McDonald’s and Costa are handy options when you need a quick meal on the go – or simply fancy a tasty treat.
Those calorie counting may feel that their favourite fast food chain is a ‘no go zone’ for a lunchtime meal or snack.
However, plenty of your go-to restaurants actually offer craving-satisfying dishes for under 600 calories, meaning you don’t need to worry about being an organised meal-prepper or finding the best supermarket meal deal.
Here, Metro.co.uk takes a look at the current menus of McDonald’s, KFC, Burger King, Subway, Gregg’s, Leon, Starbucks, Costa, Domino’s Pizza and Nando’s to find out what low-calorie options are on offer…
Surprisingly, there are quite a few lower calorie options available at McDonald’s, including:
- Six Chicken McNuggets (261 kcal)
- Crispy Chicken Salad (274 kcal)
- Cheeseburger (298 kcal)
- Filet O Fish (319 kcal)
- The Sweet Chilli One Wrap, grilled (320 kcal)
- Crispy Chicken and Bacon Salad (320 kcal)
- Vegetable Deluxe Burger (361 kcal)
- McChicken Sandwich (369 kcal)
To make it a meal, add a Side Salad (18 kcal) and Fruit Bag (46 kcal) or Small Fries (237 kcal) – and for a drink add a medium Diet Coke (1 kcal), Sprite Zero (4 kcal) or bottled water for zero calories.
If you can live without the fries, you could opt for a Big Mac (493 kcal), McPlant (429 kcal) or a McCrispy (484 kcal) with your salad and still enjoy a meal around 500 calories.
Don’t forget the calories for your favourite dip pots – add 27 for ketchup, 42 for sweet and sour, 44 for BBQ, and 47 for sweet curry sauce.
See more lower-calorie options from McDonald’s here
Fortunately, KFC has lower-calorie options, including burgers and pieces of chicken:
- Hot Wings, per wing (90 kcal)
- Original Recipe Chicken, per drumstick (175 kcal)
- Original Recipe Chicken, per wing (195 kcal)
- Original Recipe Chicken, per thigh (265 kcal)
- Mini Fillet Burger (290 kcal)
- Regular Popcorn Chicken (290 kcal)
- Zinger Salad (330 kcal)
Make it a meal with sides, such as a Corn Cobette (60 kcal), Regular BBQ Beans (105 kcal), Regular Coleslaw (150 kcal), Regular Creamy Mash (150 kcal) or even Regular Fries (279 kcal).
There’s also the option of a Ricebox for a low-cal KFC meal, usually containing one piece of chicken (spice level up to you), rice, salsa and salad:
- Veggie Ricebox (355 kcal)
- Fillet Ricebox (490 kcal)
- Zinger Ricebox (490 kcal)
To top it all off with a drink, go for zero-calorie bottled water, any size Pepsi Max (5 kcal), a Regular 7Up Free (5 kcal) or any size Sugar-Free Tango Orange (5 kcal).
And keep an eye on dip pot calories, too, with the full list available as a PDF via KFC’s UK website.
Burger King is delicious, but some burgers are whoppers (pun intended) when it comes to calories.
The Bacon King (laden with cheese, bacon and two patties) has the highest number of calories at 1,042 – with some of the lowest calorie burgers being the Plant Based Whopper (543 kcal), Chicken Royale (556 kcal) and Vegan Royale (557 kcal).
However, you do have some lower-calorie options, including King Saver burgers and sides:
- Six Chicken Fries (214 kcal)
- Small Fries (219 kcal)
- Six Chicken Nuggets (242 kcal)
- Vegan Nuggets (243 kcal)
- Hamburger (247 kcal)
- Cheeseburger (284 kcal)
- Six Chilli Cheese Bites (318kcal)
- Nine Onion Rings (337 kcal)
- Double Cheeseburger (418 kcal)
Combine two and you should be able to make a meal for under or just over 600 calories.
Drinks to add include bottled water, Coke Zero (3 kcal) and Sprite Zero (6 kcal) or a Capri Sun juice pouch (14 – 16 kcal).
When it comes to Subway, exact calories will vary a bit depending on what you like to put on your sandwich.
