Fiber and Fast Food: High-Fiber Options at Popular Chains
Fast food isn’t good for you…and you know that already. People don’t eat fast food because they think it’s healthy. They eat it because it’s fast, cheap, and convenient. And even if you’re on a strict all-natural, high-fiber diet, there’s still room for a little fast food every now and then.
So, the next time you feel the pangs of hunger after a long day of shopping, sightseeing, or general adulting, and you’re hungry for some quick food to fill a hole, what are your best options?
What are the best high-fiber, low-fat, and relatively healthy menu items at popular fast-food chains?
Let’s take a look.
The Healthiest Options at Panera
There are a few great options at Panera Bread, but there are also some fat-laden choices, so be careful.
If you’re going with the salads, check out the Strawberry Poppyseed Salad With Chicken. It’s just 340 calories and yet it contains a massive 30g of protein and 6g of fiber. It’s also packed with vitamins and minerals. Unlike some of the other options on this list, it’s not a worst-case scenario that you only get when you’re hungry and have no other choice. It’s a genuinely healthy meal.
For something more substantial, check out the Mediterranean Veggie sandwich. It has 640 calories, but it also has 23g of protein and 7g of fiber.
Best Choices at Panera
- Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich
- Strawberry Poppyseed Salad With Chicken
- Greek Salad
The Healthiest Options at Subway
Unsurprisingly, Subway menu items are high in carbs and fat. The bread used for the subs is also high in sugar and sodium, and then you have equally salty deli meats on top of that.
You can find some high-fiber options though, providing you know where to look.
The Veggie Pattie Sub is one of the best choices. It contains a massive 12g of fiber with just 380 calories for a 6-inch sub. The problem is that it’s a regional sandwich and so it may not be available where you are. If it is and you’re feeling especially hungry, get it as a Footlong, which contains over 40g of fiber.
The Footlong Turkey Cali Club is another good option with 11g of fiber, but it also contains nearly 700 calories, so it’s far from a light meal.
The Meatball Marinara is surprisingly high in fiber and protein, but it’s better when turned into a salad or protein bowl, as it’s not so calorific.
Best Choices at Subway
- Veggie Pattie 6”
- Footlong Turkey Cali Club
- Meatball Marinara Protein Bowl or Salad
The Healthiest Options at Taco Bell
As we have discussed in previous blogs, Mexican food is great if you’re looking to increase your fiber intake. The problem is that Taco Bell takes these high-fiber foods and piles on the saturated fat and calories.
Take the Double Veggie Grilled Cheese Burrito as an example. It has 13g of fiber, which is good, but it also has over 900 calories, which is definitely not good. Still, for a rare treat, it’s not a bad option to have and it beats a greasy burger or cheesy pizza. The same applies to the Nachos BellGrande, which delivers 14g of fiber for over 700 calories.
The Chipotle Cheddar Black Bean Chalupa has 6g of fiber and just 400 calories, and there are a few others, as well.
In our opinion, the best options are the burritos. The Bean Burrito, for instance, has 10g of fiber for just 350 calories, and even the chicken and steak options have surprisingly good macros.
To maximize the fiber content and nutrients, skip the cheese, go easy on the meat, and add as many beans and veggies as you can. You can also opt for a burrito bowl, skipping the bread altogether and bringing that calorie count down.
Best Choices at Taco Bell
- Bean Burrito
- Double Veggie Grilled Cheese Burrito
- Chipotle Cheddar Black Bean Chalupa
- Crunchy Taco Supreme
- Nachos BellGrande
The Healthiest Options at Panda Express
Panda Express might seem like a healthier option than some of the other restaurants on this list, but it can be a minefield. Just because it’s not as heavy on processed meat, bread, and cheese doesn’t mean you’re getting healthy food. Oftentimes, those colorful dishes are packed with sodium, sugar, and fat, but there are some good alternatives.
One of our favorites is the Grilled Teriyaki Chicken with Mixed Vegetables. It has an impressive 40g of protein and 5g of fiber, and at less than 400 calories, you’ll still have room for a drink and a side.
String Bean Chicken Breast and the standard Chow Mein are great for high fiber and low calories.
Unfortunately, and as you may have guessed, you’ll have to give the famous Orange Chicken a miss if you want to stick with the healthy options. The Beyond Orange Chicken is a better option as it contains 150% more fiber and fewer calories, but it is still very fatty.
