When entering a fast food place, of course you won't be finding dishes with calorie, fat and salt contents that satisfy the recommendations of the American Heart Association, for example, or other organizations that promote a healthy diet.
Fast food was built on serving up flavorful foods very quickly, not healthful ones. But, customers have increasingly asked for healthier choices from their favorite fast-food chains, and the companies have responded with some options.
With those caveats in mind, here's a look at some of the healthiest choices served by well-known restaurant brands. We led with lowest calorie count, but concede even that may not be the healthiest given salt/fat counts.
Editors' pick: Originally published April 14.
McDonald's (MCD) Artisan Grilled Chicken Sandwich exceeds the Big Mac in both cholesterol and sodium, but it contains only 380 calories. By comparison, a Big Mac has 540 calories.
Total Fat: 7g
A wiser choice at Chipotle (CMG) is its salad with romaine lettuce, sofritas (braised tofu), brown rice, black beans and tomato salsa, weighing in at 520 calories, 17.5 grams of fat and 1,510 milligrams of sodium. It's also got 20 grams of fiber and a big dose of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium and iron.
Total Fat: 17.5g
Wendy's (WEN) Twitter account went viral when it promised a teen a year of free chicken nuggets if he got 18 million retweets. You're better off opting for the protein-rich Grilled Chicken Wrap, which sets you back only 270 calories and 11 grams of fat.
Total Fat: 11g
Despite the "fried" in its name, KFC, owned by Yum! Brands (YUM) , also serves grilled chicken. That dish got famous after Oprah Winfrey endorsed it in 2009 and promised two free pieces after downloading a coupon on her website. Her offer resulted in a frenzy of long lines and angry customers when KFC locations ran out or failed to honor the deal. (Nutritional figures apply to one grilled chicken drumstick.)
Total Fat: 4g
Coffee vendor Starbucks (SBUX) is working on improving its lunchtime offerings. The Zesty Chicken & Black Bean Salad Bowl, for instance, contains 360 calories, 15 grams of fat and 32% of the daily recommended fiber.
Total Fat: 15g
Two years ago, Papa John's (PZZA) unveiled Papa's Lighter Menu as part of its Better Ingredients, Better Pizza initiative. Now you can get a slice for 300 calories if you opt for one made with Grilled Chicken and Canadian Bacon (nutrition below), Mediterranean Veggie, Tropical Luau or Chicken and Veggie.
And you can drop that calorie count even more by asking for lighter cheese on top of a thin crust.
Total Fat: 8g
Domino's (DPZ) notes that its products are "made-to-order," allowing customization for healthier options. A slice of Veggie and Chicken Pizza with lighter cheese and thin crust clocks in at just 210 calories.
Total Fat: 10g
Panera (PNRA) , which is set to be acquired by JAB Holding Company for $7.5 billion, announced in January that its dishes are now free from all artificial flavors, preservatives, sweeteners and colors from artificial sources. You can reap the benefits of that new policy with Panera's Southwest Chicken Tortilla Bowl, which contains 480 calories, 16 grams of fat and 19 grams of protein.
Total Fat: 16g
Popeyes (PLKI) touts its Live Well menu, with products featuring less than 350 calories. Nonfried options at the chain, which is to be acquired by Burger King owner Restaurant Brands (QSR) for $1.8 billion, are limited, but a meal of three Blackened Tenders, Green Beans and Mashed Potatoes contains 320 calories, 7.5 grams of fat and 1,560 grams of sodium.
Total Fat: 7.5g
The Italian restaurant chain, owned by Darden (DRI) , is better known for its unlimited bread sticks than its health food. After all, it does serve Italian food, known for heavy doses of cheese, olive oil and sauces that translate into an overdose of fat and calories.
With that in mind, your best best may be a serving of its whole-grain linguine with marinara sauce, topped with sautéed shrimp, which contains 550 calories and 13 grams of fat.