Finding the “Healthy” at the Drive Thru

A week ago Sunday I was on a plane flying over the Caribbean and watching the Super Bowl.  When Subway’s commercial for the Fritos Chicken Enchilada sub came on I almost jumped out of my seat and screamed, “That is not a healthy sandwich!”  Now, Subway didn’t claim it was healthy in their commercial but they didn’t have to.  All of their other adds tout how healthy and fit their meals are, so why wouldn’t the average consumer believe the Fritos sandwich was a healthy choice?  It certainly doesn’t help having a bunch of athletes on the commercial backing the new sandwich.  If they think its good, perhaps I can become an Olympic athlete too!  This six inch sandwich packs 580 calories and 26 grams of fat along with 1170 grams of sodium, a far cry from a healthy lunch!

subway1

That had me thinking of how so many people tell me that they would like to eat healthy but they don’t have time.  I get it, you pick the kids up from school, take them to soccer practice, ballet, chess, piano, swimming lessons, and then head home.  There isn’t time for dinner and often you have to swing through the drive thru just to get food into their mouths.  I get it.  We certainly did it from time to time growing up too.  But you can’t place all of the blame on fast food.  You can place a large part of the blame on fast food and I certainly recommend steering clear of it.  But let’s take a look at a few of the top fast food restaurants and some options that would help you make a better choice for those times you have to swing through the drive thru.

Keep in mind that if you do decide to go through the drive thru you are going to consume A LOT more sodium than you would with just about any meal you would cook at home.  However, if you run or exercise and sweat heavily this shouldn’t be a huge problem on an occasional basis, especially if you have a healthy heart and kidneys.  All of this nutrition information can be found on each restaurant’s website.

Subway:

Look for this symbol before you order

Look for this symbol before you order

Subway has 7 sandwiches on their Fresh Fit menu.  Stick to these when you order and you will keep your diet on track.  Try their spicy brown mustard for a tasty kick to your sandwiches.  Load up on all of the healthy veggies to pack in the nutrition.  A few of my favorites from the list are:

Oven Roasted Chicken Sandwich  320 calories  5 grams of fat  610mg sodium

Roast Beef Sandwich  320 calories  5 grams of fat   660mg sodium

Turkey Breast Sandwich   280 calories   3.5 grams of fat  670mg sodium

McDonald’s:

Ask them to hold the mayo!

Ask them to hold the mayo!

One thing I have noticed on just about any fast food menu is to stay away from chicken.  Pretty much any chicken sandwich has far more fat and calories than most of the burgers.  You may see chicken and think healthy but as a general rule when you walk into a fast food restaurant, the smallest burger on the menu likely has some of the least fat and fewest calories.  There is, however, a grilled chicken version on this menu that does fit the bill.

Hamburger   250 calories   9 grams of fat   480mg sodium

Cheeseburger   300 calories   12 grams of fat   680mg sodium

Grilled Chicken Classic   350 calories   9 grams of fat   820mg sodium

Filet-O-Fish   390 calories     19 grams of fat     590mg sodium

Note:  Any of the grilled chicken snack wraps are also a good option to order from the menu

Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken     290 calories   8 grams of fat    650mg sodium

Kids Order of Fries     100 calories   5 grams of fat   70mg sodium (if you really need to have it your way!)

Burger King:

Healthier than a salad.  Scary!

Healthier than a salad. Scary!

Again on this menu your best bet is to order a small hamburger.  A bit of a surprise with this one is that every single salad is so high in fat content and so high in sodium that I cannot recommend a single one of them.  I can’t believe I am saying you are better off having a burger than a salad but it is true!

Whopper Jr.   300 calories   16 grams of fat   460mg sodium

Burger    230 calories   9 grams of fat     460mg sodium

Tender Grill Chicken   410 calories   16 grams of fat   830mg sodium

Veggie Burger   390 calories   16 grams of fat   900 mg sodium

Arby’s:

Keep it simple

Keep it simple

I have always been a fan of roast beef sandwiches from here.  Just a sandwich by itself with a touch of horsey sauce and you have a complete meal.  Steer clear of their market sandwiches.  They are laden in calories and fat grams!

Classic Roast Beef Sandwich   360 calories  14 grams of fat  970mg sodium

Roast Turkey Farmhouse Salad   230 calories   13 grams of fat   780mg sodium

Jr. Chicken Sandwich   310 calories  15 grams of fat   680mg sodium

Wendy’s:

wendys

You can have a salad and a baked potato or a baked potato and chili and have yourself a complete meal here.  Just don’t pile all the extras on the potato!

