Top 5 Food Chains to Hit for Healthy Meals During Your Summer Travels

Summer means a lot of things to a lot of people: no school, rising temps, vacations, road trips, and yes, sometimes lots of extra time in the car.

Fast-food chains are usually pretty bad for both waistlines and our health, and they can pose a particularly hard challenge for those living with diabetes, given how difficult it can be to manage fatty, carbohydrate-heavy food. But the fast-food scene has actually gotten a lot healthier in recent years. Americans are demanding more healthy options, a trend that is especially welcome for those of us with diabetes.

The next time you hit the road for your summer vacation, check out these 5 top food chains for a healthy bite that won’t bite back.


The once small, novel coffee shop heralding from the west coast is now ubiquitous in most of America’s cities and towns. A morning stop for coffee and breakfast does not need to ruin your healthy eating plans, however. There are many good options for a healthier meal at Starbucks, some of which include:

Create your own low-carb drink: If you want to go low-carb, opt for items like their iced-teas, iced-americano, cold brew, doppio espresso, or a simple iced-latte (choose low-fat milk or opt for alternative milks like almond, soy, oat, or coconut) made without any added sweetener for a healthier beverage.

Check out our diabetes-friendly Starbucks drinks, or get creative with off-the-menu items such as the Keto White Drink: simply ask for unsweetened peach citrus white tea (iced), add heavy cream, 4 pumps of sugar-free vanilla, no water, and light ice. Voila! A delicious drink that won’t derail your blood sugars.

Protein Box: Starbucks is really trying to emphasize healthy eating with their line of protein boxes, and there are many choices that are especially diabetes-friendly. Choose from protein sources like chicken, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, salami, and cheese:

Starbucks protein boxes

Starbucks protein boxes

Sous Vide Egg Bites: These luxurious little soufflés carry plenty of protein and a maximum of 10g net carbs. Choose from Kale & Portabella Mushroom, Bacon & Gruyère, and Roasted Red Pepper.

Starbucks also carries quick grab-and-go options like string cheese and protein bars for snacks as well.


Chipotle originates from Denver, Colorado, but has quickly grown to become one of the most popular Mexican fast-food restaurants across the United States. Their emphasis on fresh ingredients with custom-made options makes this a healthy eater’s dream stop, and the chain has long been a favorite of paleo, low-carb and ketogenic eaters. Some particularly healthy options include:

Custom Salad Bowl: Skip the tortilla and opt for a salad. Layer your bowl with greens instead of rice for fewer carbohydrates, and load up on a protein of your choice. Chipotle offers veggies, beans, and all the fixings (why not choose a hearty scoop of guacamole?)

The choices are dizzying. Not sure where to start? There are also some pre-made salad mixes, called Lifestyle Bowls, including several Keto options.


The establishment once known only for its burgers, fries, and shakes has expanded its menu to include a lot more salads and healthy options in recent years. You’ll be impressed to see just how many great salads Wendy’s has today. Some of the better choices at Wendy’s include:

Parmesan Caesar Salad: With no croutons, this salad comes keto-friendly without any modifications. This isn’t just a side – the salad is loaded with grilled chicken and has only about 4 grams of net carbs per serving.

Southwest Avocado Salad: Grilled chicken, bacon, avocado and southwest ranch dressing: all told, it’s 560 calories, and only 10 grams of net carbs.

Other options include the chili and surprisingly wholesome oatmeal bars and side portions of apple and strawberries.


Although famously closed on Sundays, Chick-fil-A is an excellent option if you’re looking for a healthier lunch or dinner on the go. Some recommendations for this stop include:

Grilled Chicken Nuggets: Not much beats the healthy lean protein in a grilled chicken breast – you can eat your fill of this side dish, and choose dipping sauces.

Kale Crunch Salad: Wow! Did you ever think you’d see something this healthy on a fast-food menu? A hearty salad of raw slices kale and cabbage, served with roasted almonds and a lean vinaigrette.

Chick-fil-A also has many other salads, chicken wraps, fruit cups, yogurt parfaits, and grilled chicken sandwiches.

Boston Market

Boston Market is a great stop for the whole family, if you’re craving a more home-cooked feel during your road trip. Here are a few good options to choose from:

Caesar Salad: A low-carb count and a huge amount of protein make this an excellent option for someone who’s looking for a lighter meal that will have staying power on the road while not disrupting blood sugar levels.

Quarter White Rotisserie Chicken (skinless), and Steamed Vegetables: This is a powerhouse meal that meets all needs: protein, fiber, and a minimal amount of carbohydrates.

You can also add corn to the meal, if you’re feeling a little something sweeter (which will add 20 g of carbohydrates but also an extra 5 g of fiber). Skip the cornbread and you have a perfectly balanced meal.

Eating on the road can be hard, but fast-food restaurants are working diligently to meet the shifting eating patterns and needs of Americans, and people with diabetes get to benefit, too! Try out these healthy meal and snack ideas for a healthier road trip with fewer blood sugar roller coasters along the way. And cheers to summer!