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Fitting Fast Foods Into a Heart Healthy Diet

Fast foods have become a staple in our American culture. Hectic work schedules, family responsibilities and limited free time force many of us to get our nutrition outside the home. So, how can you fit fast foods into your life and still reap the benefits of a heart-healthy diet?

Hamburgers

To help you cut back on fat and calories when ordering hamburgers, try these suggestions:

  • Choose a single patty, preferably 3-4 ounces in size
  • Choose from the children's menu or pick a junior size
  • Skip the cheese
  • Opt out of bacon
  • Skip the mayonnaise or special sauce; try ketchup or mustard instead

Before your next hamburger trip, check out our Best Choice list first! These choices tend to have fewer calories and fat then other hamburger options.

Best Choice
  Calories Fat Sat Fat Trans Fat
Burger King
Whopper Jr. 260 11g 4g 0g
Plain hamburger 260 11g 4g 0g
Veggie burger 410 16g 2.5g 0g
McDonald's
Plain hamburger 250 9g 3.5g 0.5g
Wendy's
Junior hamburger 230 8g 3g 0g
White Castle
2 plain hamburgers 270 14g 6g 0g
Arby's
Jr.roast beef sandwich 300 9g 3.5g 0g
Ham & Swiss melt 300 8g 3.5g 0g

Chicken Sandwiches and Strips

You may think that chicken is a heart-healthier choice over beef; however, the fast food industry has managed to turn a low-fat serving of chicken into an artery-clogging mess, often higher in fat (and sodium) than a burger. Here are a few suggestions on making healthier fast-food chicken choices:

  • Make sure the chicken is baked, broiled or grilled instead of fried or breaded
  • Skip the cheese, mayonnaise or special sauces - see if reduced-fat options are available or try ketchup or mustard
  • Order fat-free honey mustard, teriyaki or barbecue sauce on the side
  • Top chicken sandwiches with lots of lettuce, tomato and onion
  • Ask for a whole grain bun
Best Choice
  Calories Fat Sat Fat Trans Fat
Burger King
Tender grilled chicken sandwich 490 21g 4g 0g
McDonald's
Premium chicken sandwich 420 10g 2g 0g
4 pc McNugget 190 12g 2g 0g
Wendy's
Grilled chicken sandwich 350 7g 1.5g 0g
Grilled chicken go wrap 250 10g 3g 0g
Chic-Fil-A
Chargrilled chicken sandwich 290 4g 1g 0g
Arby's
Roast chicken sandwich 400 16g 2.5g 0g
Roast chicken ranch 340 9g 1.5g 0g

Fish Sandwiches

Studies have shown that fish contains heart-protective fats called Omega-3. Unfortunately, most fast-food restaurants do not offer grilled or baked fish options, so there are no Best Choices in this category.

Some tips when ordering fish sandwiches:

  • Pass on the tartar sauce and omit the cheese

Sub & Deli Sandwiches

Sub sandwiches offer consumers a wider variety of mealtime choices.

Here's a few beginner tips on making wise sub or deli sandwich choices:

  • Ask for a whole grain bun, bread, or tortilla
  • Skip the mayonnaise and cheese and ask for a light dressing on the side
  • Top sub or sandwich with vinegar and salt-free seasonings
  • Eat half the sandwich at the mealtime and save the other half for later
  • Top the sub with a lot of veggies like green and red peppers, onions, tomato, lettuce, spinach, pickles and olives

Here is a list of our Best Choices deli and sub sandwiches:

Best Choices
  Calories Fat Sat Fat Trans Fat
Subway
*These subs contain no mayonnaise or cheese
6" Ham sub* 290 4.5g 1g 0g
6" Roast beef* 310 4.5g 1.5g 0g
6" Oven Roasted chicken* 320 4.5g 1.5g 0g
6" Subway club* 320 5g 1.5g 0g
6" Turkey breast* 280 3.5g 1.5g 0g
6" Turkey breast and ham* 290 4g 1.5 0g
6" Veggie delight* 230 2.5g 0.5g 0g
6" Sweet onion chicken teriyaki* 380 4.5g 1.5g 0g
Arby's
Market Fresh Roast Chicken Ranch 340 9g 1.5g 0g
Roasted Chicken Sandwich 400 16g 2.5g 0g
Arby-Q 370 10g 3.5g 0g

Tacos & Burritos
Best Choices

Taco Bell offers a "Fresco Style" menu in which the cheese and sauce are replaced by "fiesta salsa". This fiesta salsa offers a negligible 5 calories per serving and 0 grams of fat.

Taco Bell - All are "Fresco"
  Calories Fat Sat Fat Trans Fat
Fresh Crunchy Taco 150 7g 2.5g 0g
Soft Taco (Beef) 180 7g 3g 0g
Soft Taco (Chicken) 170 4g 1.5g 0g
Grilled Steak soft taco 160 4.5g 1.5g 0g
Bean Burrito 340 8g 2.5g 0g
Burrito Supreme (Chicken) 340 8g 2.5g 0g
Burrito Supreme (Steak) 330 8g 3g 0g

Chipotle Mexican Grill

Buyers beware: if you're not careful, putting all the fixings into a burrito can add up to more than 1,200 calories and 19 grams of saturated fat!

