Even dietitians and nutritionists aren't immune to situations in which the only dining options are Chipotle and McDonald's. This is an especially common predicament when traveling, whether you're flying down an empty highway or clocking hours at the airport food court. Rather than succumbing to the allure of a double bacon cheeseburger at the last second, consider the go-to fast-food orders of five different nutritionists and dietitians, courtesy of Self. Believe it or not, you can make healthy decisions at Chipotle, McDonald's, Wendy's, Subway, and Panera Bread; here's what to order at each of the five fast-food restaurants:
"I get a [tofu] Chipotle burrito bowl with sofritas, which is seasoned organic tofu, brown rice, black beans, fajita vegetables, lettuce, and occasionally guacamole. This bowl provides 20 grams of filling, plant-based protein, and it also offers 20 grams of fiber, according to Chipotle's website. However, one caveat is that at over 1000 milligrams, it's high in sodium. When trying to pick a healthy fast-food option, look to 'eat the rainbow.' Red, green, and yellow fruits and vegetables are likely to be high-fiber and help keep you satisfied." — Jen Flachbart, registered dietitian and nutritionist
"I don't worry too much about the calorie count, but rather what it is I'm eating. McDonald's has delicious breakfast oatmeal with fresh apples, dried fruits, and a hint of cream. I love that you can order it without the brown sugar! Oats are a great source of fiber, and they digest slower, leading to steady energy levels and longer satiety. The dash of low-fat cream adds a fancy mouthfeel and provides fat and protein to balance the dish." — Dianna Sinni, wellness dietitian and blogger at Chard in Charge
"[The Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad is] better than most other options because it's packed with protein (40 grams per salad!) and loaded with tons of heart-healthy fats and fiber that keep me full and satisfied longer. Plus, it's super delicious with tons of great toppings like hummus, quinoa, feta, sun-dried tomatoes, and more that provide a unique blend of textures and flavors." — Shoshana Pritzker, registered dietitian and certified sports nutritionist
"I order [a Rotisserie-Style Chicken Sandwich] on 9-Grain Wheat Bread. The secret is to ask them to scoop out the extra bread to remove some calories and carbs. This also leaves more room for vegetables, so I top the sandwich with a ton of fresh ones. A simple way to make a fast-food sandwich healthier is to ask for half the regular amount of cheese and only a drizzle of dressing. Then you have a protein-, fiber-, and veggie-packed lunch, usually for less than 400 calories." — Lauren Harris-Pincus, registered dietitian and owner of Nutrition Starring You
At Panera Bread
"Panera Bread, a fast-food restaurant focused on providing freshly made food to its customers, has a plethora of healthy options. My staple combination is a half-portion of the Ancient Grain and Arugula Salad With Chicken and the Roasted Turkey Cranberry Flatbread. The salad provides chicken, healthy fats from pumpkin seeds, fresh grapes and apples, and a combination of farro, wheat, and barley as its grains. It's low in sodium and only contains 1.5 servings of carbohydrates in a half-portion. The Roasted Turkey Cranberry Flatbread Sandwich is one of Panera's least fat-containing sandwiches, with only 12 grams compared to others that contain 15 to 30+ grams. These two options together provide fewer than 550 calories and approximately 23 grams of protein, leaving me feeling full for hours." — Gisela Bouvier, registered dietitian and nutritionist
What's your go-to fast-food meal when trying to stay healthy? Share your picks with us below!