The life of a student athlete can be very busy. Family meals get pushed aside as parents shuffle kids from one activity to the next. Grabbing food on the go as you head to practice or stopping for something afterwards is often the only way to get a balanced meal. If you find yourself in that situation, don’t fear. Fast-food choices have come a long way from what they used to be.

Here’s a list of “better for you” choices at a few popular fast-food establishments. Items included on the list have under 500 calories per serving. Some athletes may need to add additional items or increase portions to meet their individual needs.

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This franchise is a popular pick with student athletes, and for good reason. They offer a wide variety of foods, including many that are packed with good nutrition. They even have a kale salad on the menu. If your meal on the go is a stop at Chick-Fil-A®, consider one of the following better-for-you options.

Low-Fat Milk

Low-Fat Chocolate Milk


Fruit Cup

Greek Yogurt Parfait

Egg White Grill (comes with cheese)

Bacon, Egg & Cheese Muffin

Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Chik-Fil-A Cool Wrap

Grilled Nuggets

Grilled Spicy Deluxe Sandwich

Market Salad

Side Salad

Chicken Noodle Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Greek Yogurt Parfait

Fruit Cup

Buddy Fruits

Kale Crunch Salad


This quick-serve restaurant was one of the first to add a grilled chicken sandwich to their menu. They also boast about their salads – which they say are made fresh in store. Their salads come in two sizes, with dressings and dried ingredients always on the side. They are also the only fast-food restaurant to offer baked potatoes and one of the first to offer chili. For these reasons, Wendy’s® is a great stop for student athletes.


Low-Fat Milk

Low-Fat Chocolate Milk


Classic Egg & Cheese Sandwich Any Fresh-Made Salad

Fresh-Made Oatmeal Bar


Plain Baked Potato

Baked Potato with Cheese

Apple Slices

Jr. Hamburger/Jr. Cheeseburger

Jr. Cheeseburger Deluxe

Grilled Chicken Sandwich


This classic fast-food restaurant is famous for their crispy, golden French fries and Big Mac, but they’ve also added some options for their health-conscious consumers. McDonald’s® offers quite a few selections for student athletes to fuel up on the go. If this is your restaurant of choice, consider the following ways to pack energy and fluids into your meal.


Low-Fat Milk

Low-fat Chocolate Milk


Fruit & Maple Oatmeal

Egg & Cheese on a Muffin/Biscuit/Bagel

Grilled Chicken Sandwich


Apple Slices

Panera Bread®

Panera® is a popular newcomer to the fast-food restaurant category. They offer a wide variety of sandwiches, soups and salads and are known for offering fresh fruit instead of bread with certain entrees. They offer a “You Pick Two” option, where you can get a half portion of your favorite sandwich and salad as one meal combo. Salads come in two sizes, and for student athletes that need more carbohydrates, their soups can be served in a bread bowl.



Low-Fat Milk

Low-Fat Chocolate Milk

Unsweetened Iced Tea

Plum Ginger Hibiscus Tea

Any of the Fruit Smoothies

Avocado, Egg White & Spinach

Egg & Cheese on Brioche

Scrambled Egg & Cheese on Brioche

Scrambled Egg & Cheese on Ciabatta

Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries & Pecans

Greek Yogurt with Mixed Berries Parfait

Fresh Fruit Cup

Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad with Chicken

Greek Salad

Asian Sesame Salad with Chicken

Any Soup

Sprouted Grain Bagel Flat

Turkey Chili

Fresh Fruit (Apple or Banana)

Squeezable Yogurt (Strawberry or Mixed Berry)

Turkey Sandwich



Most people think of sandwiches when they think of Subway®, but even this restaurant has expanded their options. Now they have wraps and protein bowls, and you can order most of their sandwich items as a salad. They make it easy to identify healthier options, too – listing their lower calories subs as part of their Fresh Fit menu.

Low-Fat Milk


Egg & Cheese Flat Bread Any 6” Sub or Sandwich from the Fresh Fit Menu

Any Salads

Protein Bowls

Veggie Delight Wrap



If you pass a Dunkin® on your way to practice, don’t skip it just because you don’t want a donut. This quick-serve establishment has made some big changes in the recent years, including dropping the donut from their name! Their updated menu offers some nutritious breakfast items, and they’ll even warm or toast their bakery items on request.


Low-Fat Milk

Low-Fat Chocolate Milk

Unsweetened Tea

Unsweetened Coffee


Veggie Egg White Omelet

Power Breakfast Sandwich

Wake-Up Wrap

Multigrain Thin

English Muffin



Egg & Cheese Muffin

Ham, Egg & Cheese Muffin


Starbucks® is known for their coffee, but their food selection has grown significantly over recent years. They have a large selection of better-for-you breakfast items that can be ordered all day long. They also sell sandwiches and sealed snack packs and meals that can be taken with you. The below items are pulled from their website menu and may not be offered at all locations.

Low-Fat Milk

Low-Fat Chocolate Milk

Unsweetened Coffee (caffeine)

Unsweetened Tea (Caffeine)


Bacon, Gouda & Egg Sandwich

Turkey Bacon, Cheddar & Egg White Sandwich

Spinach, Feta & Egg White Wrap

Avocado Spread

Kale & Portabella Mushroom Sous Vide Egg Bites

Bacon & Gruyère Sous Vide Egg Bites

Egg White & Roasted Red Pepper  Sous Vide Egg bites

Oatmeal (classic & blueberry)

Vanilla Yogurt Cup

Strawberry Overnight Grains

8 Grain Roll

Blueberry Scone

Blueberry Muffin

Tomato & Mozzarella Panini

Snack Trays and Boxes:

-Grilled Chicken & Hummus Protein Box

-Gala Apples, Egg, White Cheddar Cheese & Almonds Box

-Green Apples, Egg, Mild Cheddar Cheese & Cashews Box

-Gala Apples, Cheddar Cheese & Pretzels Snack Tray

-Carrots, White Cheddar Cheese & Almonds Snack Tray

-Prosciutto, Mozzarella and Breadsticks

Chicken & Quinoa Protein Bowl with Black Beans & Greens

Berry Trio Parfait

Strawberry Overnight Grains

Vanilla Yogurt Cup

All Bagels

Toasted Almond & Banana Nut Square

Raspberry Walnut & Oat Nut Square

Morning Bun

Any Croissants (& Croissant Sandwiches)

Quick-serve restaurants have a wide variety of foods on their menu – some that support sports performance, and others that don’t. If you’re visiting your favorite restaurant only once in a while, choose what you like. However, if you’re typically visiting fast-food restaurants before or after practice, then be mindful of making healthier choices regularly.

Disclaimer: Above recommendations are made based on nutrition information provided on website menus. Menu items subject to change and may not be available at all locations.