Apple Pecan Chicken Salad   350 calories  11 grams of fat  970mg sodium

Baked Potato   270 calories  0 grams of fat  25mg sodium

Small Chili  180 calories  5 grams of fat   790mg sodium

4 piece Nuggets  180 calories  12 grams of fat  350mg sodium

Jr. Burger   250 calories  10 grams of fat  600mg sodium

Ultimate Grilled Chicken   370 calories  7 grams of fat  880mg sodium

Moral of the story, there are some healthier options out there.  To me the key to eating fast food is to not get greedy.  Recognize that if you are going to eat at a fast food restaurant you need to control your portions.  That might mean just the sandwich and not the fries.  If you really want the fries order the kids version.  Or even order yourself a happy meal to keep your portion sizes down and still feel like you are eating a “complete” meal.

When it comes to fries I try to decide if they are worth it.  If I order them once and they are delicious I go for it the next time.  More often than not I find that the place I ordered them at just doesn’t cut it.  So I stop eating them once I realize they are just ok and remember not to order fries from that place again.  The key for me is to be mindful with my first few bites.  Do they really taste good or am I just shoving them in my mouth?

If you want the bigger sandwich option do what I do and consider going topless. By taking the top bun off of course!

As for me, my on the go fast food guilty pleasure if Jimmy John’s.  My husband and I have gone for over an hour skipping exit after exit waiting for a Jimmy John’s to come along.  What I love most is that you can turn any of their sandwiches into an “unwich” and they will forego the bread and wrap your fixings in lettuce.  By choosing an already healthy sandwich option you can slice the calories even more with this option.  Swap the mayo for mustard and you have a delicious and pretty healthy lunch or dinner on the go.

jimmyjohns

Hopefully some of these ideas will help you the next time you are forced to swing through the drive thru on your way home.

20 thoughts on “Finding the “Healthy” at the Drive Thru

  1. I think you may have convinced me to try the “unwich”.
    That was a really insightful read and has left me with my mouth open…nothing like a bit of false advertising!
    Just a heads up (I’m sure you have received your fair share of these!) I have nominated your brilliant blog for the Liebster Award! Head over to my latest post to find out a little bit more!

  2. I get that people are concerned about fat, especially the kind in fast food, but no one ever thinks about the sodium. It’s insane, like eating a flavor packet in a box of Rice-a-Roni…

    • So true. The sodium is a killer, seriously. Fortunately for those of us who run quite a bit we can handle an occasional “splurge” of it. But for someone who eats there all the time and doesn’t exercise it is very scary! Froze dinners are right up there too!

  3. Thanks for sharing. Like you I was a bit shocked to see the Frito Subway sandwich. I had no idea that a small burger is healthier than the salad or chicken option at a lot of these places. I will keep that in mind and stick to kids meals when I indulge in these fast food places. I am unfortunately a big fan of taco Bell.

  4. I couldn’t believe that Fritos sandwich at Subway when I saw the commercial either! I was watching it with my husband and both our jaws dropped. We used to eat our fair share of fast food, and now after turning our eating habits around completely, it’s hard to believe we put that crap into us so often. We are taking a cross-country road trip in a few weeks; these tips will definitely be useful!

  5. Love it!

    And great tip about the unwich. I stopped eating wheat about a year ago, so food on the go at most places is pretty difficult. In fact, I’ve never even been inside of a Jimmy Johns, because sandwich shops so rarely have a gluten free option. Note to self, I will be trying Jimmy Johns soon. Thanks!

    • This is exactly why I never eat fast food. Even the salads. I know that a lot of salads at sit down restaurants are high in calories but I often get them because I want the nutritious veggies and lighten it up by removing things. But a fast food salad doesn’t even have quality veggies. You might as well have the burger.

  6. Haha I would have jumped off of the couch with you. I’m against fast-food (I don’t judge those who love it, but I do not). I tell my boyfriend that our kids will not be going to fast food restaurants (Subway is allowed) and he laughs and says, “just with dad.” Which is weird because Kyle rarely eats fast food.

    • Well, if you try to convert milligrams to teaspoons you will get many different results. However, 1100 mg will end up being 0.2 to 1/3 of a teaspoon filled with nasty industrial salt. If you add that amount to any dish you are cooking people would probably complain…

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