Healthiest Choices at Fast Food Chains

In a perfect world, you would make every meal you eat…

But we don’t live in a perfect world. 

“Eating out” is a social aspect of your life (and sometimes you forget your lunch).

Remember too that the meal plans are a TOOL.

A tool that helps you make the best choices “out in the wild.”

With consistent use, meal plan recipes teach you portions and what a balanced meal should look like so you feel satisfied without going overboard on your own. 

Here are some decent options when you’re dining out:

CHEESECAKE FACTORY #1: Fresh Kale Salad (400* Calories)

Why I picked it: Small but simple with apples, raisins, almonds, and green beans. Hold the almonds for less calories (and hold or swap dressings to be vegan). The Skinnylicious Fresh Vegetable Salad is another option (370 calories), hold the cheese. Rumor has it their Skinnylicious mustard vinaigrette is oil-free. (Believable at 15 calories per 1g serving!)

CHEESECAKE FACTORY #2: Skinnylicious Veggie Burger (500* calories)

Why I picked it: It’s made from vegetables, beans, and grains rather than processed soy, and served with a green salad. It’s not as healthy as homemade, but how often do you get to have a “burger” out that’s fairly healthy? Hold the mayo and cheese so it’s vegan. 

CHEESECAKE FACTORY #3: Vegan Cobb Salad (1210 calories)

Why I picked it: It’s a large serving and the calories can be greatly reduced if you hold all the nuts and seeds (ask for more veg). There’s also the Kale and Quinoa Salad (900* calories) that will drop in calories when you hold the nuts and cheese.  

STARBUCKS #1: Oatmeal (160+ calories)

Why I picked it: Clean as a whistle – just oats and water. Most of the toppings (nuts, dried fruit) have added sugar and oil to them so that’s annoying, but you can usually also buy a banana to dress the oatmeal up AND their “coffee station” has complimentary cinnamon! Some locations also offer fresh blueberries for the oatmeal (+20 calories).

STARBUCKS #2: Hearty Veggie & Rice Bowl (430 calories)

Why I picked it: There’s a lot of veg and it’s not a tiny serving. The rice, butternut, and tomatoes are cooked with a little oil, but the other vegetables are clean. The tahini dressing contains honey.

PF CHANGS #1: Buddha’s Feast (steamed) (260 calories)

Why I picked it: Baked tofu and a good portion of steamed vegetables in soy sauce. You can add a side of rice (6 oz) or quinoa (small) for 300 calories or order more vegetables. 

PF CHANGS #2: Spinach with Garlic (large) (160 calories), Sichuan-Style Asparagus (small) 90 calories OR Shanghai Cucumbers (small) (70 calories).

SUBWAY: Veggie Delight (6-inch) (230 calories)

Why I picked it: While all the breads are pretty processed, you do have a large selection of vegetables to choose from and when you don’t get meat or cheese they tend to be a bit more generous with the vegetables or offer up some avocado! AND you can get apple slices!

PANERA #1: Low-Fat Black Bean Soup (bowl) (230 calories) OR Low Fat Vegetable Garden Veg (140 calories) just ask to hold the pesto. 

Why I picked it: Soups are reasonably filling and these are low in calories. Add the Classic Salad (170 calories) to feel more satisfied. A serving of bread adds 130-150 calories. 

PANERA #2: Greek Salad (without cheese)

Why I picked it: I’m always hesitant to suggests salads because (ugh… duh!) but this salad has a nice variety and, while not oil-free, these dressings are vegan: Low Fat Thai Chili Vinaigrette, Reduced Sugar Asian Sesame, White Balsamic Fuji Apple Vinaigrette. 

PICK UP STIX: Brown rice and steamed vegetables. 

Why I picked it: Filling portion + if you ask, they will give you any vegetable listed on the menu. Veggies can be steamed, so clean dream! Many of their sauces, while not oil-free, are vegan.

AU BON PAN #1: SOUPS! 12 Veggie Soup (120-240 calories), Barley & Creamy Lentil (140-280), Black Bean Soup (180-360), Carrot Ginger (100-190), Curried Rice & Lentil (120-240), French Moroccan Tomato Lentil (130-260), Harvest Mushroom (140-270), Swiss Chard 3-Bean (140-270), Tuscan White Bean (150-310), or Vegetarian Chili (170-340). 

Why I picked it: Soups are filling and you can add a Garden Salad (50 calories). While these dressing are not oil-free, they are vegan: Fat Free White Balsamic Vinaigrette, Lite Lemon Shallot Vinaigrette, Maple Walnut, Red Wine Peppercorn, Sesame Ginger, Southwest Vinaigrette, Thai Peanut. Beware that most seemingly vegan things like hummus contain milk.

AU BON PAN #2: Oatmeal (170-370 calories) 

Why I picked it: Well, it’s oatmeal. You can also get roasted potatoes (1 oz) for 35 calories and most locations have an assortment of fresh fruits. Probably contains oil, but potatoes are satisfying. 

WENDY'S: Plain baked potato (270 calories) 

Why I picked it: Wendy's is the healthiest option around. Stop by a nearby gas station and get some salsa to go with your taters! You can have a Garden Salad too. (While not oil-free, these dressings are vegan: Fat Free French, Italian Vinaigrette, Pomegranate Vinaigrette). 

See this blog post for even more ideas!

Please check with the restaurant before eating as ingredients may change!

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