Not that long ago, the healthiest fast food was whichever fast food you decided not to eat. But America's fast food joints have come a long way, to the point that you could probably eat at fast food joints for a few days straight during a road trip and not feel horrible upon arriving at your destination.
Probably. No guarantees.
The bottom line is that you don't have to stuff yourself with greasy, foul-smelling entrees anymore. The fast food joints - which, after all, love profits as much as the rest of us - have listened to our desire to eat just a little bit healthier. And that's why we can recommend America's "healthiest fast food" with a perfectly straight face.
Ground rules: when we say "fast food," we generally count anything you can buy in a drive-thru. Here are our recommendations:
Starbucks Power Protein Plate. There are many drive-thru Starbucks nowadays, and if you're stopping in for a coffee fix, you might also want to look for this little dynamo. You get cheese, fruit, a bagel with peanut butter, and, get this, a cage-free egg.
Cage-free? Most supermarkets don't even carry those. Remember - protein can help keep you mentally alert and focused on the road. Plus, most of these items are finger-friendly enough for you to eat while driving.
Jack in the Box Chicken Fajita Pita. This is grilled chicken - not fried - wrapped in whole-grain pita bread. It's a bit high in sodium at 1233 mg, but remember, we're talking about fast food here. Hard to argue with 23 grams of lean protein and no trans fat.
Wendy's Fries. Speaking of no trans fat, Wendy's cooks its fries in vegetable oil that contains none of that hydrogenated menace. Fries still aren't a healthy choice, but if you just have to have them, they're healthier at Wendy's. And if you feel guilty, grab a small chili too and get five grams of fiber.
Most offerings from Jamba Juice. We're cheating here, but no discussion of the healthiest fast food would feel complete without Jamba Juice. As far as we can tell, there are no Jamba Juice drive-thrus.
But if you're willing to get out of the car for five minutes and spend about $4, you can have a tasty, vitamin-packed fruit smoothie that's easy to drink as you continue your drive. (Frankly, you'll end up waiting at least five minutes in many drive-thru lines anyway, so why not spend the time watching your smoothie being blended?)
These items are the healthiest fast food we know of. There may even be some healthier items out there. If we come across them, we'll let you know.