Even our dietitians eat these when they're on the road.
For the food-obsessed (and particularly those that seek out healthier fare), traveling can leave you feeling “meh” about mealtimes. We’re talking about the actual act of traveling—via trains, planes, and automobiles—where you’re often grabbing something quick at the airport or train station, or pulling over at a highway rest stop.
There are so many choices out there, but finding a fast food meal that’s both delicious and healthy-ish can be a challenge. We were curious and wanted answers—and, of course, we wanted to help you, too. So we honed in on salads, which tend to have a health halo (meaning they seem healthy, but can be stealthily high in calories and sodium).
We rounded up the salad menus from a handful of the top national fast food chains. We compared nutrition numbers, refined our list, and then went through their drive-thrus to sample the salads for ourselves. There were, of course, some losers, but we successfully found some clear winners: as in healthy, delicious, salads that—yes—we, the Cooking Light dietitians, would order while on the road.
Overall Winner: Chick-Fil-A Grilled Market Salad: The fresh apples and blueberries, crunchy Harvest Nut Granola, and grilled chicken helped this salad stand out and clinch the top spot on our list.
Nutrition info: Calories 330; Fat 14g (sat 2.5g); Protein 27g; Carb 26g; Fiber 6g; Sugars 12g; Sodium 670mg; Vitamin A 240% DV
Runner Up #1: Wendy’s Apple Pecan Chicken Salad: Fresh, juicy apples and tasty candied pecans really made this salad. Oftentimes fast food grilled chicken is ho-hum, but the grilled chicken on this one was among the best of the bunch. The sodium is a bit high in this salad (44% of your daily limit), but this salad has the least sodium compared to the others on the Wendy’s menu.
Nutrition info (for the full size): Calories 560; Fat 24g (sat 7g); Protein 38g; Carb 52g; Fiber 7g; Sugars 40g; Sodium 1020mg; Potassium 23% DV; Vitamin A 100% DV
Runner Up #2: McDonald’s Southwest Buttermilk Crispy Chicken Salad: This salad had lots of flavor thanks to the Southwestern vegetable blend (corn, beans, pepper) and chili lime tortilla strips (that were reminiscent of Doritos). And, surprisingly, ordering the crispy chicken instead of grilled saves you sodium and gives you more fiber.
Nutrition info: Calories 520; Fat 25g (sat 6g); Protein 28g; Carb 46g; Fiber 8g; Sugars 9g; Sodium 960mg; Vitamin A 180% DV