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The Best Fast-Food Salads to Order When You’re Eating Healthy

Can a drive-thru order make a healthy meal? Absolutely. Here are the best fast-food salad options to satisfy your tastebuds and help you feel energized and full.

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Chick-fil-A Grilled Market SaladShutterstock, via chick-fil-a.com

Chick-fil-A Grilled Market Salad

This fast-food salad looks straight out of a farmers market stall, with baby greens, red and green apples, strawberries, blueberries and a smattering of crunchy granola. Top with a grilled filet instead of the Chick-fil-A spicy filet to slash sodium by 50% and saturated fat and calories by 25% each.

To round out the meal, ask for a fruit cup on the side. You’ll get an extra dose of filling-fiber and cancer-fighting antioxidants with zero extra sodium or fat.

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subway sweet onion chicken saladGetty Images, via subway.com

Subway Sweet Onion Teriyaki Salad

Subway tops our list of healthy fast-food places. The tangy sauce on this Sweet Onion Teriyaki Chicken salad packs a lot of flavor, as does the juicy grilled chicken! Plus, it packs 19 grams of protein and only one gram of saturated fat, which makes this order feel like meal that might be worth eating more often.

You can copycat this Subway salad at home. Just pull out the slow cooker to make teriyaki chicken, and toss it over a premade salad kit for another fast-and-easy dinner.

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Chipotle Chicken SaladShutterstock (2)

Chipotle Chicken Salad

Lighten up your Chipotle burrito by taking all of the fresh fillings (think pico de gallo, fajita veggies and black beans) and plopping them on a bed of romaine lettuce. It’ll be half the calories, 100 fewer grams of carbohydrates (for those who are watching their blood sugar) and a whopping 47 grams or protein. Don’t forget a scoop of super-satisfying guac, even though, yes, we know it’s extra.

Psst: Make these tasty Chipotle copycat recipes at home.

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Starbucks Grilled Chicken & Cauliflower Tabbouleh SaladGetty Images, via starbucks.com

Starbucks Grilled Chicken & Cauliflower Tabbouleh Salad

You can find healthy drinks and healthy food at Starbucks. You’ll find an unexpected blend of tastes and textures in this tasty salad. It’s satisfying and nutrient-rich, containing 21 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber as well as vitamin C (thanks to its red peppers and cauliflower) and calcium (from the feta). Plus, it’s plated on a bed of peppery arugula giving you that cafe lunch feeling. If you’re curious about tabbouleh (a middle Eastern grain salad), this is a great way to get a fast and filling introduction.

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Panera Asian Sesame Chicken SaladShutterstock, via panerabread.com

Panera Asian Sesame Chicken Salad

It’s tough to pick just one salad from Panera, but the Asian Sesame Chicken salad is our winner. Thanks to the fact that its centerpiece ingredient is chicken, this salad has 27 grams of protein with only three grams of saturated fat (the kind we want to avoid). Almonds and sesame seeds help bring the disease-fighting fiber.

You can make copycat salads like this at home with our tasty Panera recipes.

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Taco Bell Power Menu BowlGetty Images, via tacobell.com

Taco Bell Power Menu Bowl

Motion to make Taco (Salad) Tuesday a thing!

Since you can customize this Taco Bell bowl, go with the grilled chicken, black beans and cheese for the most protein power. This fast-food salad clocks in at 27 grams of protein and eight grams of fiber, the highest of all the salads on this list. Taco Bell has made major upgrades in the nutrition department, slashing sodium across the menu by 15%, removing all dyes and artificial flavors and serving 100% cage-free eggs.

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Arby's Farmhouse Salad with Roast TurkeyShutterstock, via arbys.com

Arby’s Farmhouse Salad with Roast Turkey

Bacon makes everything better—including this meal at Arby’s. The roast turkey farmhouse salad comes in at 240 calories and is topped with the chain’s famous pepper bacon. This isn’t the only healthy fast-food item at Arby’s, either.

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carls jr saladGetty Images, via vegascarlsjr.com

Carl’s Jr. Charbroiled Chicken Salad

To make this good-for-you salad even better (it has 32 grams of protein for fewer than 300 calories), skip the dressing and croutons. And for vegetarians and vegans looking for a plant-based option, Carl’s Jr. added the Beyond Burger to its menu.

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Jack in the Box Grilled Chicken SaladShutterstock, via jackinthebox.com

Jack in the Box Grilled Chicken Salad

Thanks to its unique sourdough bun, Jack in the Box is known for selling one of the best fast-food cheeseburgers. If you’re traveling with someone who must have a Sourdough Jack but would rather opt for something healthy yourself, don’t despair. Jack in the Box has some lower sodium, lower saturated fat options, like this Grilled Chicken Salad. It contains chicken (of course) and plenty of fresh grape tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers.

To add extra flavor without as much sodium and calories, opt for the balsamic vinaigrette dressing. And if you can plan ahead, pack some spicy roasted nuts to sprinkle on top. You’ll bulk up the fiber, protein and heart-healthy unsaturated fats, helping you stay full longer.

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Wendy's Summer Strawberry SaladGetty Images, via wendys.com

Wendy’s Summer Strawberry Salad

This bowl hits all the right flavor notes. Fresh strawberries, Parmesan, Asiago and Romano cheeses, and small bits of salty bacon sit atop crunchy greens to make this fast-food salad rich in protein and potassium. Thanks to its zesty champagne vinaigrette dressing, this Wendy’s salad is the chain’s best option.

Amelia Sherry, MPH, RD, CDN, CDCES
Amelia Sherry, MPH, RD, CDCES, provides nutrition therapy via a New York-based private practice and has special training in family feeding dynamics and disordered eating. She is also the founder of NourishHer, which supports mothers who want to protect their daughters who have happy, healthy relationships with food and body. She has written for publications including Reader's Digest, Family Circle, Fitness, SELF, Redbook, Latina, Today's Dietitian and Woman's World.