Eating clean when eating out can be a little tricky but it can be done. I’ve been able to find clean foods at both fast food places and sit down restaurants. Sometimes I have to ask for substitutions but most places are accommodating to my requests.
It goes without saying that at fast food restaurants you need to avoid anything fried. Luckily most fast food places now offer salads and wraps of some sort. A side note: beware of salads. Zaxby’s salads are delicious but they are loaded with cheese, onion straws and come with a side of buttered bread. The house zalad with grilled chicken without dressing is 625 calories! Ask for it without the cheese, the bread or the onions and save yourself 380 calories. Most salad dressings are not going to be clean. You can always opt for a vinaigrette type dressing for lower calories. Not clean…but a healthier option.
If you can’t find anything 100% clean then eat as clean as you can. For instance, Taco Bell doesn’t offer corn tortillas but a chicken taco al fresco (i.e. no cheese) on a flour tortilla is a better choice than a beef hard shell taco with cheese. I think very few people can eat clean 100% of the time, 24/7. Just focus on making progress and doing the best you can.
Here are a few clean items you can find in your local fast food restaurants. As you’ll see, my biggest issue is always the bread. With clean eating you need to stick with whole grain (not just whole wheat) bread. A lot of places are catching on and you can find whole grain breads–in fact, Burger King even offers wheat wraps–so that’s a step in the right direction! I tend to favor Wendy’s and Chick-Fil-A if I’m going to eat fast food.
- Baked potato (chives and broccoli are available as a topping).
- Side salad with no dressing
- Berry Almond Chicken Salad (Hold the dressing.)
- Apple Pecan Chicken Salad (Not totally clean as I’m pretty sure the cranberries are sweetened but still a good choice. Hold the pecans–they’re covered in sugar. Hold the dressing.)
- Ultimate Chicken Grill (Not totally clean because of the bread. Hold the honey mustard sauce.)
- Apple slices
- Unsweet Tea
My go-to at Wendy’s: Ultimate Chicken Grill, side salad and a large Unsweet tea. I don’t hold the honey mustard sauce. Because YOLO. (I actually had to have my 11 year old explain that to me recently. I thought it was “Y-O-L-O” and she informed me I was indeed a dork and that it was actually “Yolo.”)
- Garden side salad
- Chicken BLT Salad Wrap (Hold the bacon and the dressing.)
- Chicken Ceasar Wrap (Hold the dressing and maybe the cheese–I say eat cheese in moderation but if you’re going strictly clean you’ll want to avoid it.)
- Apple Slices
- Tendergrill chicken sandwich (Not totally clean as it is white bread. Be sure to hold the mayo.)
My go-to at Burger King: I rarely eat at Burger King (once a year, if that) but the last time I ate there I got the Chicken Ceasar Wrap and drank my own water.
- Side salad
- Premium Grilled Chicken Classic (Not totally clean–again with the white bread! Hold the mayo.)
- Unsweet Tea
My go-to at McDonald’s: Again, rarely eat here but when I do I usually get the Grilled Chicken Classic plain or I’ll get a grilled honey mustard chicken wrap–not clean but low in calories.
- Chargrilled Chicken Sandwich (Hold the sauce.)
- Asian Salad (Hold the almonds, the wontons and the dressing.)
- Fruit cup
- Side salad
- Unsweet tea
- Multigrain oatmeal (it’s steel cut! Hold the brown sugar.)
- Grilled Market Salad (Hold the nuts, granola and dressing.)
My go-to at Chick-Fil-A: I always get the grilled chicken sandwich with a fruit cup and a large Unsweet tea.
|I heart CFA!|
- Turkey Classic (Ask for them to put it on a wheat bun.)
- Roast Turkey and Swiss Wrap (Hold the mayo, the honey mustard, and maybe the cheese.)
- Chopped Side Salad
- Unsweet Tea
My go-to at Arby’s: This is another rare place for me to eat but when I do I stick to the turkey sandwiches.
Eating at restaurants is usually a little easier. Here are few guidelines to keep in mind when looking over the menu.
- Check the menu online beforehand or have an app on your phone available (I just use My Fitness Pal).
- Avoid fried foods.
- Stick to grilled chicken, fish, steak or shrimp. Just watch your portion sizes. Don’t order a 14 ounce sirloin unless you plan to split that thing about three ways!
- Choose steamed vegetables or a salad as your side.
- Skip the appetizers.
- Don’t even let the bread basket come to your table.
- Or the chips. Or the peanuts.
- Water, water, water. Try to drink a full glass before your entree even comes out.
- Smothered Chicken without the cheese or gravy OR Oven Roasted Chicken
- House salad with vinaigrette dressing (okay, honestly I usually get honey mustard and just use a little bit)
- Steamed veggies
- Sweet potato (plain)
My go-to at Texas: I usually get the smothered chicken plain with a sweet potato and a side salad. If I’m eating here it’s usually a big occasion (date night or an anniversary) so I’ll splurge on the brown sugar and butter on my sweet potato and I’ll get honey mustard dressing on the side for my salad.
- Key West Chicken and Shrimp (unfortunately the rice is white rice but otherwise this is a great option).
- Grilled Baja Chicken (again with the white rice!)
- Grilled Parmesan Garlic Steak (hold the ranch on the side salad to make it clean)
- Grilled Salmon, Catfish or Talapia (my non-seafood liking husband even likes the blackened catfish)
- Black Beans
- Baked Potato
My go-to at Cheddar’s: I almost always get the Key West Chicken and Shrimp usually with broccoli and black beans as my side. If it’s a special occasion though, you’ll find me with a ginormous Pain Killer (mixed drink) and some nachos and cheese for an appetizer. Just keepin’ it real, folks.
- Grilled Chicken or Veggie Spud (hold the cheese and I’d only eat half…their potatoes are HUGE)
- Grilled Chicken Salad (no cheese, no croutons)
- Justaspud (hold the sour cream)
- Garden Salad (hold the cheese and croutons)
- Fruit Cup
There are a lot of things you can “clean up” at McAlister’s. Hold the cheese and most sauces, hold the croutons, and for Pete’s Sake don’t drink the sweet tea. I knooooowwwww it’s SO good but it’s also about 300 calories a cup! Opt for unsweet or at the least, get it half and half.
My go-to at McAlister’s: I’ll be honest. My favorite thing is the Orange Cranberry Turkey Sandwich on wheat with a side of mashed potatoes. If I’m really wanting to eat clean I’ll get a grilled chicken salad. And I always get unsweet tea. Sometimes I’ll have them top it off with a little sweet. After all, I don’t want my southern card to be revoked!
You can always ask for substitutes if you don’t see anything on the menu that is clean or healthy. Recently I ate lunch out with my mom and it was during my Advocare 10 Day Cleanse. We chose a local seafood bar and grill and I was shocked that there wasn’t a single grilled item on their menu. They had a fried shrimp basket so I asked them to grill the shrimp instead. I held the fries and opted for black beans and rice instead. The rice was not clean but it was a better meal option than the fried shrimp and french fries basket!
Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions or for the chef to cook something a little differently. Stick to steamed and grilled items as much as possible and don’t drink your calories away.
What are your favorite restaurants for eating clean/healthy? How often do you eat out? We have been doing better about not eating out so much and I’d say it’s about three times a month now.
This post may contain affiliate links. When you make a purchase through an affiliate link on this site I may earn a small percentage of the sale. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.