Tips when dining at Chipotle:

  • Choose any corn or tomato salsas.
  • If calories are a concern, skip the large burrito flour tortilla; it racks in 290 calories and 9 grams of fat (3 of which are saturated). Instead, choose a burrito bowl (no tortilla), taco sized flour tortilla, or crispy taco shell.
  • Double up on the veggies and salsa to add bulk to the meal but not excess calories or fat.
  • Cheese adds 100 calories, 8.5g fat and 5 g saturated fat – keep this in mind when watching calories and fat intake.

Gourmet Foods

Many gourmet food eateries offer healthier food options, but that doesn’t always mean menu choices are low in calories or saturated fat. Add some flavor by replacing high-fat items with extra vegetables, salsa, tofu or hummus.

Panera Bread - Best Choices
  Calories Fat Sat Fat Trans Fat
Sandwiches
Mediterranean Veggie 610 13g 3.5g 0g
Smoked Turkey (no mayo) 460 6g 1g 0g
Whole Grain Bagel with 1/2 serving (1 oz) reduced fat cream cheese 430 9.5g 3.5g 0g
Soups
Low Fat Garden Vegetable w/ Pesto 160 3.5g 0g 0g
Low Fat Chicken Noodle Soup 110 4g 1.5g 0g
Low Fat Vegetarian Black Bean 170 4g 1.5g 0g

Salads & Sides

Be cautious: some salad items are not necessarily heart-healthy. Here are a few tips to ensure your choice is a healthy one:

Tips for Salads:
  • Eliminate the “extras” such as croutons, tortilla chips, bacon bits, cheese, sour cream, and chinese noodles - these can add (individually) anywhere from 60 to 220 calories, 2.5 to 12 grams of fat, and up to 3 grams of saturated fat.
  • Substitute regular salad dressings with light, reduced fat or fat-free salad dressing. Regular salad dressings add between 180 and 250 calories per packet, 20 to 30 grams of fat, and up to 6 grams of saturated fat.
  • Skip the cheese.
Best Choice Salads (Unless noted, excludes salad dressing)
  Calories Fat Sat Fat Trans Fat
McDonalds
Southwest with grilled chicken 320 9g 3g 0g
Caesar with grilled chicken 220 6g 3g 0g
Newmann's Own low fat balsamic dressing 40 3g 0g 0g
Newmann's Own low fat family recipe Italian 60 2.5g 0g 0g
Burger King
Tendergrill chicken salad with Ken's Light Italian dressing 390 21g 5g 0g
Wendy's
Mandarin Chicken with Oriental salad dressing (excluding crispy wontons and croutons) 350 12g 2g 0g
Chick-fil-A
Chargrilled Chicken & Fruit salad 220 6g 3.5g 0g
Chargrilled Chicken Garden salad 180 6g 3.5g 0g
Southwest Chargrilled salad 240 9g 4g 0g
Panera
Asian Sesame Chicken (w/o crispy wontons) 270 14g 2g 0g
Large fruit cup 130 0g 0g 0g
Greek 210 15g 4.5g 0g
Strawberry Poppyseed 170 6g 0g 0g
BBQ Chopped Chicken 350 10g 1g 0g
Salmon Caesar 330 18g 6g 0g
Reduced fat balsamic vinaigrette (1.5 oz) 130 10g 1.5g  
Red-Sugar Asian Sesame vinaigrette 70 8g 1g 0g
Fat Free Poppyseed (1.5 oz) 15 0 0 0
Tangerine Honey Vinaigrette (1.5 oz) 100 7g 1g 0g
Light Buttermilk Ranch (1.5 oz) 80 4g 0.5g 0

Side Items
Tips for Sides:
  • Skip the fries, or choose the smallest portion. French fries can add 210 calories (kid’s portion) to 610 calories (large), 11 to 45 grams total fat, and 1.5 to 5 grams saturated fat.
  • Choose a side salad with light dressing instead of French fries
  • When ordering baked potatoes, pass on the cheese and ask for sour cream and butter on the side. Try steamed vegetables, salsa, barbecue sauce or a nonfat salad dressing to top your potato
Best Choices Side Items
  calories fat sat fat trans fat
McDonald's
Snack size fruit & walnut salad 210 8g 1.5g 0g
Side salad 20 0g 0g 0g
Fruit & yogurt parfait (w/o granola) 130 2g 1g 0g
Fruit & yogurt parfait (w/ granola) 160 2g 1g 0g
Apple dippers 35 0g 0g 0g
Low fat caramel dip 70 0.5g 0g 0g
Wendy's
Plain baked potato 270 0g 0g 0g
Mandarin oranges 80 0g 0g 0g
Small chili 190 6g 2.5g 0g
Side salad 130 8g 1.5g 0g
Chick-fil-A
Carrot & Raisin salad 260 12g 2g 0g
Fruit cup 70 0g 0g 0g
Side salad 70 4.5g 3g 0g
Burger King
Kid's Apple "French fries" 70 0.5g 0g 0g
Panera
Strawberry parfait (w/o granola) 120 1.5g 1g 0g
Small fruit cup 60 0g 0g 0g
Apple 80 0g 0g 0g
Small Low Fat Garden Vegetable soup 110 2g 0g 0g
Small Low Fat Chicken Noodle soup 110 2g 1g 0g
Small Vegetarian Black Bean soup 110 2g 1g 0g
Small French Onion soup 210 9g 5g 0g

