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  • Caroline Eisenberg, RD

My Fast Food Picks That Won't Kill Your Diet

Updated: Jun 22, 2021

I would like to preface this blog with my stance on restaurants and fast food in general. I encourage all of my clients to limit eating out as much as possible so that they can have maximum control over their food......but when life happens, I would rather see someone make an informed decision at a fast food joint, than skipping a meal all together. And because I am only human, that applies to me too! Here are my picks for when I am left less than prepared on the road or looking for a last minute snack.


As a snack: I love, love, love pastries, and I am pretty good at satisfying my cravings in moderation and that is why I choose the petite vanilla bean scone. These suckers are still pretty large, despite their name, and because they are the real deal (at only 120 calories!) you don't have to worry about any weird fat substitutions or weird after taste. Of course, I would need to order coffee with my pastry! I am pretty basic and therefore go crazy for all things pumpkin this year so I naturally gravitate towards the pumpkin spice latte. The standard Grande order packs in 380 calories....That's a meal! For those of us who just can't afford that in more ways than one, try a tall hot coffee with one pump of pumpkin sauce (40 calories) and low fat milk.

As a meal: The egg and cheese wrap is a pretty solid choice at 280 calories and one of the few fast-food meal selections will find under 500 mg of sodium and the 12 grams of satisfying protein will get you through your hectic morning until lunch.

Dunkin Donuts:

As a meal: Similar to the egg and cheese wrap, the Egg and Cheese on an English muffin is the best option for a low cal, low fat, high fiber (7 grams!) meal. This is also my go to order at Diners. Craving a Bagel? The multigrain bagel (350 calories) must be made with actual whole grain because it packs in a solid 8 grams of fiber. That's 30% of your recommended fiber intake for the day!

As a snack: The egg white veggie wake up wrap (150 calories, 9 grams of protein) can fill in for a pre-workout snack or 3 pm pick-me-up. And for those of us who can't give up the forbidden donut, indulged in 1 (or maybe 2) sugared munchkin (60 calories).


As a meal: I usually avoid chain restaurants like the plague, but I do appreciate Panera's effort to supply meats raised without antibiotics and their general approach to higher quality and fresh food. So in a pinch, or on a road trip, I will pick Panera over most options. Although I have yet to try it, the ancient grain, arugula chicken salad will probably be my next order. While salads are not always your best option while dining out, this salad is less than 450 calories (with dressing) and is loaded with super foods like farro and barley, and centered around a lean protein.

As a snack: Did I mention I love baked goods. I would rather cut down on my serving size than eat a pathetic and artificial substitute, so the petite chocolate chipper (100 calories) is the perfect example of portion control. And if you are looking for something a little more well rounded, try a cafe latte with skim milk. Coffee cheers!


As a meal: It is tempting to gravitate towards the kiosk and order a hoagie, but even a shorti is loaded in sodium and hardly satisfying. I usually grab a hard-boiled egg and one of their already made green salads and throw them together with a couple tablespoons light vinaigrette.

As a snack: This is pretty easy. Wawa is loaded with favorites like light yogurt, hummus, cheese sticks and handy servings of fresh fruit and veggies. Unfortunately the portions for some of these items (PB and apple slices, hummus and pita) are out.of.control. So limit snacking to 150-200 calories and you will be ok.

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