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8 Best New Fast-Food Menu Items of 2021

Kale and portobella egg bites? Yes, please!
FACT CHECKED BY Meghan De Maria
starbucks cups

The world of fast-food has grown even bigger in recent years as people look to add more convenience to their everyday lives. Major fast-food companies like McDonald's, Starbucks, and Zaxby's are continuously adding new items, including a lot of chicken sandwiches, to their menus to draw customers into the drive-thru lines.

While some new fast-food menu items are filled with sugar and tons of sodium, others are somewhat healthy and can be added to your weekly lunch routine without tipping the scale. We talked with two registered dietitians, Hannah Cooper, MS, RD, LDN, from Houston, Texas, and Krista Jensema, MS, RD, CSP, LDN, from Dallas, Texas, and they let us in on which new fast-food menu items are healthier choices.

And for more, don't miss these 15 Classic American Desserts That Deserve a Comeback.

1

Starbucks Honey Almond Milk Cold Brew

Starbucks Honey Almondmilk Cold Brew

Per grande (16 fl oz): 50 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 25 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (0 g fiber, 10 g sugar), 0 g protein

One of the newest drinks from Starbucks is the Honey Almond Milk Cold Brew. The drink is relatively more healthy compared to some of the other new Starbucks drinks, like the pistachio latte. "With only 50 calories, this is a great option for those who want a Starbucks treat without all the calories," Cooper says. "There are 10 grams of added sugar in this drink, which most likely comes from the honey."

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2

Starbucks Kale and Portabella Sous Vide Egg Bites

starbucks mushroom and kale
Courtesy of Starbucks
Per serving (130 g): 230 calories, 14 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 340 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 15 g protein

Sous Vide Egg Bites are a warm and easy breakfast to grab on the go along with your morning coffee from Starbucks. The new kale and portabella egg bites get the stamp of approval from Cooper. "These vegetarian-friendly egg bites are perfect for an on the go breakfast. They do have a relatively high amount of fat, so I wouldn't recommend making this a daily breakfast item," she says.

3

Dunkin' Southwest Veggie Power Breakfast Sandwich

dunkin donuts storefront with DD sign
Lynn Watson/Shutterstock
Per sandwich: 410 calories, 17 g fat (5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 800 mg sodium, 39 g carbs (9 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 26 g protein

A new option from Dunkin' is the Southwest Veggie Power Breakfast Sandwich, which is completely plant-based. The high protein content in the sandwich will help keep you fuller longer in the morning. "The sandwich does have quite a bit of sodium but still has less than the meat option," says Cooper.

4

Chipotle Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice

chipotle
Shutterstock
Per serving: 40 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 210 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (3 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 3 g protein

You just got a new option to make your bowl from Chipotle healthier with the addition of Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice as a base. The "rice" can fit into any Keto, Whole30, vegan, or vegetarian lifestyle. "The great thing about cauliflower rice is that it adds bulk to your meal without adding a ton of calories. I will say it does have a slightly high amount of sodium, however, it is still less than the white/brown rice alternative," says Cooper. Guac is still extra, though.

5

Taco Bell Loaded Nacho Taco

taco bell loaded nacho taco
Courtesy of Taco Bell
Per taco: 280 calories, 14 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 610 mg sodium, 29 g carbs (4 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 10 g protein

Taco Bell has quite a few new menu items, and one that makes the cut is the new Loaded Nacho Taco. "The taco has some fiber from the lettuce, a large amount of protein, and minimal sugar, which gives it an A-," Jensema says. To make the dish healthier, she suggests asking for half the portion of meat or cheese on the taco.

RELATED: The easy way to make healthier comfort foods.

6

Dairy Queen Rotisserie-Style Chicken Bites

dairy queen rotisserie chicken bites basket with fries and coke

Per eight-piece meal: 660 calories, 29 g fat (6 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,460 mg sodium, 58 g carbs (3 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 43 g protein

While we generally only go to Dairy Queen for the nostalgic soft serve, sometimes chicken nuggets just sound good. The new Rotisserie-Style Chicken Bites from Dairy Queen are on the healthier side, according to Jensema. "It contains 43 grams of protein, minimal sugar, and is still below the recommended daily intake of saturated fat," she says of this meal. For a healthier meal, swap out the Texas toast for a side salad or skip the side of ranch dressing.

7

KFC Chicken Sandwich

kfc chicken sandwich
Courtesy of KFC
Per sandwich: 650 calories, 35 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1,260 mg sodium, 49 g carbs (1 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 34 g protein

Another entry into the chicken sandwich wars is the new and improved KFC Chicken Sandwich. While the sandwich does have a high sodium content, Jensema notes that is the only negative. "It has a lower saturated fat content compared to a lot of fast-food options, is low in sugar, and has a high amount of protein," she says. To make the sandwich lighter, eat only half of the bun and ask for no mayo.

8

Zaxby's General Tso Boneless Wings Meal

Zaxby's boneless wings
Courtesy of Zaxby's
Per meal: 1,000 calories, 57 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 2,010 mg sodium, 90 g carbs (7 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 32 g protein

One new meal from Zaxby's coming out this month is the General Tso Boneless Wings Meal. Jensema says that this new menu item is on the healthier side due to the amount of food provided, as long as the beverage you choose is diet-friendly. "Although it has a days' worth of saturated fat and sodium, its high protein and lower sugar content allows the meal to be added to the healthy option list," says Jensema. To make the meal healthier, she suggests swapping out the Texas toast for a side salad.

Megan duBois
Megan duBois is a food and travel journalist with bylines at Forbes, Insider, Delish, Popsugar, SmarterTravel, Travel and Leisure and more. Read more