We all know that Chick-fil-A isn’t necessarily the go-to place for healthy food. But as with any fast-food joint, we also can’t deny its appeal and convenience. So if you happen to find yourself at Chick-fil-A, and are looking for ways to eat as healthy and nutritiously as possible, we’re here to tell you how with a few simple recommendations.
For example, no matter where you’re dining, you can make some tweaks that will instantly lighten the caloric load of your routine order. Always get the dressings and sauces on the side, so you can control the portions yourself; opt for fresh produce whenever possible (think greens, veggies, and fruits over starchy sides like fries or rice); and try to go for the small servings size instead of the large (definitely stay away from value pitfalls like supersizing). Another way to smartly indulge in what you’re craving? Split the unhealthy items with others, so you’re able to still enjoy them while cutting the serving size in half.
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And of course, you can always opt for more nutritious menu items when at a fast-food restaurant to build a healthy meal you can feel good about eating. At Chick-fil-A, that means avoiding fried items that are high in calories, added sugars, or unhealthy fats, and instead opting for a meal consisting of a main, a side, and a drink that won’t jeopardize your diet or heart health.
According to Lisa Richards, a certified nutritionist and the author of The Candida Diet, these Chick-fil-A picks will amount to a well-rounded meal that skips any “junk.”
Main: Grilled Market Salad
NUTRITION PER SERVING: 540 calories, 31 g fat (6 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1020 mg sodium, 41 g carbs (4 g fiber, 26 g sugar), 28 grams protein
This market salad is bursting with freshness. The chicken is grilled, which is a healthier way to prepare this protein instead of breading and frying it—something most other Chick-fil-A items have in common.
“Chick-fil-A’s Grilled Market Salad is loaded with nutrient-rich ingredients, including grilled chicken breast served on a fresh bed of mixed greens, topped with crumbled blue cheese and a mix of red and green apples, strawberries, and blueberries,” Richards breaks it down. The salad has 330 calories, 13 grams of fat, and 29 grams of protein to fill you up fast and for longer, while still leaving room for some additional calories that will come from your side.
“It’s full of antioxidants from the apples, strawberries, and blueberries, and these are low-sugar fruits that are rich in nutrients but low in sugars,” she says. Antioxidants are good for your heart health, skin, mood, eye health, and overall wellbeing, and they also help fight free radical damage that comes with aging. Plus, they are high in fiber, which boosts satiety further.
“The grilled chicken breast and blue cheese are healthy sources of protein,” she adds, which is important for keeping you full for longer, as well as for building, fueling, and repairing muscles (especially post-workout). These are the kinds of proteins that will keep your mind and body alert, energized, and productive.
“What I really like about this salad is the dressing it comes with, a Light Balsamic Vinaigrette, which is a reasonably healthy option despite containing added sugar and orange juice concentrate,” she explains. “Ask for the dressing on the side to control your calorie and carbohydrate intake.”
Side: Fruit Cup
NUTRITION PER SERVING (small): 50 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 0 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (2 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 1 grams protein
“Along with your Market Salad you can add more fruit with Chick-fil-A’s fruit cup, which is packed with strawberries, blueberries, oranges, and apples,” she says. “This side item provides a large dose of vitamin C along with many beneficial plant compounds,” she explains, which has been shown to boost immunity so you can keep the sniffles at bay, as well as protect your skin and increase absorption of certain vitamins and minerals, such as iron.
It’s a lot healthier than fries and other starchy sides you’ll find on Chick-fil-A’s menu, as well as any sweets or desserts. If you think you’re having too much sugar, you can always save part of the cup for later or get rid of some of the fruits included in the salad. However, you shouldn’t be too concerned here, as this side cup is super small and relatively low in carbs and sugar regardless.
Drink: Coke Zero
NUTRITION PER SERVING (Coke Zero): 0 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 40 mg sodium, 0 g carbs (0 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 0 grams protein
You’ve got to wash your main and side down with something, right? “When selecting a beverage to have alongside your salad, it is best to opt for a zero-calorie and sugar option,” Richards says. “While diet beverages aren’t ideal, they do generally have zero calories and sugar and Coke Zero tends to be one of the better options in regard to diet beverages,” she says.
Water or sparkling flavored water is always going to be your best option, but if you had to choose a soda, then a diet one might just be the best pick.
“Simply based on taste, there is only one difference between Coke Zero and Diet Coke, which is a chemical. And neither of them are ideal to drink on a regular basis,” she says. So, it has the green light on Chick-fil-A’s menu. For more, check out 30 Worst Sodas That Are Never Worth Drinking, and don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest restaurant news delivered straight to your inbox.