Best Choices at Panda Express
- Grilled Teriyaki Chicken with Mixed Vegetables
- String Bean Chicken Breast
- Chow Mein
- Beyond Orange Chicken
The Healthiest Options at Pizza Hut
Pizza menus are a challenge when you’re looking for healthier alternatives.
You have a few options here.
The first is to buy a few slices of something substantial. For instance, three slices of the Veggie Lover’s Big New York Slice make for a decent meal, and at 780 calories, it’s not too excessive.
What’s more, those slices will keep you under your DV for saturated fat and sodium while also giving you 9g of fiber and 36g of protein. You could even add a small Garden Side Salad for an extra 2g of fiber and plenty of goodness.
We recommend staying away from the Buffalo Chicken Salad and Crispy Chicken Salad. Just because they have “salad” in the name doesn’t make them healthy. The Crispy Chicken Salad contains more calories than the 3x veggie pizza slices, yet it has less fiber, more sodium, and roughly the same protein and saturated fat.
- Best Choice at Pizza Hut = Veggie Lover’s Big New York Slice + Garden Side Salad
Other Healthy Fast-Food Options
There are many other fast-food chains out there, so let’s speed run a few more:
There are some great options for high-fiber and low-fat foods at McDonald’s, but not in the United States.
In Europe, most locations have the McPlant, a vegan version of the Big Mac. You can also find many great salads and veggie/vegan options. In the US, the best you can hope for is to keep the calories low by sticking with a basic hamburger. This classic fast food item may only have 1g of fiber, but it’s also just 250 calories.
There are a few respectable options from Chick-fil-A. If you want to keep it light, stick with the salads and look for as much greenery as you can get. The Grilled Market Salad is a great example. It has just 430 calories, along with 4g of fiber and 25g of protein.
Five Guys has a relatively small menu and there are very few high-fiber and low-calorie options. The fries do contain 21g of fiber, but it’s not exactly high-quality fiber and you’ll also get 10g of saturated fat and over 1300 calories.
The Spinach, Feta, and Egg White Wrap is a great alternative to breakfast wraps that are stuffed with bacon, sausage, and cheddar cheese. It comes in at less than 300 calories and contains 3g of fiber, as well as 20g of protein.
The Chickpea Bites & Avocado Protein Box is another great choice, with 13g of fiber and 560 calories. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the drinks, many of which are loaded with sugar.
Arby’s is another tough one, as there is nothing here with more than 5g of fiber. The wraps are probably the best options, as they keep the calories and fat to a minimum and provide between 3 and 5g of fiber. It’s not enough to constitute a high-fiber meal, but it’s better than shoveling down over 700 calories via one of the beef and cheddar sandwiches.
The Rotisserie Turkey Breast Bowl is a fantastic option at Boston Market. It comes with potatoes and steamed veg and gives you 7 grams of fiber for 320 calories. You’ll also find an impressive 30g of protein in this dish.
We feel that we need to include KFC here, as it’s one of the biggest fast-food chains in the world. However, KFC isn’t great in the fiber department. In fact, only a fraction of KFC menu items contain more than 2g of fiber, and most of them are packed with over 500 calories.
There are a couple of good sides, including the Beans and Corn on the Cob. It’s not exactly a meal, but these two items will give you 260 calories and 9g of fiber. Add some Green Beans to the mix for even more nutrients and fiber.
The Chicken Pot Pie has the highest fiber content of most popular meals, but with 7g for 720 calories, it’s not the most efficient way to meet your DVs.
Chipotle, like Taco Bell, is a Mexican feast that offers a wealth of high-fiber meals, but there’s often a trade-off when it comes to calories and fat. Order foods with Black Beans and Pinto Beans, as both of these are packed with fiber, containing more than 10g of the stuff for each 120-calorie serving. The Corn Salsa and Red Tomato Salsa are also high in fiber.
The Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad from Wendy’s has less than 500 calories, but it’s full of goodness. It contains 8 grams of fiber and over 40 grams of protein. The fat content is on the high side, as expected, but those are still some very good numbers.
Summary: Getting Your Fill of Fast-Food Fiber
As you can see, it is possible to get lots of fiber from fast food menu items. Many of the above options are also high in protein. But that doesn’t mean you should be eating these foods every day.
Fast food is highly processed, which means a lot of the goodness has been removed. Even if the fiber remains, you’re not getting the same nutrients you would get if you cooked the same meal at home. More worryingly, these foods are often dangerously high in salt, sugar, and saturated fat.
So, while there are certainly “better” options, they are far from the best.