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Healthy Fast Food: A Rest Stop Survival Guide

We all have the best intentions of eating healthy food and exploring unique local restaurants when we travel, but what happens when you’re stuck on a lonely highway with only a rest stop for sustenance? Let’s face it — even health-conscious travelers may find themselves dining at a fast food joint on occasion. But there’s no need to blow your diet. Print out our guide to the healthiest options at seven national fast food chains and keep it at hand on your next road trip.


One of your better bets on the Arby’s menu is the Chopped Farmhouse Salad with roast turkey, weighing in at 240 calories without dressing. The Jr Roast Beef and Jr Ham & Cheddar Melt sandwiches have 210 calories each.

Burger King

You may be surprised that Burger King’s Whopper Junior without cheese or mayonnaise actually has fewer calories (260) than the chain’s Premium grilled chicken sandwich without mayonnaise (400). Even better are the side salads (the Caesar salad with dressing has 220 calories, and the garden salad with avocado ranch dressing has 230).


The good news: KFC’s famous fried chicken recipe no longer has trans fats. The bad news: That extra-crispy poultry is still a bad bet if you’re trying to lose weight or stay healthy (one original recipe fried chicken breast packs in 370 calories). The grilled chicken is a healthier option (220 calories for a breast); a Caesar side salad is also a good bet if you leave out the croutons and go easy on the dressing. Green beans, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes without gravy and sweet kernel corn are the healthiest sides.


McDonald’s has a fairly wide variety of salads, but keep in mind that bacon, fried chicken and cheese can make a salad just as fattening and artery-clogging as a burger (if not more!). Be sure to order grilled chicken rather than crispy and ask for a low-fat dressing. As always, side salads are a simple, healthy alternative. In the mood for a sandwich? The basic hamburger actually has fewer calories (250) than a Premium Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich (460). The grilled Snack Wraps are also a good option, with 250 – 270 calories.


While we don’t suggest living on Subway sandwiches a la Jared, the chain’s famous ex-spokesman, Subway is probably your healthiest choice in the fast food world. On the menu is a wide selection of sandwiches and salads with six grams of fat or less.

Taco Bell

Health-conscious travelers should look straight to Taco Bell’s Fresco Menu, which is made up of items with fewer than 400 calories and 9 grams of fat. Options include tacos and burritos. Beware of the healthy-sounding Fiesta Taco Salads, which have a diet-busting 700+ calories depending on which meat option you choose.


A great combination to try at Wendy’s is a side salad and a small chili — two items that are low in fat and high in fiber. Other good choices include the half-size salads, which all have fewer than 300 calories without dressing or extras (such as croutons or crispy noodles). The Jr. Hamburger weighs in with 250 calories and the Grilled Chicken Go Wrap has just 260 calories.

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