Breakfast

It goes without saying that keeping it simple at coffee houses is the way to go. We’ve got some good choices for you to consider.

Best Choices
  calories fat sat fat trans fat
Starbucks
House brew coffee 5 0g 0g 0g
Short Chai Tea Latta 100 0g 0g 0g
Grande Cafe Americano 15 0g 0g 0g
Opt for nonfat milk, sugar-free syrup and hold the whipped cream
Perfect Oatmeal with dried fruit and nuts 340 11.5g 1.5g 0g
Low Fat Red Raspberry Muffin 340 6g 1.5g 0g
Multigrain bagel 320 4g 0g 0g
Egg White, Spinach & Feta Wrap 280 10g 3.5g 0g
Reduced Fat Turkey Bacon w/Egg White and White Cheddar Cheese on an English Muffin 320 7g 2g 0g
Fruit Cup or Banana 90 0g 0g 0g
Dunkin Donuts
Small Coffee 5 0g 0g 0g
Latte Light Medium 120 0g 0g 0g
Multigrain Bagel with ½ serving Reduced Fat Cream Cheese 440 12g 3g 0g
Egg White & Cheese English Muffin 270 5g 3g 0g
Egg White & Veggie Flatbread 290 9g 4g 0g
Egg White & Cheese Wake Up Wrap 150 6g 3g 0g
Egg White Turkey Sausage Flatbread 280 8g 3g 18g
Low Fat Cranberry Orange Muffin 390 3g 1g 0g
Original Oatmeal with Dried Fruit 270 4g 1g 0g
Subway
Basic Build
Choice of:
Light Wheat English Muffin, Egg White, Black Forest Ham, American Cheese, Veggies (red onion, green pepper, etc.)
>200 4.5g 2g 0g
McDonald's
Egg McMuffin, Sausage Burrito, no cheese 250 12g 4g 0g
Egg White Delight 250 9g 3g 0g
Hotcakes, Plain, no margarine 350 9g 2g 0g
Oatmeal Plain 190 2.5g 0g 0g
Oatmeal with Dried Fruit (no cream) 270 2.5g 0g 0g
Panera Bread
Cornbread Muffin 230 9g 1.5g 0g
Whole Grain Baguette 180 1g 0g 0g
Whole Grain Bagel 340 2.5g 0g 0g
Plain Bagel 290 1.5g 0g 0g
Everything Bagel 300 2.5g 0g 0g
Sesame Bagel 310 3g 0g 0g
Plain Cream Cheese - Reduced Fat (1 oz.) 70 6g 4g 0g
Hazelnut Cream Cheese - Reduced Fat (1 oz.) 80 6g 3.5g 0g
Raspberry Cream Cheese - Reduced Fat (1 oz.) 70 5g 3g 0g
Veggie Cream Cheese - Reduced Fat (1 oz.) 60 5g 3g 0g
Sun-dried Tomato Cream Cheese - Reduced Fat (1 oz.) 70 6g 3.5g 0g
Chick-Fil-A
Yogurt Parfait 330 6g 2g 0g
Yogurt Parfait with Granola 290 6g 2g 0g

When dining out sticking to the healthier menu options can be easy if they are noted on the menu. Many fast food restaurants have healthy food choices indicated on their menu:

  • McDonalds: Favorites under 400 calories are listed on the menu
  • Panera: Calories are listed next to each item
  • Subway: Choose the Fit Fresh choices or have the Heart Healthy meal symbol
  • Taco Bell: The Fresco menu options
  • Dunkin’ Dounts: Choose from the DD Smart menu

As you can see, fast foods CAN fit into a heart-healthy diet.

For more information on a heart-healthy diet plan, please contact the Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation Program at 216.444.9353 (or toll-free at 800.223.2273, extension 49353) and we can schedule a nutrition consultation.


*The information used to create this guide was obtained from individual restaurant websites. Please refer to the websites for the most current nutritional information.

Web Sites and Resources for Fast Food Nutrition Information

Talk to a Nurse: Mon. - Fri., 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. (ET)

Call a Heart & Vascular Nurse locally 216.445.9288 or toll-free 866.289.6911.

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This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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