Need to grab takeaway? Let this be your go-to guide for the healthiest options out there.
Let’s face it; there are times when we all turn to fast food. Those times when you’re travelling and the roadside service station is your only food choice, or you’re stranded in an airport departure lounge, or maybe you’re in a shopping mall with ratty kids needing an urgent energy fix.
While fast food is often condemned for its poor nutritional value, it is possible to cherry pick the menu and find options that are okay.
Our dietitians have analysed and compared the nutrition information of items on the menus of Australia’s major fast food chains. Based on this, we’ve given you our top five picks for wraps, burgers, salads, pizzas and more. This means you’ll save time and won’t have to spend ages staring at the menu trying to work out the best option.
We’re not recommending fast food as a regular part of your diet, but you can feel confident that these are some of the best choices you can make when you need to.
You’ll also find helpful tips and hints that apply to any takeaway store. So, if you find yourself in your local burger joint, you’ll know the best way to order there, too.
*Look for our 'BEST PICK' tags. These are the foods that most closely match our nutrition criteria. Follow these tags and you’ll be making the healthiest choices.
What to look for every time
All fast food chains display nutrition information for their food. Here’s how to use it so you can ensure you’re choosing the best option, based on HFG’s criteria for a healthy meal.
Less than 2500kJ (600cal), or less than 1700kJ (400cal) if you’re trying to lose weight
More than 20g protein
Less than 20g total fat
Less than 5g saturated fat
More than 6g fibre
Less than 500g sodium
Often you’ll find takeaway foods match only some of these criteria, for example vegetarian pizza might be light on kilojoules, but high in salt or saturated fat. If you opt for a choice like this, try to limit the salt and saturated fat in the rest of your day.
Still thinking in calories? 1 calorie = 4.2 kilojoules
How to keep it healthy
1. Choose grilled rather than fried.
2. Go for the plain or original versions, as they tend to have less kilojoules. It’s the saturated fat and salt added from sauces, cheese and extra meats such as bacon that can make these a more unhealthy choice.
3. Choose a smaller main portion and order a side salad. This way, it’s easier to get the balance right. Your healthy takeaway option needs to have:
lean meat or chicken, eggs fish or tofu (a quarter of your meal)
lots of vegies (half your meal)
wholegrain bun, bread or rice (a quarter of your meal)
a little healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil-based dressing or hommous
4. Ask for the sauce on the side so you can add a smaller amount yourself, as these can be high in kilojoules, salt and fat.
5. Stay away from meal deals and supersizing. This can add thousands of kilojoules without you even realising.
Go for the plain or original option and add a salad on the side.
Best burger picks
McDonald's Hamburger The original grilled beef burger with pickles. It’s small so add their Garden Salad too. 979kJ/234cal, 12.2g protein, 8.6g fat, 3.5g sat fat and 480mg sodium.
Hungry Jacks TenderGrill Classic Chicken burger Grilled chicken with lettuce, tomato and low-fat mayo. 1316kJ/315cal, 23.6g protein, 10.6g fat, 1.9g sat fat and 750mg sodium.
Red Rooster Peri Peri burger with mayo Chicken breast in a spicy peri peri sauce. 1300kJ/311cal, 24.7g protein, 8.3g fat, 1.5g sat fat and 722mg sodium.
Nando’s Supremo BBQ Chicken Burger (no mayo) 'BEST PICK' With barbecue sauce and caramelised onions - just ask for no mayo. 1508kJ/361cal, 32.7g protein, 7.6g fat, 2.4g sat fat and 505mg sodium.
Oporto Classic Burger single fillet Grilled chicken breast with lettuce, cheese and mayo. 1600kJ/383cal, 21.3g protein, 18.3g fat, 3g sat fat and 703mg sodium.
If you must add fries, downsize rather than upsize. Swapping a large McDonald’s French fries for a small will save you 830kJ (199cal), 10.6g fat, 1.3g sat fat and 190mg sodium.
Never supersize and try not to order a meal deal, as adding a small fries and Coke can almost double the number of kilojoules in your meal (if you add large fries and Coke you’ll triple the kilojoules!).
Hold the sauce. Sauces can add kilojoules without you even realising. For example, mayo on the Nando’s Supremo Chicken Burger adds an extra 2g fat. It’s best to ask for yours without.
Don’t assume the vegetarian option is healthier. Often there is extra cheese, sauces and the vegie fillet can be deep fried.
For example, the Hungry Jacks Veggie Whopper has 3037kJ (727cal), 41.7g fat and 1492mg sodium, that’s more than a McDonaldís Big Mac!