As a starting point, here are a few lower-calorie six-inch subs on Hearty Italian bread, without salad, sauce or cheese (except for the Steak & Cheese, of course):
- Veggie Delite (217 kcal)
- Ham (270 kcal)
- Turkey Breast & Ham (273 kcal)
- Roast Chicken Breast (287 kcal)
- Chicken Teriyaki (304 kcal)
- Chicken & Bacon (324 kcal)
- Steak & Cheese (330 kcal)
- Tuna (347 kcal)
- Vegan Plant Patty (371 kcal)
To knock off a few calories, consider 9-Grain Wheat, Italian White, or even Tiger Bread instead of Hearty Italian.
You do need to add on for American Cheese (43 kcal) and Mozzarella (60 kcal), plus a few extra for any salad you’ve added, such as red onion, tomato, peppers or jalapeños, though.
And for sauces, too, such as Lite Mayo (7 kcal), Sweet Onion (24 kcal), Chipotle Southwest Sauce (58 kcal) and Garlic Aioli (67 kcal).
It’s the same system for salads, too – with calories for Subway salads starting from as low as 39 kcal, and going up depending on what protein you’ve chosen and what else you add.
Your can work out your order’s typical calories using Subway’s menu. Click on the sub or salad you usually go for, and customise it to see the calories change.
To make a larger meal of a sub or salad, add a side, choosing from:
- Side Salad (17 kcal)
- Four Nacho Chicken Bites (180 kcal)
- Pepperoni Slice (221 kcal)
- Six Hash Browns (232 kcal)
- Bowl of Meatballs (238 kcal)
- Regular Crinkle Wedges (270 kcal)
Known for its delicious savoury pastries, chain Greggs does have some lower calorie options on its menu – including its classic sausage roll (and the vegan version).
Check out the full menu here, but these sandwich, salad and hot food options are all under 350 calories:
- Lentil & Bacon Soup (213 kcal)
- Sweet Potato Bhaji & Rice (244 kcal)
- Smoky Cajun Rice with BBQ Chicken & Sweetcorn Fritters (253 kcal)
- Ham Sandwich (261 kcal)
- Vegan Sausage Roll (303 kcal)
- Cheese Sandwich (308 kcal)
- Egg Mayonnaise Sandwich (315 kcal)
- Sausage Roll (329 kcal)
- Honey Roast Ham & Egg Salad (330 kcal)
- Tuna Mayonnaise Roll (331 kcal)
- Honey Roast Ham & Egg Salad Roll (333 kcal)
- Roast Chicken Salad Roll (346 kcal)
- Tandoori Chicken (348 kcal)
If you can’t resist a pasty, go for a Steak Bake (409 kcal), Chicken Bake (423 kcal) or Cheese & Onion Bake (439 kcal).
You could also opt for a side or sweet treat, such as:
- Melon & Grape Fruit Pot (43 kcal)
- Mini Sausage Rolls (72 kcal)
- Hash Browns (151 kcal)
- Glazed Ring Doughnut (215 kcal)
- Southern Fried Potato Wedges (278 kcal)
Combining one of each could help you keep your meal under or around 600 calories.
For example: a Vegan Sausage Roll, Glazed Ring Doughnut and Melon & Grape Fruit Pot clocks in at 561 calories, or a Roast Chicken Salad Roll plus Hash Browns comes to 497 calories.
Finally, drink options include bottled water, zero-calorie Green Tea, Sparkling Cloudy Lemonade (15 kcal), or a coffee such as a Regular Americano (9 kcal) or Espresso Shot (11 kcal).
This chain, which champions ‘naturally fast food’, has a few filling options that are under 600 calories:
- Lentil Masala Rice Box (549 kcal)
- Brazilian Black Bean Rice Box (554 kcal)
You could also go for a combination of the following burgers, wraps and sides to keep your meal in the 600-calorie range:
- Jerk Chicken Mezze side (123 kcal)
- Chargrilled Chicken Mezze side (141 kcal)
- Winter Slaw side (155 kcal)
- Flatbread side (156 kcal)
- Baked Fries side (242 kcal)
- Hummus side (265 kcal)
- Sweet Potato Falafel Wrap (405 kcal)
- Jerk N’ Jam Chicken Wrap (425 kcal)
- 5 GFC Nuggets (437 kcal)
- Chargrilled Chicken Burger (448 kcal)
For example: you could enjoy the Chargrilled Chicken Burger and Winter Slaw for 603 calories, or the Sweet Potato Falafel Wrap and Jerk Chicken Mezze side for 528.
