7 Best High-Protein Fast-Food Sandwiches
Fast food isn't all bad. Yes, there are some orders that will send your calorie, fat, sodium, and sugar counts through the roof, and those are the ones you may want to avoid consuming on a regular basis. But in some cases, when you're in need of a quick and affordable meal, you can find healthier fast-food orders that can even provide a boost of protein, which is why we talked with a dietitian to learn more about high-protein fast-food sandwich options at your favorite chains.
Just because something is high in protein doesn't mean it's healthy, though. Take the Wendy's Pretzel Bacon Pub Burger, for example. This sandwich will fill you up with 89 grams of protein, but with 1,500 calories, 44 grams of saturated fat, and over 1,800 milligrams of sodium, the protein count simply isn't worth it. But if you know what to look for and where to look for it, you can find a high-protein fast-food sandwich that is a bit better for you health-wise.
How to order the healthiest high-protein fast-food sandwiches.
According to Mary Sabat MS, RDN, LD, when you're looking for a healthier high-protein sandwich at your favorite fast-food joint, you can consider the following factors:
- Protein content: Aim for sandwiches with a significant amount of protein. Protein helps keep you full and supports muscle maintenance and growth.
- Whole grains: Opt for sandwiches made with whole grain bread or wraps instead of refined grains to increase fiber and nutrient intake.
- Lean protein sources: Choose sandwiches with lean protein sources like grilled chicken, turkey, fish, or plant-based options like tofu or black bean patties.
- Fresh vegetables: Look for sandwiches that include fresh vegetables, such as lettuce, tomatoes, onions, or bell peppers, for added nutrients and fiber.
- Limited added sugar and sodium: Watch out for added sugars and excessive sodium in condiments or sauces.
- Portion size: Pay attention to portion sizes and consider sharing a larger sandwich or ordering a smaller size.
Here are some dietitian-recommended examples of fast-food sandwiches that are high in protein and considered to be relatively healthier for you than many other options. Read on, and for more, don't miss The 15 Best High-Protein Fast Food Meals.
Subway Grilled Chicken Sandwich
One of the first sandwiches that Sabat recommends trying is a classic Grilled Chicken Sandwich from Subway. "On a 6-inch roll this sandwich gives you the highest amount of protein out of the other sandwiches at 27 grams for just 290 calories, as well as the lowest amount of fat at 4 grams and saturated fat at just 1 gram," says Sabat. "Adding loads of vegetables can pack in some good antioxidants and fiber, and choosing to add some avocado instead of mayo will add healthy fat, making this a good high-protein choice for a quick grab."
Subway Steak Sandwich
Even though one of Sabat's rules of thumb is to stick to learner protein options, sometimes you're just craving red meat. In these cases, it's good to know of your healthier steak options so you don't have to turn to something with a day's worth of saturated fat. If you're at Subway, Sabat suggests the Steak & Cheese sub.
"This sandwich on a 6-inch roll gives you another great choice for high-protein, healthier options at Subway," she says. "The Steak Sandwich provides 26 grams of protein with just 10 grams of fat, 5 of which are saturated." She also recommends adding "loads of healthy vegetables for antioxidants and fiber, and choosing healthy condiments like avocado or mustard."
Chick-fil-A Grilled Chicken Sandwich
For those who want a grilled chicken sandwich that actually still tastes good, Chick-fil-A is the place to be.
"The Grilled Chicken Sandwich gives you 38 grams of lean protein with just 12 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, and 390 calories, making this the healthiest high-protein option on the menu," says Sabat. To make it the healthiest it can be, she says to "Skip the high-fat sauces altogether, but if you're craving sauce choose the Zesty Buffalo Sauce for just 25 extra calories."
Wendy's Grilled Chicken Ranch Wrap
Wendy's has some exciting new items that they released in Spring 2023, and one of the items will give you a protein boost in a fairly healthy way.
"The Grilled Chicken Ranch Wrap will be your healthiest choice for a high-protein meal at Wendy's," says Sabat. "For 470 calories, you get 27 grams of protein with 16 grams of fat and 5 grams of saturated fat, making it far better than any other of the fried choices on the menu."
If you'd like, you can even "lower the fat and calorie content of this meal by asking them to skip the cheese and ranch dressing."
Arby's Classic Roast Beef
Arby's is known for its roast beef, but the specific roast beef option you choose can make all of the difference in the nutritional value of that meal. For instance, a Half Pound Beef N' Cheddar is 740 calories and comes with a whopping 2,530 milligrams of sodium and 39 grams of fat. Instead, you can order their Classic Roast Beef as a healthier option that still gives you a protein boost.
"The Classic Roast Beef gives you 23 grams of protein for just 360 calories, 14 grams of fat, and 5 grams of saturated fat, making this the best choice at Arby's," says Sabat. "Be sure to choose the fat-free Arby's Sauce and skip the heavier options," she adds.
Panera Deli Turkey Sandwich
For a deli-style sandwich on a couple of fluffy slices of sourdough, the Deli Turkey Sandwich from Panera is the perfect way to enjoy a healthier, high-protein fast-food sandwich.
"The Deli Turkey on Country Rustic Sourdough is just 590 calories for a full sandwich, but has 35 grams of protein for just 17 grams of fat and 3 grams of saturated fat," says Sabat. "The sourdough bread is also a healthier choice due to its fermented nature, and it tends to be easier to digest and an overall better choice for feeding healthy gut bacteria."
Au Bon Pain Chipotle Black Bean Burger with Avocado
Au Bon Pain is great for those who want a delicious cup of coffee or pastry, but they also have a full menu of delicious sandwiches and burgers, too. And for a higher-protein, healthier option when visiting this spot, Sabat suggests the Chipotle Black Bean Burger.
"This sandwich is a high-protein vegetarian option that gives you 29 grams of plant-based protein," says Sabat. "However, it does come at the cost of 730 calories, 37 of which are from fat and 8 from saturated fat."
She adds that "The black beans and avocado make this a healthy choice for the high-fiber and nutrient content, though, and you can cut out the cheese and Chipotle Aioli Sauce, which will nix a whole lot of the calories and unhealthy fats, making it a very healthy high-protein choice for vegetarians."