Ask for grilled rather than fried wherever you can and you’ll get less fat and kilojoules.
Hall of shame
A Burger Edge BBQ bacon burger with beef, a double helping of bacon, barbecue sauce and aioli, has 10,400mg of sodium - four and-a-half times the recommended daily limit!
Did you know?
It might sound like a healthy side, but the large grilled corn on the cob from Nando’s has the equivalent kilojoules, fat and sodium of a full meal!
Go for less than 1700kJ if you’re trying to lose weight.
Best wrap picks
McDonald’s mini seared chicken Snack Wrap It’s small, so add their garden salad to help fill you up. 868kJ/208cal, 12.6g protein, 7.6g fat, 2.4g sat fat and 305mg sodium.
Nando’s classic chicken pita (no mayo) 'BEST PICK' Chicken with lettuce, cucumber and tomato on pita. 1365kJ/327cal, 30.0g protein, 6.2g fat, 1.1g sat fat and 892mg sodium.
Hungry Jack’s TenderGrill wrap Grilled chicken breast and salad in a toasted tortilla. 1358kJ/325cal, 22.8g protein, 12.2g fat, 3.7g sat fat and 784mg sodium.
Half a Sumo Salad Thai beef wrap Beef with salad and Thai dressing. 1375kJ/329cal, 16.7g protein, 12.0g fat, 1.8g sat fat and 802mg sodium.
Nando’s vege pita (no mayo) A vegie pattie wrapped with lettuce, tomato and cucumber. Just ask for no mayo. 1622kJ/388cal, 12.2g protein, 9.8g fat, 1.2g sat fat and 644mg sodium.
Instead of KFC’s Twister Max with grilled chicken (which crams in hash brown, chorizo and mayo), go for their regular twister and save 608kJ (145cal), 7.4g sat fat and 889mg sodium.
Tips for wrapping
Sometimes half a wrap is enough, so check the nutrition info and your hunger.
Watch the sauces and cheeses too - mayo, sweet chilli, relish, Caesar and even hommous and avocado can all add up if more than one is used. For example, all the extras on the Sumo Salad pesto chicken, brie & rocket wrap with creamy French dressing add up to 3542kJ (847cal), 53g fat and 1490mg sodium - double the kilojoules for a meal if you’re trying to lose weight.
Make sure you have some form of protein - lean meat or chicken, fish, eggs or a vego alternative - in your wrap. Salad alone won’t fill you up for long.
Avoid deep fried or schnitzel versions as these sharply raise the kilojoule and fat counts.
Hall of shame
Burger Edge’s Okker wrap has more than a third of your daily kilojoules, a huge 70 per cent of your daily saturated fat and one and-a-half times the recommended limit for sodium.
Did you know?
Many fast food restaurants have a side salad which makes a great, filling addition to a burger or wrap. For example, a McDonaldís garden salad has only 70kJ (17cal), 0.1g fat and 18mg sodium.
Look for a salad based on leafy greens with as many different colours as possible!
Best salad picks
Mad Mex Naked Pork Burrito All the filling without the wrap. Choose pork, lettuce, tomato, salsa, guacomale and black beans. 1174kJ/281cal, 18.2g protein, 12.8g fat, 3.5g sat fat and 992mg sodium per bowl.
Sumo Salad large red quinoa & garden vege salad with baby spinach A filling vegetarian option. 1086kJ/260cal, 23.9g protein, 1.7g fat, 0.3g sat fat and 53mg sodium.
Guzman Y Gomez grilled chicken guerrero salad'BEST PICK' Grilled chicken, with spicy Mexican salsa and salad. 1100kJ/263cal, 30g protein, 6.2g fat, 2.5g sat fat and 628mg sodium.
Sumo Salad large tandoori lamb salad with light lemon mayo Grilled lamb with vegie packed salad. 1501kJ/359cal, 29.6g protein, 22.8g fat, 5.4g sat fat and 393mg sodium.
Grill’d mixed vegetables and dukkah salad To make it more satisfying, add a chicken breast or beef burger fillet. 1250kJ/299cal, 8.7g protein, 11.9g fat, 3.8g sat fat and 300mg sodium.
Replace the large Asian chicken-slaw with oriental dressing at Sumo Salad with the Pete Evans Asian greens with sweet soy, sesame and almonds. You’ll save a whopping 972mg sodium.
