High-Protein Fast Food Options: A Dietitian’s Perspective

High-Protein Fast Food Options [2024]: A Dietitian’s Perspective

As a registered dietitian, I understand that life can be hectic, and finding nutritious meal options on the go can be a challenge. So when my clients tell me they eat fast food, instead of judging them, I help them make better choices.

In this blog post, I’ll share some insights into high-protein fast food options that can help you stay on track with your weight loss goals while enjoying the convenience of quick meals occasionally.

This is not a low-carbohydrate blog post. While I do my best to keep the carbohydrate content to a low-to-medium amount, the goal is to give you the tools to make a realistic meal. I believe it’s already difficult enough to skip most sides. 

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. The nutrition information can change at any time. Please visit the fast food website for the most up-to-date nutrition information.

How I Selected the Choices

First, I analyzed the nutrients

To find high-protein options at fast food restaurants, I turned to the handy online nutrition calculators provided by fast-food places.  I did my best to keep choices at or over 25 grams of protein per meal. It wasn’t always possible, mainly because when I opted for higher protein options, the calories increased significantly.

But some restaurants truly surprised me! 

I also reviewed calorie content to keep the options to approximately 500 calories. 

Carbohydrates are a normal part of many fast food items, but by removing french fries and sodas, you can reduce the total carbohydrate intake significantly. Seriously, a large soda can easily have 115 grams of carbohydrates—all from sugar!

Last, whenever it was possible, I selected items that nourish the body rather than options that provide “empty” calories with little nutritional value. 

Taking the time to explore the nutrition information in fast food places you visit often is something I strongly recommend.

Other considerations

I couldn’t resist getting some insider insights, so I reached out to a bunch of die-hard In-N-Out fans to spill the beans on their top high-protein picks. 

But I didn’t stop there. I also threw in a mix of fast-casual spots like Panera Bread and Chipotle because—let’s be real—sometimes you want something quick but with a bit more balance. 

Then I visited every single restaurant—it took me a few months to write this blog!


I recently asked a group of In-N-Out enthusiasts about their favorite high-protein fast-food options. Most of them had a strong preference for two particular choices: the Protein Style burger and the Flying Dutchman, which they ordered as either a double- or triple-patty version. These options stand out because of their high protein and low carbohydrate content.

Keep in mind that both are part of the In-N-Out not-so-secret menu.

Protein Style x 2

In-N-Out Double protein
In-N-Out Double protein- from the Not-So-Secret Menu

This one is my favorite. The crispiness of the lettuce paired with the savory burger creates a delicious contrast in textures, making this choice a satisfying and enjoyable meal. 

By maintaining the juicy, flavorful burger patties and toppings while cutting the unnecessary carbs from the bun, the Protein Style burger provides a satisfying and nutritious option within the fast-food landscape. 

Its emphasis on the protein content makes it an appealing choice for health-conscious individuals aiming to balance convenience with their dietary goals.

The drawback is the amount of fat in this burger. However, this can easily be reduced by skipping the spread.

  • Protein: 30 g
  • Calories: 450
  • Carbs:  12 g
  • Fat: 32 g

In-N-Out nutrition facts

Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman at In-N-Out Burger is a unique and popular menu item among aficionados of the chain’s secret menu. It consists of two beef patties sandwiching two slices of cheese, all melted together without a bun or any other toppings.

Fans of the Flying Dutchman appreciate its focus on the essentials—juicy beef and gooey cheese—without any distractions. It provides a satisfying protein- and fat-rich option without the carbs from the bun. 

This burger is undoubtedly high in protein. Beef patties and cheese are both naturally rich in protein.  While exact nutritional information may not be available, it’s safe to assume that the Flying Dutchman offers a substantial protein hit, making it a satisfying option for those looking to fuel their bodies with protein-rich foods. Calories might be a little higher too!

But I warn you—it’s a mess to eat! Delicious.

Skip the sauce to reduce calories. 


I was excited when I stumbled upon the Taco Bell Power Bowl menu.

High protein meals at taco bell

Bursting with flavor and nutrients that many fast foods tend to skimp on, these bowls are a total game-changer for anyone looking for fast food without derailing their weight loss goals.

I was excited when I stumbled upon the Taco Bell Power Bowl menu. Bursting with flavor and nutrients that many fast foods tend to skimp on, these bowls are a total game-changer for anyone looking for fast food without derailing their weight loss goals.

I can honestly say that I was pleasantly surprised with the flavor and the nutritional value of these items. 

