Pretty much anytime we think about trying to grab something decently healthy for lunch, our brains tend to go to two things: Grilled chicken sandwich or Subway. It’s monotonous and boring. Nobody can eat those two things and remain sane for very long. And it was with that notion that I set out to determine 10 more tasty options that were out there. Now, the one thing I have to preface is that EVERYTHING was bad from a sodium standpoint. If you need to lighten your salt intake, the drive thru isn’t for you in any capacity. That stated, I will say that the best Grilled Chicken is Wendy’s, which uses a honey mustard blend instead of mayonnaise, and I will say that the best Subway sandwich is the Turkey breast, with no cheese, all veggies, vinegar & mustard. I will also say that everything on Quizno’s menu is ridiculously fattening. Until they get their act together, avoid at all costs.
And that brings me to another very sad statement I have to make that I unfortunately found out when doing the research for this review. As a native Texan, I love Whataburger. All of their ingredients are fresh, tasty, and well prepared. The problem lies in the caloric and fat content. Not a thing on their menu is even in the same ballpark as other restaurants. The lightest burger they have is the mustard Whataburger with no cheese at 620 calories and 30 fat grams. Even their grilled chicken sandwich was 510 calories and 20 fat grams, and then pretty much ALL of the specialty burgers were around 1,000 calories and 70 fat grams. Compare that to the bane of “Supersize Me’s” McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese’s rather pedestrian 510 calories and 26 fat grams (boy, that was a lot of ‘s…) and you can understand my disappointment with our State’s flagship brand. Whataburger, you need to fix this.
Anyway, with that said, on with the countdown!
#10: Arby’s Classic Roast Beef and Potato Cakes
I know there are folks out there that loathe Arby’s. I’m not one of them. It might not be the best, but it is different, and I like it on occasion. This meal is pretty good considering you’re getting a full meal that amounts to 620 calories and 30 fat grams. If you like Arby’s, this is your best bet. Use Horsey sauce sparingly.
#9: Wendy’s Sour Cream & Chive Baked Potato (with a small chili)
OK, I’ve made it VERY clear that anyone who knows beans about chili knows that chili ain’t got no beans! It has made me physically force people to remove beans from some they dared to serve me. But I know there is a small consortium of folks that are OK with it, and at least Wendy’s isn’t calling their chili “Texas” chili. I can begrudgingly accept this as a healthy drive thru option. This choice works out to 520 calories and 10 grams of fat. Just think of the beans as unwelcome vermin and flick them at the car next to you.
#8: James Coney Island’s Chicago Dog
A lot of people aren’t aware of this, but JCI uses the exact same vendors as every Chicago Dog place. That means the same Vienna dog, the same bun, relish, etc. Unless Chi-towns tomatoes and onions are notably better there, (they aren’t) than this is the real McCoy, and worthy of a try. And at only 380 calories and 20 fat grams, you might want to toss in a cheese coney, as well.
#7: Beck’s Prime Kraut Dog
Beck’s Kraut Dog is two butterflied mesquite grilled franks on a hamburger bun. Pretty filling on its own, it comes in at a fairly healthy 518 calories and only 18 fat grams. Beck’s also has unique sides like grilled veggies and wild rice. (Not trying to go too healthy with y’all. Just saying they’re there and only add a couple hundred extra calories.)
#6: Chick-Fil-A 3 count Chick-n-Strips with Polynesian Sauce
Yes, I could have very easily picked Chick-Fil-A’s classic sandwich. (430 cal. 17 g fat) They are indeed awesome. But I thought that was too easy. Besides, anyone who has never tried the Strips (or nuggets, for that matter) with Polynesian sauce is missing out, big time. The 3 strips are at 360 calories and 17 fat grams, whereas the 12 count nuggets are at 400 and 18, respectively. The sauce adds a bit with and extra 110 and 6, but this is still relatively healthy and pretty damn good.
#5: Taco Bell’s Fresca Menu
You could eat all 7 menu options on this menu and still be under 50 fat grams. And that would be 3 burritos, 3 soft tacos and one crispy taco. Taco Bell has been known for years for cheap, crappy food. It looks like they’re turning a corner, and I applaud them for that. I can also say that I think the Fresca-style taco tastes better than the Supreme style, which adds nothing but sour cream and cheese. My personal recommendation would be to go with the Gordita & Tostada. But even if you’re a glutton, this is a good menu to stick with.
#4: Popeye’s Naked BBQ Po-boy with Red Beans & Rice
I love Popeye’s chicken, but their naked tenders have won me over, and this Po-Boy is so light, that even when you add a regular Red beans & Rice to it, it still adds up to 356 calories and 21 fat grams. Easily one of my favorite items.
#3: Jack in the Box’s Chicken Fajita Pita
Considering JITB is still one of the last companies using Trans-fat, I can’t argue with folks associating it with unhealthy, but they are missing out. The Fajita Pita is easily one of the best drive-thru items you can get, and it is freaking delicious! My only qualm is that a TON of drive-thru attendants forget to put in the salsa. Always make sure you have it before leaving! This puppy has only 326 calories and 10 grams of fat.
#2: KFC’s Grilled Chicken
Here was one of the coolest things I found while researching this: Mashed potatoes with gravy are always healthier than french fries. Call me a moron for not being aware of this sooner, but at least I know now. The other amazing thing? If you have the cajones (and I mean serious cajones) to order a KFC original recipe breast and drumstick, AND remove the skin, your intake will be 207 calories and 4.4 grams of fat! Easily the lowest reading on here! However, I’m doubting my readers have that much will power, so I’m going with the grilled variation of both, along with a nice delicious side of mashed potatoes. Damage? 430 calories and 15 fat grams. I will also recommend the grilled hot wings. They are really worth trying out once.
#1: Taco Cabana’s Soft Taco Combo
What can I say? I love their in-house made tortillas and I like the flavor of both the grilled chicken and the beef. And while they do have a drive-thru, I prefer to go in and get my toppings, myself. Still, I don’t think folks realize how much healthier this is for you than, say, a Whataburger. (Sorry I’m beating y’all up on this, but this has to change…) Both of these tacos (which I always consider a full meal) total in at 390 calories, and only 10 grams of fat, and you can go to town with anything in the salsa bar with no additions to that total.
Anyway, to all of you who, like me, are trying to shed a few new winter holiday pounds, I hope this has been helpful.