In an ideal world, we’d cook an elaborate spread for every meal. But fast food is sometimes the only option. According to the National Academy of Medicine, adults should aim for a daily minimum of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or about 7 grams for every 20 pounds. That means you’ll want approximately 20 grams per meal, give or take, to stay in the suggested range. Luckily, there are plenty of restaurant chains with options that offer a boost of satisfying protein (and not just refined carbs). From a McDonald’s McDouble to Starbucks’s convenient protein boxes, here are the 15 best high-protein fast food meals at some of the most popular chains around.
1. McDonald’s McDouble
Per serving: 400 calories, 20g fat, 33g carbs, 2g fiber, 7g sugar and 22g protein
We get it: Sometimes a salad just won’t cut it. Luckily, McDonald’s McDouble, (aka two beef patties, American cheese, pickles, ketchup, onion and mustard) is relatively low in calories and carbs considering the amount of protein it offers. If you want, you can nix the cheese and lose 50 calories and 4 grams of fat.
2. Arby’s Roast Chicken Entrée Salad
Per serving: 250 calories, 14g fat, 8g carbs, 3g fiber, 4g sugar and 25g protein
While many fast-food salads are just chicken nuggets on a bed of lettuce masquerading as health, Arby’s offers a version with grilled chicken. Pepper bacon, tomato, cheddar and ranch dressing round things out for a filling lunch (or dinner).
3. Chick-Fil-A Lemon Kale Caesar
Per serving: 470 calories, 24g fat, 22g carbs, 0g fiber, 8g sugar and 43g protein
Another high-protein salad option is Chick-Fil-A’s rendition of a kale Caesar. Shaved Parmesan, panko breadcrumbs and fresh lemon wedges make it feel very 2021.
4. Wendy’s Apple Pecan Salad
Per serving: 460 calories, 23g fat, 26g carbs, 5g fiber, 18g sugar and 39g protein
The combination of apples, dried cranberries, roasted pecans and crumbled blue cheese feels a little bit ’90s and we are so into it. Go easy on the dressing if you want to keep the amount of sugar to a minimum.
5. Chipotle Salad with Chicken, Fajita Vegetables and Roasted Chili-Corn Salsa
Per serving: 295 calories, 8.5g fat, 24g carbs, 6g fiber, 7g sugar and 37g protein
TBH, Chipotle’s menu is all about mixing and matching, so it’s one of the easiest restaurants to find a healthy option. But to make it even simpler, we suggest swapping your usual burrito bowl for a salad (no rice equals less carbs) and adding the just-sweet-enough corn salsa in place of the dressing.
6. Shake Shack ShackBurger (Lettuce Wrap)
Per serving: 320 calories, 24g fat, 2g carbs, 0g fiber, 1g sugar and 21g protein
At Shake Shack, you can ask for any sandwich on the menu to be served in a lettuce wrap instead of the usual bun. While this won’t add any protein, it will reduce the amount of carbohydrates by 24 grams—worth it if you’re watching your carb intake.
7. Subway 6-Inch Oven Roasted Chicken Sub
Per serving: 270 calories, 4.5g fat, 41g carbs, 5g fiber, 8g sugar and 21g protein
Subway’s Fresh Fit menu includes items with higher amounts of protein, plus 400 calories or fewer and two servings of vegetables. To maximize the nutrition factor, pile your sandwich high with alllll the veggies.
8. McDonald’s McChicken
Per serving: 400 calories, 21g fat, 39g carbs, 1g fiber, 5g sugar and 14g protein
FYI, McDonald’s has reduced its menu since COVID-19, but the brand still serves the OG McChicken. Hold the mayo, and you’ll shave off 100 cals and 11 grams of fat.
9. Starbucks Chickpea Bites and Avocado Protein Box
Per serving: 560 calories, 37g fat, 43g carbs, 13g fiber, 7g sugar and 15g protein
Meatless fast-food meals that still contain a decent amount of protein are few and far between, but this Starbucks option is fully plant-based and has 15 grams of the good stuff. It’s also high in fiber to keep you feeling full longer.
10. Starbucks Grilled Chicken and Hummus Protein Box
Per serving: 300 calories, 9g fat, 32g carbs, 7g fiber, 6g sugar and 22g protein
Another high-protein item at the popular coffee chain is the grilled chicken and hummus box, which contains 22 grams of protein and only 9 grams of fat.
11. Chick-Fil-A 3-Piece Grilled Nuggets
Per serving: 130 calories, 3g fat, 1g carbs, 1g fiber, 0g sugar and 51g protein
Confession: We love chicken nuggets. Who doesn’t? Chick-Fil-A’s grilled version contains 25 grams of protein in an eight-piece serving but only 3 grams of fat (compared to 11 grams in the fried kind).
12. Taco Bell Soft Taco
Per serving: 180 calories, 9g fat, 17g carbs, 3g fiber, 1g sugar and 9g protein
Taco Bell is currently serving a slightly limited menu due to COVID, but the traditional ground beef soft taco has a good ratio of protein to everything else, even if you order two to make it a more filling meal.
13. Taco Bell Burrito Supreme, Fresco Style
Per serving: 340 calories, 11g fat, 48g carbs,98g fiber, 4g sugar and 14g protein
The beans and beef in Taco Bell’s burrito add fiber and protein, respectively. Order yours “fresco style” to lose the sour cream and cheese and keep the fat and calories a little lower.
14. Panera Bread Turkey Sandwich
Per serving: 520 calories, 20g fat, 54g carbs, 4g fiber, 4g sugar and 32g protein
Yes, Panera’s classic turkey sandwich does contain 20 grams of fat per serving, but only 3.5 grams are saturated fat. Plus, you can get a half-order to cut that amount in, well, half (or just ask for no mayonnaise).
15. Dunkin’ Veggie Egg White Omelet
Per serving: 290 calories, 13g fat, 27g carbs, 5g fiber, 4g sugar and 17g protein
We know the name says omelet, but this is a sandwich. Still, Dunkin’s lightest breakfast option contains a whopping 17 grams of protein and just 290 calories. Good morning, indeed.