Power Menu Bowl – Chicken

It’s got everything: grilled chicken, seasoned rice, black beans, crisp lettuce, ripe tomatoes, cheese, and creamy guacamole.

With heaps of protein and fresh flavors, it’s a great fast-food meal to keep you going strong.

High Protein Taco Bell-Power Menu Bowl-Steak
High Protein Taco Bell-Power Menu Bowl-Steak

Surprisingly, it’s under 500 calories.

  • Protein: 26 g
  • Calories: 460
  • Carbs: 41 g
  • Fat: 21 g

Power Menu Bowl – Steak 

Similar to the chicken version, the steak bowl includes rice, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese and guacamole. The ingredients in this dish provide additional nutrients, boasting 8 grams of fiber.

  • Protein: 25 g
  • Calories: 470
  • Carbs: 42 g
  • Fat: 23 g

Remember, you can cut down on calories by skipping the cheese, sauce, or sour cream. But keep in mind, even though they come in small servings, they add a ton of flavor!

Nutrition facts obtained from the Taco Bell website.


Not surprisingly, there are several high-protein options available at this fast-food restaurant.

Arby's High Protein (Building)

Double Roast Beef 

With its double portion of tender roast beef, this sandwich really packs a punch in the protein department, especially compared to other fast-food options. At 510 calories per sandwich, the 38 grams of protein make it a great choice for fueling up and feeling satisfied.

  • Protein: 38 g
  • Calories: 510
  • Carbs: 38 g
  • Fat: 24 g

Classic French Dip & Swiss/Au Jus 

I was pleasantly surprised by the nutrition profile of this sandwich. I’ve always loved the French Dip sandwich, but I’ve been worried about the calories. However, Arby’s Classic French Dip & Swiss/Au Jus offers a reasonable calorie count along with a solid 34 grams of protein.

Another good surprise? The size of the sandwich is more filling than most other sandwiches. 

High protein Arby's- Classic French Dip & Swiss/Au Jus
Classic French Dip & Swiss/Au Jus

The downside, however, is the hefty amount of sodium, packing in more than the total daily recommended intake for sodium in just one serving.

  • Protein: 34 g
  • Calories: 530
  • Carbs: 50 g
  • Fat: 21 g

Read Arby’s nutrition facts here.


We cannot talk about fast food without including McDonalds. 

McDonald's High Protein


The McDouble is known for its high protein content, mainly because it comes with two seasoned beef patties that serve as the burger’s protein powerhouse. When combined with cheese, each sandwich offers a substantial 30 grams of protein.

However, one downside of the McDouble is its high fat content, especially if you opt for cheese, which can add up to 26 grams of fat. 

Drink water or diet soda and skip the fries. 

  • Protein : 22 g
  • Calories : 400
  • Carbs: 33 g
  • Fat: 20 g 

Quarter Pounder® with Cheese 

McDonald’s Quarter Pounder packs 30 grams of protein in one hamburger. The combination of beef and cheese in this sandwich serves up a substantial dose of protein, making it a satisfying meal.

The sesame seed bun, pickles, onions, and ketchup make it tastier than other options. 

  • Protein : 30 g
  • Calories: 520
  • Carbs: 42 g
  • Fat: 26 g 

Need a side without the extra fat? McDonald’s offers sliced apples. Unfortunately, this chain no longer offers salads. 

Nutrition facts obtained from McDonald’s nutrition calculator.

Get more ideas in the McDonald’s high-protein blog.


At Wendy’s, salads might seem like the go-to healthy option, but watch out—the dressing and some of the ingredients can turn this “healthy” item into a high-fat meal. 

Wendy's High Protein (Building). 

Cobb Salad

As a nutritionist, I’m a fan of the grilled chicken, eggs, and veggies in the cobb salad, and I don’t mind the cheese since it adds some good nutrition. However, the smoked bacon, crispy fried onions, and ranch dressing load up on calories. 

My suggestion is to consider skipping either the smoked bacon or the onions (or both) and opt for just half the dressing or none at all. That dressing alone packs a whopping 26 grams of fat and 250 calories!

Nutrition information without dressing:

  • Protein: 36 g
  • Calories: 420
  • Carbs: 23 g
  • Fat: 16 g


  • Protein: 1 g
  • Calories: 250
  • Carbs: 16 g
  • Fat: 26 g

Caesar Salad 

When it comes to Wendy’s caesar salad, going without the dressing is the trick to keeping things light, with just 290 calories and a solid 31 grams of protein. 

Now, here’s where you can take control: the dressing packs an unhealthy punch at 240 calories and 25 grams of fat, but you can skip it altogether. 