Tips for choosing a salad
Look for salads with lots of leafy greens, rather than pasta or potato, to help keep the kilojoules in check and ensure you get lots of filling fibre.
Make sure your salad is a balanced meal by making a quarter of it chicken, meat or eggs, a quarter carbohydrates (rice, noodles, potato or a bread roll) and half vegies (greens, carrot, capsicum or mushroom).
If your only option is a garden salad, ask to add chicken or egg to up the protein and buy a small grainy bread roll.
Watch the sauces and dressings - creamy Caesar dressing or mayo can add extra kilojoules and saturated fat. Go for olive oil, balsamic or vinaigrette dressings. Ask for it on the side so you can add your own (all you need is a teaspoon or two).
Choose one ‘extra’ only. Salads can come with different types of cheeses, nuts, avocados and croutons. Too many and you can quickly blow your kilojoule budget for the day so keep it simple and just stick to your favourite.
Hall of shame
A large Thai chicken noodle salad with Oriental dressing from Sumo Salad has 5556kJ (1329cal), almost all your kilojoules for the day if you want to lose weight. Plus your entire day’s worth of sodium!
Look for an option with fruit or dairy - add them if you need to!
Best breakfast picks
McDonald’s plain English muffin with jam Add a small skim coffee for some protein and calcium and you’re good to go. 774kJ/185cal, 4.5g protein, 2.9g fat and 269mg sodium.
Oporto bacon & egg burger Egg and bacon with barbecue sauce. 1140kJ/273cal, 16.6g protein, 10g fat, 2.6g sat fat and 732mg sodium.
Chicken Treat pancakes A stack of three pancakes with whipped butter and maple syrup. 1420kJ/340cal, 9.8g protein, 9g fat, 1.5g sat fat and 578mg sodium.
Red Rooster Bacon & Tomato Breakfast Roll Bacon, tomato, cheese and barbecue sauce in a damper roll. 1110kJ/266cal, 13.5g protein, 8.6g fat, 4g sat fat and 845mg sodium.
McCafe cheese and tomato toasted sandwich on wholemeal bread'BEST PICK' Choosing the wholemeal version will give you more fibre than the white. 1090kJ/261cal, 13.7g protein, 7.5g fat, 3.7g sat fat and 438mg sodium.
Instead of a Red Rooster chicken, bacon and egg breakfast wrap, hold the bacon and reduce the amount of sat fat and salt you’re getting.
Skip the hash brown and you’ll save between 600-700kJ (144-167cal), that’s almost half the suitable amount for a meal if you’re trying to lose weight!
Tips for choosing breakfast on the run
An ideal breakfast will have a serve of fruit, fibre from wholegrains and lean protein from either meat, nuts (i.e. peanut butter) or dairy. Mix and match to get it right, i.e. add fruit and a skim flat white to a piece of toast, or ask for peanut butter instead of jam.
Bacon is on many fast food menus but it’s high in sodium and saturated fat, which is not good for heart health. Processed meats such as ham and bacon have also been linked to certain cancers. Instead of bacon, choose egg or chicken.
A piece of banana bread does not count as a serve of fruit! It’s really cake, and a regular piece has an entire meal’s worth of kilojoules, saturated fat and sodium. Toast, a skim coffee and fresh fruit wins hands down!
Hall of shame
Chicken Treat’s Monster Brekkie Wrap, with cheese, a chicken fillet, egg and bacon has a monstrous 3160kJ (756cal), 40.5g fat, 16.7g sat fat and a whole day’s worth of sodium!
Did you know?
Adding butter and syrup to McDonald’s hotcakes almost doubles the kilojoules and fat, quadruples the saturated fat and triples the sugar… so think twice about how much you’re pouring on!
Two hand rolls is generally a good portion size.
Best sushi picks
Sushi Train tuna nigiri 'BEST PICK' A slice of raw tuna on a small mound of rice. 319kJ/76cal, 5.6g protein, 0.3g fat and 20mg sodium per piece.
Sushi Train negitoro ship Rice wrapped in seaweed, topped with raw tuna and green onion. 453kJ/108cal, 7.4g protein, 2.9g fat, 0.9g sat fat and 24mg sodium per piece.
Go Sushi inari with fresh prawn Prawn and rice with rice wine in a sweet tofu pocket. 462kJ/111cal, 4.6g protein, 2.2g fat, 0.1g sat fat and 530mg sodium per piece.
Go Sushi raw salmon and avocado roll Rice, avocado and raw salmon wrapped in a seaweed case. 573kJ/137cal, 5.7g protein, 4.2g fat, 0.8g sat fat and 529mg sodium per roll.
