With more than 6,500 locations worldwide, Wendy’s has been a staple on the fast-food scene. Whether you’re traveling for work or on your lunch break, a Wendy’s drive-thru can be quite convenient. That being said, most of the menu options are loaded with calories, fat and refined carbs, making the majority of its menu downright unhealthy.
If you’re watching your waistline, but find yourself at Wendy’s, here are five options that clock in under 500 calories, provide at least 20 grams of protein for satiety and are lower in refined carbs. You’ll even find quinoa in the mix!
Why it made the cut: With a nutritious combination of lettuce, sun-dried tomato quinoa, chickpeas, feta cheese, grilled chicken and hummus, this salad has 43 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber to keep you full and satisfied.
RD tip: Not every salad you come across is a healthy option. Some are loaded with more cheese, creamy dressing and fried chicken than actual vegetables. Look for salads that include minimal non-veggie toppings and opt for grilled chicken instead of fried.
Why it made the cut: This sandwich provides 35 grams of lean protein and 3 grams of fiber thanks to the grilled chicken and a whole-grain bun. If you’re craving a sandwich for on-the-go ease, this one fills you up while staying under 400 calories.
RD tip: Stick to grilled-chicken sandwiches, as the basic crispy-chicken sandwich on Wendy’s menu adds about 150 extra calories. If you’re craving cheese or other toppings, substitute grilled chicken for the crispy chicken to minimize the damage.
Why it made the cut: Wendy’s chili is surprisingly lean, with 7 grams of fat, 5 grams of fiber and 23 grams of protein. It has 250 calories, so it’s a great option when you need something hearty and filling that doesn’t pack on calories.
RD tip: This chili can stand alone as a filling meal, but round it out with more vegetables by ordering a side garden salad. While the side salad has 260 calories, the majority come from the croutons and dressing, which you can skip to save at least 150 calories.
Why it made the cut: This hearty and filling combination has 11 grams of fiber and 23 grams of protein with less than 8 grams of fat. While a plain baked potato is also a great option, if you’re looking for a more flavorful baked potato side, the sour cream and chive option saves you at least 120 calories over stuffed baked potatoes. A small chili on the side adds protein while keeping the entire combination under 500 calories.
RD tip: Mix side dishes to create a meal. Opting for one side rich in fiber, like the baked potato, and one higher in protein, like the small chili, keeps you full and satisfied for hours.
Jr. Hamburger with a side salad (no croutons, 1/2 package of light balsamic vinaigrette)
(288 calories, 11g fat, 33g carbs, 4g fiber, 15g protein)
Why it made the cut: If you just can’t shake that burger craving, your best bet is to stick to a Jr. Hamburger. Many of the burger options on Wendy’s menu have more than 600 calories with over 40 grams of fat. Even though the Jr. Hamburger falls short of 20 grams of protein and is served on a white bun, it’s the best burger option on the menu.
RD tip: Ordering a side salad is a great way to round out any meal, especially at a fast food restaurant. Since croutons come on the side, it’s easy to leave them off and save yourself 90 calories. As for dressing, stick to vinaigrette options and only use what you need. One packet is almost always more than you need to dress your salad.