But wait, there’s a game-changer: pair that salad with a side of chili, ditch the dressing, and suddenly you’ve got a more satisfying meal that’s also healthier. Plus, you’re adding an extra 16 grams of protein and 6 grams of fiber to the mix. It’s all about finding those little hacks to make your meal both tasty and nutritious.

Nutrition information without dressing:

  • Protein: 31 g
  • Calories: 290
  • Carbs: 13 g
  • Fat: 12 g


  • Protein: 2 g
  • Calories: 240
  • Carbs: 2 g
  • Fat: 25 g

Other Thoughts About Wendy’s

Wendy’s is very creative when it comes to sandwiches, but unfortunately, the sauces, bacon, and extras can pack a significant amount of calories and fat. For example, the loaded nacho cheeseburger has 1280 calories—and that’s just the sandwich! 

My recommendation is to check the nutrition facts before you make your choice.


I love the grilled chicken options at this fast food chain. As a registered dietitian, I also love the many sides that can boost the protein and fiber content of the meals. 

However, be aware of the side salad on the menu as it has 530 calories.  But luckily there are many healthy side options.

High protein Chick-fil-A grilled chicken and kale salad
Grilled Nuggets and kale salad
Chick-fil-A High Protein (Building)
High Protein Chick-fil-A (Chicken Sandwich)
Chicken sandwich and a side of fruit

Grilled Nuggets

At only 200 calories per serving, the 12 grilled chicken nuggets pack 38 grams of protein. This makes them not only a great option for a meal but also perfect for a snack. 

When it comes to sauces, there are a few options. The zesty buffalo sauce is quite flavorful, a good amount, and it’s only 25 calories.

Pair these nuggets with a chicken noodle soup for an additional 10 grams of protein. Other options include adding a fruit cup for a sweet ending or a kale salad.

  • Protein: 38 g
  • Calories: 200
  • Carbs: 2 g
  • Fat: 4.5 g

Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Looking for a sandwich? Try the grilled chicken sandwich, one of the lowest-calorie choices on this list.  

However, in terms of the amount of protein, this sandwich has less than the 12-piece grilled nuggets, at 28 grams per sandwich. 

The grilled chicken sandwich is low enough in calories that you can also choose a healthy side such as chicken soup, kale salad or a fruit cup.

  • Protein: 28 g
  • Calories: 390
  • Carbs: 44 g
  • Fat: 12 g


Chick-fil-A nutrition information


6” Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki

Back in grad school, I used to love this sandwich because it was both tasty and calorie-friendly. I enjoyed the combination of teriyaki glazed chicken strips with the sweet onion sauce.

Today, it’s still a smart choice thanks to its high amount of protein, moderate calories, and lower fat content compared to other fast food options. 

  • Protein: 30 g
  • Calories: 430
  • Carbs: 55 g
  • Fat: 11 g

Buffalo Chicken Protein Bowl

Subway has also joined the bowl trend. This option features grilled chicken tossed in tangy buffalo sauce and combined with fresh veggies such as lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers, all finished with creamy ranch dressing. Packed with protein and fiber, it’s ideal for keeping you feeling satisfied while helping you achieve your weight loss goals.

  • Protein: 40 g
  • Calories: 380
  • Carbs: 13 g
  • Fat: 21 g

Subway nutrition information:

Keep in mind that Subway makes an effort to personalize your orders, so the nutrition of each sandwhich might change as you ask for different ingredients. Always go light on the dressings and cheese to keep the number of calories down. 


Panera offers excellent options, and although it’s considered more of a casual dining spot rather than a fast-food restaurant, it’s still a convenient choice for meals on the go.

Panera Bread High Protein (Building)

Green Goddess Cobb Salad with Chicken 

Packed with 37 grams of protein, this salad is one of my personal favorites. To be honest, it’s mostly for the taste of the Green Goddess dressing, but as a dietitian, I also value the amount of protein and the moderate number of calories.

  • Protein: 37 g
  • Calories: 480
  • Carbs 25 g 
  • Fat: 27 g

Asian Sesame Salad with Chicken

This is a tasty option with 29 grams of protein and 410 calories. I like the fresh ingredients and the added nutrition that almonds and sesame seeds bring. Even the wonton strips fit into this salad. 

Remember to opt for fruit instead of a French baguette as a side. 