Go Sushi tuna roll Cooked tuna and rice wrapped in a seaweed case. 575kJ/138cal, 7.1g protein, 3.6g fat, 0.8g sat fat and 556mg sodium per roll.
Tips for choosing sushi
Two or three sushi rolls is a good size for a meal, but check the nutrition info to make sure you’re not getting more than you bargained for.
Aim for a total of less than 2500KJ (600cal), or 1700kJ (400cal) if you’re trying to lose weight.
Teriyaki marinades can add a large amount of sodium to your meal - for example, a teriyaki chicken roll can have around 650mg sodium per roll, before you even add soy sauce.
Just one little ‘fish’ of soy sauce can add about 300mg of sodium to your meal, so four fish equals half your sodium for the day. Instead, choose wasabi and ginger for extra flavour.
High in saturated fat are tempura, battered or fried sushi fillings and mayonnaise. So beware creamy mayo toppings or fillings. Brown rice sushi is lower in GI, so it keeps you full for longer and helps control your blood sugar levels.
Hall of shame
Go Sushi’s rainbow roll is a California roll wrapped in avocado and sashimi and has 798mg sodium per roll, so if you have two – that’s more than half your daily limit in one meal!
Did you know?
Edamame (soy beans) are a great, filling side – you’ll get 13.5g protein, for only 612kJ (146cal) and 38mg sodium (just ask them to hold the salt).
Miso soup might be tasty, but just one cup can have more than a quarter of your daily limit for sodium - so enjoy it occasionally.
Even if you add just a teaspoon of mayonnaise, you’ll be adding unneccessary extrakilojoules and fat.
Stick to two regular slices for a healthy-sized portion
Best pizza picks
Pizza Hut ‘Light & Delicious’ Veggie pizza Tomato, pineapple, vegies, oregano and mozzarella on their Perfecto base. 451kJ/108cal, 4.7g protein, 2.6g fat, 1.1g sat fat and 253mg sodium per slice.
Domino’s Good Choice Range chicken Napolitana pizza Chicken and sweet chilli sauce, vegies and mozzarella on a thin base. 523kJ/125cal, 6.7g protein, 1.7g fat, 0.6g sat fat and 274mg sodium per slice.
Crust Healthier Choice beef fajita pizza 'BEST PICK' Mexican-style beef, vegies and spicy tomato on a thin crust. 336kJ/80cal, 4.0g protein, 2.5g fat, 1.2g sat fat and 72mg sodium per slice.
Domino’s Good Choice Range prawn & cherry tomato pizza Prawns, vegies, tomato and mozzarella on a crispy base. 501kJ/120cal, 5.3g protein, 1.5g fat, 0.8g sat fat and 228mg sodium per slice.
Crust seafood pizza Tiger prawns, scallops, mussels, sun-dried tomatoes and bocconcini. 616kJ/147cal, 10.7g protein, 3.8g fat, 1.8g sat fat and 304mg sodium per slice.
Replace any Domino’s pizza on their ‘Edge’ crust with the same pizza made on their ‘square puff’ crust and you’ll save 814kJ (195cal) per two slices (that’s almost half the amount of a suitable meal if you’re trying to lose weight).
Tips for choosing pizza
Share! Order one pizza between four, unless it’s very small. And add a salad.
A side of salad or vegies will help fill you up and get the nutrition balance right - and stop you over-indulging on pizza.
Opt for the thin and crispy base rather than thick, cheesy or even sausage-filled crusts. This way you won’t add as many extra kilojoules along the way and there’s more room to enjoy the toppings!
Choose a topping with some vegies rather than the meat or cheese-packed varieties as these are generally very salty, fatty and lack any fibre. For example, choosing Pizza Hut’s Legends Super supreme on a Perfecto base rather than their Legends BBQ meat lovers saves you 52kJ (12cal) and 148mg sodium per slice - which all adds up when you have two or three slices.
Hall of shame
Two slices of Domino’s double bacon cheeseburger edge pizza has almost half your daily limit for both saturated fat and sodium.
Opt for beans and salad to increase your fibre.
Best Mexican picks
Mad Mex Veggie burrito Vegie burrito with lettuce and tomato salsa. 1436kJ/344cal, 9.7g protein, 11.6g fat, 4.4g sat fat and 932mg sodium.
Salsa’s Fresh Mex Grill chicken & guacamole burrito Chicken, salsa, lettuce and guacamole. 1920kJ/459cal, 23.7g protein, 19.5g fat, 6g sat fat and 1180mg sodium.