Starbucks is primarily known for its hot drinks – particularly coffee.
There are lower-calorie coffees on its menu, including Caffè Americano (5 kcal), Espresso Macchiato (8 kcal) and Tall Cold Brew Coffee (20 kcal) – as well as a range of zero-calorie hot and iced teas.
If you fancy a treat, you could go for a Peach or Lemon Iced Tea (53 kcal), Caffè Misto (59 kcal), Caffè Latte (82 kcal), or a Starbucks Doubleshot Iced Coffee (89 kcal).
Looking at the Starbucks food menu, here are its lowest-calorie sandwiches or wraps:
- Plant Based No’ Beef & Red Onion Focaccia (347 kcal)
- Cheese & Marmite Mini Ciabatta (352 kcal)
- Plant Based Spinach & Pea Falafel Wrap (369 kcal)
- Five Cheese Toastie (386 kcal)
- Oak Smoked Ham & Cheese Toastie (394 kcal)
- Gluten Free Ham & Cheese Panini (394 kcal)
While its cakes and cookies are often higher in calories, you could still pair your sandwich with one of the following:
- Cookie Straw (90 kcal)
- Iced Gingerbread Biscuit (183 kcal)
- Almond Biscotti (196 kcal)
- Plant Based Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups (196 kcal)
- Kettle Chips (198 to 210kcal, depending on flavour)
- Mixed Fruits & Nuts Pack (200 kcal)
- Milk Chocolate Florentines (214 kcal)
All of Costa’s own-brand sandwiches and toasties come in at under 500 kcal, judging by the website’s menu.
Here are some of the lowest options available:
- Prawn Mayo Sandwich (301 kcal)
- Free Range Egg & Cress (319 kcal)
- Cheese & Beanz Toastie (321 kcal)
- British Ham & Cheese Toastie (354 kcal)
- BLT Sandwich (371 kcal)
If you were to sit inside (rather than get a larger, takeaway cup), you could also add a small Americano (12 kcal).
Or enjoy a small latte (96 kcal), small iced latte (106 kcal), or small cappuccino (123 kcal), all with semi-skimmed milk.
For something sweet, look for Dark Chocolate Rice Cakes (155 kcal) and Mini Caramel Waffles (150 kcal).
For classic takeaway pizza chain Domino’s, you’ll need to think small to find a lower-calorie option.
Your best bet is a personal-sized pizza, such as the personal Original Cheese & Tomato at 637 kcal, or the personal Vegi Supreme at 615 kcal.
If you’re sharing a large pizza, a few slices can often be under or around 600 calories.
Options include two large Original Cheese & Tomato slices at 417 kcal, two Pepperoni Passion slices at 528kcal, or three Vegi Supreme slices at 606 kcal, among others.
If you’d like a side, plenty are under or around 600 calories for the full box. You could either enjoy one solo – or combine half a side (for half the calories listed below) with a slice or two for a bit of variation:
- Potato Wedges (237 kcal)
- Vegan Nuggets (399 kcal)
- Chicken Strippers (436 kcal)
- Frank’s Red Hot Chicken Wings (455 kcal)
- Twisted Dough Balls with Nduja (515 kcal)
- Loaded Wedges with Cheese (543 kcal)
- Garlic Pizza Bread (614 kcal)
There are several ways to keep a meal at Nando’s lower in calories, essentially by combining two or three of the following mains and sides:
- 1/4 Peri-Peri Chicken (284 kcal)
- Three Peri-Peri Chicken Wings (236 kcal)
- Peri-Peri Chicken Butterfly (332 kcal)
- Grilled Chicken Burger (438 kcal)
- Mixed Leaf Salad side (13 kcal)
- Long-Stem Broccoli side (32 kcal)
- Macho Sprouts side (83 kcal)
- Rainbow Slaw side (131 kcal)
- Spicy Rice (246 kcal)
- Garlic Bread (362 kcal)
For example: 1/4 Peri-Peri Chicken with Spicy Rice and Long-Stem Broccoli equals 562 calories in total.
