How to Eat Healthy at Taco Bell and Other Fast Food Places

As a little girl, I can remember the long road trips to Cedar Point Amusement Park and Sea World each summer. Tina and I  would sing Madonna songs in the back seat, and my dad would stop and get us small vanilla cones from Dairy Queen for a snack.

Road trip

Pretty soon the kids will be out of school and your agenda will be packed with vacations, too. With being out and about more often, you might find yourself stuck at a road stop with only a Dairy Queen.

So what do you eat?

These suggestions aren’t necessarily clean and healthy BUT they are the best options if  you get stuck.

Here we go… my 8 suggestions for healthier fast food:

Taco Bell–  There are a few options:   Tacos, Taco Salad, Crunch Wrap and Vegetable Cantina Bowl. Make sure to replace the meat with beans and opt for no cheese. You can also omit the dressings for the salads.

Wendy’s -Garden Side Salad with  Italian Vinaigrette, Sweet Potato and Apple Slices

Chipotle – Vegetarian Burrito with black beans, Mexican rice, Three Bean Chili


Starbucks – Steel-Cut Oatmeal with Nut Medley, Black Bean Bowl (omit the chicken).  The Bowl has some good ingredients like quinoa and apple cider vinegar.

Starbucks oats

KFC – Three bean salad

Panera Bread –  Hummus Bowl (without chicken)

Subway – Veggie Delight with olive oil blend. As for bread, the best option is 9 Grain or Honey Oat. Add an avocado for a boost of good fat.

Chili’s (or the Big Pepper as my little 3 year old niece calls it)- Black Bean Burger topped with guacamole.  Add a side salad topped with lots of veggies and Citrus Balsamic.

(These suggestions are based on info I got off their websites. Be mindful that the info might change so check before you go.)

I was going to add an option for Dairy Queen, but who wants to eat a side salad with a banana split staring you in the face?  So I couldn’t come up with an idea for this one.

*Feel free to switch up the menu when ordering. I do it, and yeah, I my family gets annoyed, but waitstaff are usually cool and are willing to make adjustments.

Eating clean isn’t about low calories or low fat so this was a hard list to make. It’s taken all I have to mention Taco Bell (we used to call it Taco Hell) and other fast food joints in a post. I don’t advocate eating fast food, but I’m all about keeping things real, and let’s face it, you might find yourself there with three tired, hungry, and grumpy kids on a road trip.

Now of course, if you want to avoid fast food as much as possible, here are a few apps you can use to make sure you stay as healthy as possible on vacay:


Happy Cow

Good Food Near You

If you are traveling by plane, I’ve been hearing lots of good news about the airports these days. They are stepping it up with the healthy food.  If you know you have a lay over for a couple of hours, Google the airport restaurants and plan your meal.


You can even pack up your juices for the plane. I checked into it, and all you have to do is check your juice with your baggage.  You  MUST have two ice packs inside the cooler bag, but is not recommended if your juice will be out of the refrigerator for more than 8 hours.  So for most flights this could work.

You can also bring your blender. My client, Anne, flies with her Blendec everywhere so she can have green smoothies on hand.

The last idea I have for you is to keep your eyes open.  You can find healthy food just about anywhere if you look hard enough.  You shouldn’t eat where you get gas, of course, but even 7 Eleven is trying.  I saw an ad for grabbing a banana for $1 at the gas pump.  A little expensive but I will take it!

I’m on my way to Park City, Utah next week.   I’ll be sure to plan my snacks and find places with healthy food.   I’ll try my best, though. Eating clean isn’t about being perfect. I’ll strive for 80% clean and healthy and 20% letting go.  Maybe I’ll have that vanilla cone at Dairy Queen, too!

Headed anywhere awesome this summer? Do you have a tip for eating healthy on the road? What is it?

PS.  If you need more ideas, check out  6 Tips for Healthy Eating While Traveling.