Guzman Y Gomez chicken guerrero bowl with no tortilla or cheese Chicken with rice, black beans and spicy salsa. 1530kJ/366cal, 34.3g protein, 5.6g fat, 1.3g sat fat and 705mg sodium.
Two Salsa’s Fresh Mex Grill black bean soft flour tacos Black beans, cheese, salsa, ranch sauce and lettuce. 1484kJ/355cal, 13.8g protein, 15.8g fat, 7.6g sat fat and 854mg sodium.
Two Guzman Y Gomez barramundi hard shell tacos 'BEST PICK' Grilled barramundi, rice, black beans and spicy salsa. 1562kJ/374cal, 20.8g protein, 18.4g fat, 6g sat fat and 678mg sodium.
Hold the cheese on your Guzman Y Gomez burrito and save 500kJ (120cal) and 190mg sodium and halve the fat and saturated fat of your meal. Choose the whole wheat burrito to add extra fibre.
Tips for choosing Mexican
Mexican allows you to easily mix and match to make a healthy takeaway option. Tacos and burritos are generally your best choice.
Choosing options with beans and salad will increase your fibre and protein content and help to fill you up without adding too many kilojoules.
Steer clear of sour cream and extra cheese. Your best additions are tomato salsas, which have minimal kilojoules, and guacamole which has good fats from avocado. Mexican is notoriously high in sodium due to tortillas and cheese. You may need to adjust your salt intake for the rest of the day to stay below the recommended 2300mg sodium limit.
If you have high blood pressure, ordering a burrito bowl without the tortilla or cheese is your best option.
Nachos are generally not a great choice, as most options will have more than 2000kJ (478cal) (too many kilojoules if you’re trying to lose weight) and some will even have your entire days’ worth of fat, saturated fat and sodium, too!
Hall of shame
Salsa’s Fresh Mex Grill’s Holy Guacamole nachos is huge. It has 4200kJ (1005cal), 37g protein, your entire days’ fat and one and-a-half times your recommended limit for saturated fat and sodium.
Stir-fries with steamed rice are your best choice.
Best Asian picks
Wokinabox teriyaki beef stir-fry 'BEST PICK' Beef, ginger and vegies in a teriyaki sauce. 1680kJ/402cal, 13.8g protein, 4g fat, 1.7g sat fat and 578mg sodium.
Red Rock Noodle Bar kids teriyaki chicken noodle meal Chicken with vegies and noodles in teriyaki sauce. It’s the right size portion for adults, too. 1474kJ/353cal, 20.9g protein, less than 1g of fat and sat fat and 647mg sodium.
Red Rock Noodle Bar satay peanut chicken Thick egg noodles with chicken breast and fresh vegies in a mild satay sauce. 1938kJ/464cal, 27.1g protein, 9.4g fat, 3.7g sat fat and 861mg sodium.
Red Rock Noodle Bar vegetarian mee goring Thick egg noodles with fresh vegies in an Indonesian-style sauce. 1999kJ/478cal, 23.8g protein, 2.3g fat, less than 1g of sat fat and 907mg sodium.
Red Rock Noodle Bar Singapore noodle Thin rice noodles with prawns, pork and vegies in a mild curry sauce. 2006kJ/480cal, 23.2g protein, 9.9g fat, 2.1g sat fat and 733mg sodium.
Instead of ordering the Pud Thai noodles from Wokinabox, go to Red Rock Noodle Bar for their Pud Thai and save 735kJ (176cal), 18.2g fat and a third of the sodium.
Tips for choosing Asian takeaway
Stir-fries with lean meat, seafood or chicken and lots of vegetables are your best choice.
Share a dish and order an extra side of green vegies and steamed rice so you can build a balanced plate (a quarter protein, a quarter rice or noodles and half vegies).
Stay away from dishes with deep-fried ingredients like crispy noodles or fried tofu, as well as soups with coconut cream (like Laksa) as these are higher in fat, particularly saturated fat.
Dish up your meal with a fork instead of a spoon so that some of the sauce drains away,which will reduce the amount of sodium you’re adding to your day.
Hall of shame
Even though it is low-kilojoule, Wokinabox Combination noodle soup with fish, meat and veg in a clear broth has more than your entire day’s worth of sodium (3280mg per soup)!
Did you know?
Asian sauces are particularly high in sodium, so if you have high blood pressure, it’s best to avoid them altogether or to strain some of the sauce away so you eat less.