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Top low-calorie & high nutrient drive-thru foods

Sarah Walker Caron is an award winning journalist, freelance writer and editor. She lives a happy life in Maine with her two children, where they love to hike, visit the beaches and have lots of silly fun. Check out her food blog at Sara...

Healthy choices at the drive-thru

We all know that we shouldn’t be hitting the drive-thru window, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Here’s how to order low-calorie, high-nutrient foods.

Everyone knows that if you order from a drive-thru, you probably aren't getting the best or healthiest food that money can buy. But sometimes eating fast food is unavoidable, so you need to make smart choices and get the best options for your money.

Here's what the experts recommended for top low-calorie and high-nutrient drive-thru foods.

Healthy choices at the drive-thru1Grilled chicken wrap

Whenever you order chicken (fast food or not), it shouldn't be breaded or fried. Those chicken options add on lots of extra calories and fat. "Try grilled or broiled items over fried (for instance, a grilled-chicken wrap, not a fried-chicken wrap). Skip the sauces and dressings and save up to 200 calories, or more," says registered dietritian and nutrition consultant Roseanne Rust, author of Restaurant Calorie Counter for Dummies, 2nd edition.

For instance, a Chipotle Barbecue Snack Wrap with grilled chicken from McDonald's is 260 calories and has 9 grams of fat, a savings of 70 calories and 6 grams of fat over the crispy version.

Healthy choices at the drive-thru2Soup or Chili

Looking for a quick, cheap bite that will fill you up -- in a healthy way? Rust suggests trying the soup or chili, which is likely to be one of the healthier menu items (as long as it's not cream-based).

A small chili at Wendy's, which can be pretty filling, is 220 calories and has 7 grams of fat.

3Chicken sandwich and a side garden salad

Healthy choices at the drive-thru

When you are in the mood for something more substantial, the trick is to skip the fries and order smartly. "Probably one of the best options would be to get a chicken breast sandwich with tomato and lettuce (hold the mayo or go light), along with a side garden salad. You could make this at home and it would be healthy, and it's not much different at the local fast-food establishment," says registered dietitan Brian Zehetner of Anytime Fitness.

We checked it out. At McDonald's, a Premium Grilled Chicken Sandwich (the classic version), hold the mayo, with a side salad, is 390 calories and 5 grams of fat. By skipping the mayo, you save 50 calories.

4A carefully-selected salad

Healthy choices at the drive-thru

Salads are tricky at fast-food joints, since they pile on the toppings. "The 'regular' salads are typically too high in calories for the average health-conscious consumer," says Zehetner.

But you can work around it by ordering a half size salad (where it's available) and making smart choices. "If you are ordering a salad, stick with a vinaigrette dressing and watch how much you are putting on it," says registered dietritian Ann Dunaway Teh.

A half-size portion of the Apple-Pecan Chicken Salad at Wendy's has 244 calories and 18 grams of fat, but if you skip the pecans, then it only has 9 grams of fat.

More healthy fast food options

Fast food locations serve as a budget-friendly alternative to restaurants. Health Magazine senior editor Frances Largeman-Roth highlights calorie-friendly menu choices.

More healthy diet tips

Secrets to healthy eating at work
Eat right when eating out: 5 Healthy girl tricks
5 Diet tips for dining out

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