It's safe to say that if you're planning on sticking to specific nutrition goals when choosing a meal, fast food is probably not on your mind. However, fast food is sometimes the best option for us due to its accessibility, affordability, and how easy it is to grab when you're in a hurry. And thankfully, there are plenty of healthier, high-protein fast food options to choose from when you need.
"The following fast-food entrees are actually great sources of protein, which is important for building and repairing lean muscle, as well as keeping hunger at bay," says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and member of our Medical Expert Board. "Protein helps get you full faster and stay full longer, making it necessary to include at every meal, not just post-workout."
But when it comes to getting enough protein in every meal, how much should we be aiming for? According to Goodson, "the goal is to include 20–30 grams of high-quality protein at your main meals of breakfast, lunch, and dinner."
If you find yourself in a place of wanting to order a fast food meal, try one of the following high-protein options that can help you meet your protein goals for the day. Then, for more advice on eating out, check out The Best Dishes To Order at a Steakhouse.
McDonald's McDouble (22 grams of protein)
The McDonald's McDouble certainly isn't considered "healthy," but it is a delicious way to get a boost of 22 grams of protein in your meal. The 9 grams of saturated fat aren't ideal, seeing as the American Heart Association's recommendation is no more than around 13 grams per day, but this number is low when you compare it to other McDonald's sandwiches.
Burger King Double Cheeseburger (24 grams of protein)
If Burger King is your fast food joint of choice, you have a few options when it comes to a meal that's higher in protein. For instance, the BK Double Cheeseburger has 24 grams of protein per sandwich, which fits into Goodson's recommendation of sticking between 20 and 30 grams per meal. However, because the saturated fat and sodium are decently high, you may want to skip the fries with this one.
Starbucks Turkey Bacon, Cheddar & Egg White Sandwich (17 grams of protein)
This breakfast sandwich from Starbucks is a perfect high-protein fast food option because it's lower in sodium, calories, total fat, and saturated fat than many other fast food sandwiches, so even though its 17 grams of protein is right under the recommended 20 grams, you'll still have some nutritional wiggle room to add a side of nuts or avocado.
Arby's Roast Beef Gyro (24 grams of protein)
Arby's is known for their roast beef sandwiches, which means many of their menu options are higher in saturated fat because of the red meat quantity. However, we love this lighter Roast Beef Gyro option. It still has a bit more than half of the recommended daily intake of saturated fat, but with 3 grams of fiber and 24 grams of protein, this is a good fast food option that will leave you feeling full and satisfied afterward.
Carl's Jr. Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich (33 grams of protein)
A fast food meal with only one gram of saturated fat is hard to come by, especially when it also contains 33 grams of protein as well. The amount of sodium in this Carl's Jr. sandwich isn't the best (it's about half of the daily recommended max), but the calories, fat, and protein are hard to beat.
Chick-fil-A Grilled Market Salad (28 grams of protein)
If a salad with plenty of protein and vegetables is the route you want to go, try the Chick-fil-A Market Salad with grilled chicken. Its 28 grams of protein will fill you up faster and for a longer amount of time, but just keep an eye on the total fat, sodium, and sugar content. These levels are a bit on the higher end, but this salad is still a good choice when you need something quick, affordable, and high in protein.
Subway Rotisserie-Style 'No Bready' Bowl (31 grams of protein)
Subway isn't just a place for subs. They also offer salads and protein bowls, which are great options when you're wanting something on the healthier, more nutrient-dense side. This Rotisserie-Style Bowl offers up 31 grams of protein for only 220 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat—something that is very hard to find at many fast food restaurants.
Chipotle Chicken Salad With Lettuce, Fajita Vegetables, & Roasted Chili-Corn Salsa (37 grams of protein)
It's a satisfying feeling to go to Chipotle and load up on a burrito or burrito bowl with the exact ingredients you're craving, but a healthier, high-protein option at this Tex-Mex restaurant is to go for a chicken salad. With 37 grams of protein, you'll leave feeling satiated and with energy to last you the rest of the afternoon.
Taco Bell Burrito Supreme Chicken (19 grams of protein)
Heading to Taco Bell may often result in a Crunchwrap Supreme or Bacon Chalupa, but if you're needing something on the relatively lighter side, a Chicken Burrito Supreme can help. This one is just under the recommended 20 grams of protein per meal, but you can add a side of black beans and rice for four extra grams and a fiber boost.
Wendy's Southwest Avocado Salad (39 grams of protein)
The Wendy's Southwest Avocado Salad is a satisfying option for those craving bacon and chicken but who also want to add some vegetables to their meal. The 9 grams of saturated fat aren't ideal, but with 39 grams of protein and fiber boost of 6 grams, this salad is a good option next time you find yourself at a Wendy's.
Panera Deli Turkey Sandwich (35 grams of protein)
Panera is known for its enormous menu of sandwiches, soups, and salads—all ranging from healthy to not-so-healthy. When looking for a high-protein fast food meal that isn't going to break the saturated fat bank, the Deli Turkey Sandwich is an easy choice.
KFC Kentucky Grilled Chicken Breast With Green Beans (35 grams of protein)
Many KFC lovers may not even realize that there is more than just fried chicken, biscuits, and mashed potatoes at this fast-food joint. If you're in need of something lighter that still yields a punch of protein, you can opt for their grilled chicken breast with a side of green beans.
Chick-Fil-A Grilled Chicken Sandwich (28 grams of protein)
For those who love Chick-fil-A but aren't in the mood for their Market Salad, their Grilled Chicken Sandwich is another healthier option. With almost 30 grams of protein and only 2 grams of saturated fat, you'll satisfy your cravings while simultaneously being able to stick to your health goals.
Boston Market Quarter White Meat Rotisserie Chicken With Steamed Vegetables (43 grams of protein)
Boston Market might not be as enticing as a McDonald's or Chick-fil-A, but don't sleep on this fast food restaurant. Their menu is fairly extensive and offers plenty of healthier alternatives—including the Quarter White Meat Rotisserie Chicken with a side of vegetables.
Au Bon Pain Toasted Chicken & Avocado Sandwich (38 grams of protein)
Au Bon Pain is more often known for its coffee and pastries than anything else, but they also carry a wide variety of sandwiches and salads that you can choose from when you need something light in a hurry. Their Toasted Chicken & Avocado Sandwich provides almost 40 grams of protein, making it a great option when you need to meet your protein goals for the day.
If you're looking to pair your sandwich with a coffee, try their brewed coffee or iced americano and add your own cream and sugar. This can give you more control over your nutrition than if you were to choose something like the mocha latte, caramel macchiato, or chai latte.