Spices for the chicken aren’t included, so factor in 10 kcal for lemon and herb, 20 for medium hot, 41 for hot, 42 for VUSA XX hot (the hottest of all) and 82 kcal for extra hot.
There are also two salad options you can choose from – the Rainbow Bowl (554 kcal) and Quinoa and Peri-Tomato Salad (523 kcal).
And of the Veggie menu, the lowest calorie main is Spiced Chickpea Burger (534 kcal) – so you could still include a vegetable side and keep your meal under 600 calories.
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Is McDonald's or KFC more unhealthy? While chicken is an obvious Men's Health staple, KFC's reliance on greasy oils and subsequent sky-high calorific content makes Maccy's an unlikely victor.What is the lowest calorie food from KFC? ›
It should come as no surprise that if you're trying to eat healthy at KFC that the grilled chicken is the way to go. All of the options in this bucket will yield you the highest protein with the lowest calories, so you get the most bang for your buck, especially if you're dieting.What is the lowest calorie meal at McDonald's? ›
- Hamburger. Calories: 263 calories. ...
- Cheeseburger. Calories: 297 calories. ...
- Four-piece chicken nuggets. Calories: 193 calories. ...
- McChicken Sandwich. Calories: 358 calories. ...
- McDouble. Calories: 395 calories. ...
- Filet-O-Fish. Calories: 378 calories. ...
- Crispy Chicken Sandwich. Calories: 470 calories.
Kentucky grilled chicken breast, house salad, and green beans. If you're looking for the healthiest foods at KFC, order the: Kentucky grilled chicken breast.How many calories are in 2 pieces of Kentucky Fried Chicken? ›
There are 899 calories in 1 serving of KFC - 2 Piece Pack.Is there healthy options at KFC? ›
Most Nutritious Option
For the healthiest dish at KFC, opt for the grilled chicken wings, which deliver 70 calories per wing thanks to the cooking method.
KFC has options for diners following a gluten-free, low-carb, diabetes-friendly, low-fat, low-sodium, and vegetarian diet, but does not have many items for low-FODMAP and vegan diners. The most nutritious food option at KFC is the grilled chicken wings as it has 70 calories per wing, thanks to the cooking method.How many calories are in 1 piece of KFC chicken? ›
There are 360 calories in 1 piece (163 g) of KFC Chicken Breast.How many calories are in 3 pieces of KFC chicken? ›
There are 1178 calories in 1 serve (905 g) of KFC 3 Piece Box.
- Hamburger. A plain hamburger at McDonald's contains 250 calories, which means it's one of the lowest-calorie items on the menu. ...
- Six-piece Chicken McNuggets. With 250 calories per serving, the six-piece Chicken McNuggets from McDonald's can be a good option if you're trying to lose or maintain weight.
- Veggie Dippers - 4 pieces Meal.
- The Sweet Chilli Chicken One (Grilled) Meal.
- The Garlic Mayo Chicken One (Grilled) Meal.
- Grilled Chicken Salad Meal.
- Crispy Chicken Salad Meal.
- Filet-o-Fish Meal.
- Chicken McNuggets® - 6 pieces Meal.
Best Side: Side Salad
With just 15 milligrams of sodium and barely-there calories (which is the better choice if it's between that or a calorie bomb), it's one of the best options on the menu, says Taub-Dix.
KFC was the most calorific the fast-food chain on the list, with an average of 987 calories per meal offered. Burger King, McDonald's and Subway were around 700kcal.Is KFC better than mcdonalds to work at? ›
McDonald's scored higher in 3 areas: Diversity & Inclusion, Work-life balance and Compensation & Benefits. KFC scored higher in 2 areas: Culture & Values and CEO Approval. Both tied in 5 areas: Overall Rating, Senior Management, Career Opportunities, Recommend to a friend and Positive Business Outlook.
Each meal from McDonald's is high in calories, high fats, and contains a lot of salt. Too much of all of that can be negative towards your health. It can cause heart diseases, diabetes, cancer, and many other health problems.