How to Eat Healthy at: Chick-Fil-A

by | Jun 30, 2015

We know fast food isn’t the greatest but whether it’s convenience, price, or you’re just cravin’ some nuggets, sometimes we can’t avoid the golden arches (or insert-your-favorite-restaurant-here). Well, don’t fret because we’ve got you covered.

At Noom we’re here to help you learn to eat out in a variety of social situations: at restaurants, at dinner parties, on vacation, at special events, and more!

This week we’ll spotlight a fast food joint and tell you what to eat — and what to avoid when you’re on-the-go. This week’s choice? Chick-Fil-A.

Chick-Fil-A is known for their pretty delicious chicken tenders and not-too-shabby waffle fries. But you can skip these two menu favorites and still have a delicious meal. Or you can find a healthy way to fit them into your budget. What’s the easiest way to do this? Be aware of the caloric density of your food. If this sounds a bit scary, Noom’s food tracker has made it easy for you! Green foods are the least calorie dense — they have the smallest amount of calories per gram of food. Yellow foods are “normal” foods like lean meats. They should make up a majority of your plate. Finally, red foods are the most calorie dense — they pack a major calorie bang for your buck (and not in a good way). Try to keep red foods to single servings and fill your plate with green foods to fill yourself up with fewer calories. Need some inspiration? Below we list our top 5 healthy Chick-Fil-A meals. And three you should definitely avoid.

1. Grilled Chicken Sandwich
When eating out at fast food restaurants, always opt for a grilled option over a fried one. Fried foods are full of hidden fats, have high-calorie counts, and usually contain trans-fat (the worst kind). Chick-Fil-A’s grilled chicken sandwich made with a boneless breast of chicken on a multigrain bun has only 320 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 30 grams of protein to keep you full long past lunch. If the chicken sandwich isn’t filling enough on its own, add a fruit cup on the side and sip on unsweetened tea.

2. Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap
If you’re not in the mood for a sandwich, try this grilled chicken wrap. Wraps have fewer net carbs than sandwiches and usually (but not always) fewer calories. In this recipe, grilled chicken breast is wrapped in a flaxseed flatbread with cabbage, carrots, lettuce, and Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses, with a custom ranch dressing with avocado and lime. This wrap has 340 calories, 13 grams of fat, 36 grams of protein, and 15 grams of fiber. Fiber and protein both keep you full but if you need a little extra, try their side salad which has 80 calories.

3. Grilled Market Salad
You don’t have to eat a salad to be healthy but if you’re craving greens, try the Grilled Market Salad. Grilled chicken is mixed with romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce, cabbage and other greens plus apples, strawberries and blueberries, almonds and blue cheese. The combo of fruits, veggies, and a bit of cheese creates a healthy mix of carbs, protein, and fats. Choosing a salad at a restaurant can be difficult, as many are packed with hidden calories and fats. Beware of excessive fatty ingredients (like bacon, fried onions, etc. This salad features only one fat topping — the cheese), fried meats, or toppings that could serve as an extra meal (for example, quesadillas as a ‘topping’). This salad has only 200 calories, 5 grams of fat, and 23 grams of protein. If you want to add a dressing, opt for the low-calorie Light Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing (+ 80 calories) or Light Italian Dressing (+25 calories). Best to steer clear of the Avocado Lime Ranch Dressing as it more than doubles this salad’s calorie count, adding 310 calories!

4. Grilled Chicken Nuggets
If you just can’t fight your cravings, you can still indulge and stay within your calorie budget. Go for the 8-count grilled Chick-Fil-A nuggets with a side of small waffle fries. The grilled nuggets are only 140 calories with 3 grams of fat and 23 grams of protein. (If you really want to treat yourself, go for the 8-count of normal chicken nuggets. But they do come with an extra 130 calories and 10 grams of fat.) A small portion of waffle fries contains 310 calories and 16 grams of fat. But beware — this meal won’t keep you as full, has less nutrients, and has more unhealthy fats (saturated fat from peanut oil) than some of its counterparts.

What to Avoid:
1. Chick-fil-A Spicy Chicken Deluxe Sandwich
This spicy chicken sandwich features fried chicken, Pepper Jack cheese and a buttered white bun. Clocking in at 570 calories with 27 grams of fat (not to mention the 1640 mg of sodium), this choice is one of the worst on the menu (chicken sandwiches can really vary when it comes to their impact on your health!) Get a grilled chicken sandwich instead which can have just as much flavor as fried without the guilty conscience afterwards.

2. Large Waffle Fries
We won’t try to argue that fries aren’t delicious. Fries are extremely tasty, but they pack a TON of calories into a tiny amount of food and have basically non nutritional quality. Instead of grabbing large waffles fries with 520 calories and 27 grams of fat, try to wait until you’re home and can create your own healthy alternative. Try this crispy baked potato fries, sweet potato fries, or baked zucchini fries as a healthy alternative.

3. Large chocolate milkshake
Who doesn’t love dessert? Unfortunately, dessert can come with a hefty calorie count. Chick-fil-A’s large chocolate milkshake has 710 calories, 26 grams of fat, and 103 (!!!) grams of sugar. That’s almost 4x the amount of daily recommended sugar! If you need a quick fix, try the Icedream small cone which has 170 calories (but still 25 grams of sugar). Your best bet would be to wait until you get home and make something tasty yourself, like this healthy chocolate milkshake or these healthy peanut butter oatmeal cookies.

When eating out at fast food restaurants, do your best to avoid fried foods, and stick to healthy options that will still leave you satisfied. If you’re having trouble, try tracking your meal before you order it to see how much of your calorie budget it will take up. And remember, one splurge is not the end of the world. Be kind to yourself and do your best — you’ve got this!