We’ve all been guilty of it: spending too much money on fast food. The grease, convenience, and fries make fast food a frequent go-to source of meals, but ordering options like “grilled” or salads often tack on extra cost, while a mayonnaise ridden sandwich seems to be cheap. Having a few drive-thru recommendations will help you choose items that are more well-rounded in ingredients than just value size fries and a soda. Knowing your dollar menu nutrition will help you pick the best items for the lowest cost.
- McChicken sandwich. Order without mayonnaise and add tomato. You’ll most likely be charged a few more cents to add tomato, but this little sandwich balances protein, carbs, and vegetables better with the addition, and will still cost you less than $2 at most locations. A McChicken sandwich without mayonnaise and with tomato will run you under 320 calories.
- Fruit ‘N Yogurt Parfait. This small snack packs a lot of protein with a few antioxidants for a great morning, post-workout, or late night treat. At 150 calories for 5.2 ounces, the McDonald’s Parfait actually has fewer calories than some of the grocery store packaged options.
- Sausage Burrito. Though not always available, the Sausage Burrito offers 300 calories of protein, tomatoes, chiles, and cheese wrapped in a tortilla. This is an absolute breakfast win, as it is the same size as a sausage sandwich, but contains fewer calories and less fat.
- Spicy Tostada. If you’re looking to cut down on fat or for a more mild spice, you can also order this tostada Fresco style for pico de gallo instead of the creamy chipotle sauce. Beans, tomatoes, lettuce, and cheese on a corn tostada shell make this a wheat-free item (though Taco Bell suggests the ingredients may still trigger gluten sensitivity).
- Shredded Chicken Mini Quesadilla. Similarly to the Tostada, you can order this Fresco style for a quesadilla including chicken, tomato pico de gallo, and cheese for less than 150 calories, so go ahead and order more than one.
- Garden Side Salad. This little salad wins the award for best value menu item! Even with creamy ranch dressing, this salad is only 210 calories and includes vitamins from mixed baby greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, and red bell peppers. Ask for Light Spicy Asian Chili Vinaigrette and add Spicy Roasted Cashews for a little bit of heat and an extra gram of protein.
- Jr. Cheeseburger Deluxe. If you like getting a lot of bang for your buck, this sandwich gives you lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mustard, pickles, cheese, and a beef patty on a bun without charging any extra. To keep it under 300 calories, order it without mayonnaise (and trust me, you won’t miss it on this sandwich).
- Breakfast Burrito. This vegetarian-friendly breakfast burrito packs in 13 grams of protein to make for an alternative to the Sausage Burrito at McDonald’s. And just so you know, adding bacon won’t cost you much more monetarily, and it will add in 7 grams of protein and 110 calories.
- Double Beef Classic Taco. Twice the price of the Regular Taco, but twice the meat and fewer calories than two Regular Tacos, plus tomatoes for no extra cost!
- Real Strawberry Lemonade. Add this on to any meal for $1, and enjoy the vitamin C from real strawberries in Minute Maid Light Lemonade for only 40 calories.
- Bacon Cheeseburger Deluxe. Somehow this sandwich manages to pack in cheese and bacon on a beef patty for only 290 calories, and includes lettuce, tomatoes, onions, pickles, mustard, and ketchup. Best part? No need to ask for “no mayonnaise,” because this sandwich comes without it.
- Vanilla Soft Serve. Cool and creamy vanilla soft serve ice cream on a cone for 160 calories and 4 grams of protein makes for a dessert that is inexpensive and will provide you with a little energy.
Go forth and enjoy your meal!