  • Protein: 29 g
  • Calories: 410
  • Carbs: 26 g 
  • Fat: 22 g

Mediterranean Bowl with Chicken

Looking for a warm bowl? The Mediterranean bowl with chicken offers 26 grams of protein and 570 calories with a side. This bowl is both filling and tasty, thanks to the blend of Greek yogurt, lemon tahini, and hummus.

  • Protein: 26 g
  • Calories: 570
  • Carbs: 54 g
  • Fat: 6 g

Panera nutrition facts


Chipotle is highly personalized and you can choose every ingredient that goes into your meal.

Creating a high-protein meal is easy by choosing to add chicken, steak, beef barbacoa, carnitas, or sofritas (if plant protein is your preference). 

Chipotle High Protein (Building)

You can even add additional protein by adding beans to your meal. There’s no need to add cheese for additional protein, so it’s easier to keep the fat content and calories low. 

For these meals, I choose the ingredients based on protein content and common items added. However, you can make it your own by going to Chipotle’s nutrition facts and finding out the nutrients in your favorite bowl, burrito, and salad. 

Burrito Bowl

Create a high-protein, moderate-calorie burrito bowl by incorporating a single portion of beef barbacoa, a modest serving of brown rice, a normal serving of beans, and a standard portion of fajita veggies. Finish it off with salsa on top. Add salad. 

  • Protein: 35 g
  • Calories: 450 
  • Carbs: 51 g
  • Fat: 12 g

Steak Salad

Craving a salad? Opt for double the amount of steak, skip the rice or beans, and add queso blanco for a flavorful twist. Avoid the vinegar dressing, as it’s high in calories. For an unconventional touch, consider adding fresh tomato salsa, which adds tons of flavor without extra calories or fat.

  • Protein: 47 g
  • Calories: 425
  • Carbs: 7 g
  • Fat: 21 g


I was happily surprised to see that Starbucks displays the protein content of their menu items.

This makes it much easier to pick something that’s both high in protein and mindful of calories. 

Starbucks (Building)

However, since most of their menu items contain less than 25 grams of protein, pairing a food item with a coffee seems to be the best option.

Turkey Bacon, Cheddar & Egg Sandwich and Latte (Grande)

This sandwich features slices of turkey bacon, a fluffy egg patty, and cheddar cheese nestled between two slices of whole-grain bread. 

The turkey bacon provides a lean source of protein, while the egg adds even more protein and essential nutrients. Additionally, the whole-grain bread offers fiber, which helps keep you feeling full and satisfied. 

With around 18 grams of protein per serving and a balanced combination of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, this sandwich provides a satisfying and nutritious meal option that can support weight loss goals while keeping you fueled throughout the morning.

Pair it up with a latte to meet your protein requirements. If you choose a grande latte, then you will get a total of 31 grams of protein and 400 calories.  Choose fat-free milk to decrease the calories without sacrificing the protein content.

  • Protein: 31 g
  • Calories: 400
  • Carbs: 19 g
  • Fat: 7 g

Egg Whites & Roasted Red Pepper Egg Bites

Starbucks’ famous egg bites absolutely had to make it onto the list. While they might not be very high in protein by themselves, when you pair them with a tasty milk-based coffee, you’re looking at a solid 25 grams of protein.

I tried a cold drink with these bites, but that combination fell short on protein so instead I again chose a grande latte. 

  • Protein: 25 g
  • Calories: 360
  • Carbs: 30 g
  • Fat: 15 g

Starbucks nutrition for hot beverages

Easy-to-read food menu (protein and calories)

Burger King

Choosing the best options at Burger King was tough because most sandwiches with over 30 grams of protein also clocked in at over 600 calories, and that’s not even counting drinks or fries.

Also, those with under 500 calories failed to reach 25 grams of protein.  So, I am keeping BK to one option. 

I was amazed to see so many sandwiches with over 1,000 calories!

Bacon Double Cheeseburger 

Who said bacon? Ah, yes, the Bacon Double Cheeseburger is the best option here, with just under 500 calories. Unfortunately, it falls somewhat short on protein content, offering only 27 grams.

  • Protein: 27.1g
  • Calories: 440
  • Carbs: 31.8 g
  • Fat: 24 g

Nutrition facts obtained from the BK website.

Things to Consider

In your journey toward healthier living, it’s important to remember that perfection isn’t always possible. Making the best choices we can, even when things aren’t ideal, is a big step forward. 

Processed foods, while convenient, tend to be high in fat and calories but low in nutrients. So, it’s wise to enjoy them only in moderation. 

By being mindful of what you eat and finding a balance between convenience and nutrition, you can work toward a healthier lifestyle over time.

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