20 Comments on “How to Eat Healthy at Taco Bell and Other Fast Food Places”

  1. There is a fantastic kiosk at O’Hare in the American terminal called Cibo Express. I have found kale and parsley salad, hummus, veggies, nuts and nut bars, whole fruit, oatmeal cups…we actually look forward to going there when we travel to find some yummy, healthy things for the plane ride. (And while I know you are not a soy fan, I love their buffalo tofu.)

    1. Oh, Kristina, this is so good to know. I’ll dive into researching Cibo Express to see if they have kiosks at other airports. Great tip! xx

  2. I really appreciate this post!! I don’t typically eat fast food or even out that much, but when I need to I now have some options that I can feel better about.

    1. You know that I don’t advocate fast food…at all, but here’s the better option list if you ever need it. I’m sure you will come up with more ideas, too! Hugs!

    1. Thanks, Nicole! It’s always good to know more options while eating out. Great tips! xx

  3. Wow! I had never heard of the Panera Hidden Menu. What a shame that it is hidden, because I just checked it out, and it’s pretty good. Thanks, Lisa and everyone. Such helpful tips!

    1. I know, like, right? They should have that better option menu out in the world for all to see. It’s rather good compared to the regular menu, but always keep in mind that this for emergencies or if you are stuck. Always cooking your own food without the extra salt and sugar, using whole foods is the best way to go. And when we can’t, we now know about that hidden menu!:)

  4. I make your gf muffins the night before and just bake them in the morning. Getting up 15 minutes early is so worth it. Also celery travels really well and tastes to clean on a plane when they are passing our cheezits! My splurge for travelling is the gf pretzels from Whole Foods (red and black bag). They are just made of corn so not healthy by any means but good when you are bored and stuck on a plane and want some crunch. I also stow gf crackers in their bag (no box) in my luggage inside a gladware container. After I eat the crackers the container works great for my kids shell collection. Since I travel with kids at least one of my carry ons is a small soft cooler. About the size of a large purse. TSA doesn’t care as long as the stuff is not liquid. Apples, celery, blueberries, all travel well, plus some lollipops for the kids!! All are happy!!! Oh, and KIND bars are pretty non toxic too. Ironically, the best price for them is at Whole Foods! Yeah Summer!!

    1. Girrrrl, so glad you brought up the muffins. I inhaled them again on Monday. I need to find a way to have them last all week! Here’s the recipe if anyone needs it: I like your ideas and the pretzels sound good to me for an alternative. I really dig all your tips and many will benefit from your well-planned trip ideas. I’m stealing that cooler one! love to you!

    1. You are so welcome, dear Kathie! I’m sure you came across this last weekend for the lacrosse trip.:)

  5. Man, I could have used this the past few weeks. We did the best we could, and we did travel with our Blentec! Thanks for this post!

  6. We just flew today to visit family out in the midwest.
    So excited to see a fresh sushi bar outside of the southwest gates ! I packed blueberry almond flour muffins and granola and apples BUT sushi stuck to our ribs!

    1. Ooooh, how awesome about the sushi at the airport…and LOVE the goodies you brought with you. That almond flour, such great protein! Have a wonderful time visiting family. xx

  7. HI Lisa!

    What a fab post 🙂 I do appreciate your ideas! I haven’t eaten fast food for many years, but I do stop in at Panera for a salad and black bean soup now and then. Sometimes, it’s nice to not have to cook! At the airport, I love to stop at Cibo express as other people here have mentioned. Last year, we were on a road trip, and had to stop at Taco Bell, and found the cantina bowls to be a welcome surprise. Really fresh and tasty, and when you have no options, it’s super appreciated.

    I found some restaurants in Utah that have juicing! We will have to dish, girl!

    Hugs and love to you, keep rocking it,


    1. Thank you my love! AND I need to get with you about those juice shops in Park City! I’m excited about that as you know I crave my green juice everyday. Thanks for your ideas for on the road…and I hope my airport has that Cibo Express. See you in a few days! xo

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