food at 68 different fast food restaurants.

 
The NutriBase Guide to Fast-Food Nutrition
The NutriBase Guide to Fast-Food Nutrition

Get complete nutrition facts for over 65 fast food chains.

 
The Get With The Program! Guide to Fast Food and Family Restaurants
The Get With The Program! Guide to Fast Food and Family Restaurants

This guide provides healthy choices for over 75 sit down restaurants and fast food restaurants.

 
The Fast Food Diet: Lose Weight and Feel Great Even If You're Too Busy to Eat Right
The Fast Food Diet: Lose Weight and Feel Great Even If You're Too Busy to Eat Right

This book doesn't just tell you the healthiest items on the menu. It actually gives you the tools so you can look at a fast food menu and figure out the healthy options for yourself!

 

Here's The Basics

The two most important things to stay away from at and fast food restaurant are soda and anything fried. Chicken nuggets, fries, crispy chicken, fried apple pies, and the shell of a taco salad are some of the biggest no-no's.

And before you order your next mocha frappe, first take a look at the high number of calories and sugar it has.

Photos and text; © 2011-2013 Catherine Taylor. All Rights Reserved

Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

What other fast food restaurants should I add?

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    • profile image

      pokeyoat 5 years ago

      Great time saving list, thanks!

    • JeanJohnson LM profile image

      JeanJohnson LM 6 years ago

      Jack and the box :) its my weakness

    • phoenix arizona f profile image

      phoenix arizona f 6 years ago

      The only fast food for me on a diet is Subway or Panda Express.

    • tiff0315 profile image

      tiff0315 6 years ago

      You forgot Dairy Queen! Or is there nothing there that's healthy? LOL

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Thank you so much for this list of Low Calorie Fast Food. I will be referring back here often.

    • rlivermore profile image

      rlivermore 6 years ago

      Wow, what a great lens! This is helpful information, even when not traveling.

    • JanieceTobey profile image

      JanieceTobey 6 years ago

      I've never heard of Taco John's. What part of the country is in it?

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 6 years ago

      Well done! Guess it is up to me now to stick to it next time we go to McDonalds.....

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 6 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Good resource of information on fast food.

    • Grandma-Marilyn profile image

      Grandma-Marilyn 6 years ago

      Great resource. The only fast food place that I can see wasn't on here was Whataburger.

    • hayleylou lm profile image

      hayleylou lm 6 years ago

      This is a great resource for dieters

    • jmsp206 profile image

      Julia M S Pearce 6 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Food is a hard thing when travelling although I don't think I would be getting into the fast food if I could help it.Sometimes no choice.

    • profile image

      moonlitta 6 years ago

      I love fast food with all of the calories. But I'll forgive you for the sake of all those who want it without them:)

    • LissaKlar LM profile image

      LissaKlar LM 6 years ago

      Lots of great info. Great lens

    • TheresaMarkham profile image

      TheresaMarkham 6 years ago

      Have never seen anything like this ever put together - what great suggestions & info! [my daughter doesn't let us go to these places, except a very rare visit to KFC]

    • joanhall profile image

      Joan Hall 6 years ago from Los Angeles

      Great info, great lens! A fast food place we have out here that you would probably like is El Pollo Loco.

    • profile image

      Murphypig 6 years ago

      very useful. thanks :-)

    • hsschulte profile image

      hsschulte 6 years ago

      ~ Blessed

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 6 years ago

      Great list!

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 6 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      What a great lens and so useful...especially for the traveler! When I'm in town I try to say away from fast food restaurants, but when we are traveling sometimes we just need a quick bite. This is a great guideline. Blessed

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 6 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      thanks for the useful info.