Sure, it would be great if you were always on point with meal planning during the work week, but for those days when you barely make it out the door in one piece, you may forget to pack your lunch ahead of time. This immediately makes lunchtime a source of tension and anxiety, because you don't want to blow your diet to smithereens at the fast food drive-thru.
Fortunately, many fast food establishments are beginning to see the value in offering lower-calorie menu items for customers who want to have some semblance of a nutritious meal while they're on the go. Below are seven low-calorie fast food options that won't put your calorie count into overdrive.
1. Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich (McDonald's) - This flavorful sandwich carries a good balance of carbs, protein, and fat, and starts at a modest 350 calories. If you want to reduce the calorie count even further, you can ask to hold the mayo, which will save you about 50 calories. Try a side order of fruit and walnuts (210 calories, 60 mg sodium) to include some raw foods in the mix.
2. 8-Count Grilled Chicken Nuggets (Chick-fil-A) - Chick-fil-A has garnered a solid reputation for offering some of the most high-quality fast food around, and their 8-count grilled chicken nuggets are the lowest-calorie selection on their menu at only 140 calories. Add a side salad (80 calories) to get a boost of fresh veggies with your meal.
3. Six-Inch Turkey Breast Sandwich on 9-Grain Wheat Bread (Subway) - This signature sandwich from Subway offers the total package via a nice lean protein (turkey), fresh veggies and a quality whole-grain carbohydrate for only 360 calories. Kick the flavor up a notch by adding spicy brown mustard and some avocado.
4. Vegetarian Salad (Chipotle) - Customization is the name of the game at Chipotle, and when you add fajita vegetables, black beans, and vinaigrette to their vegetarian salad, you're going to have a low-calorie but delightfully flavorful meal. Total calorie count for the salad setup is 420. Add guac for a boost of healthy fat.
5. T-K-Y Skinny Sandwich (Potbelly) - With 1/3 less meat and thinner bread slices than their regular sandwiches, Potbelly's Skinny sandwiches are a good choice to keep the calories from getting out of hand. Their T-K-Y Skinny Sandwich features freshly sliced turkey breast and melted Swiss cheese with your choice of toppings. As-is, the sandwich comes in at a favorable 294 calories, but be careful not to overdo it with toppings such as mayo, oil and extra cheese, as these can boost the calorie content in short order.
6. Large Vegetarian Chili and Baked Potato (Wendy's) - If you're looking to skip the meat for one of your meals, you can't go wrong with Wendy's vegetarian chili. It's delicious and filling, and weighs in at only 310 calories (minus cheese and crackers). Their baked potato is a great side to add to the meal, but be sure not to overdo it on the sour cream.
7. Half Smoked Turkey Breast on Country Cafe Sandwich (Panera Bread) - While the quality of Panera Bread's food is excellent, the calorie count can easily careen out of control if you're not careful. You can play it smart and safe with their Half Smoked Turkey Breast on Country Cafe Sandwich, which boasts a very even-keeled 310 calories and only 9 grams of fat.