I can’t tell you definitively what the “healthiest” option off the Wendy’s menu is, because we all have different definitions of what healthy means.
For you, eating fast food may not be healthy at all, and that’s fine! But just because it’s fast food, that doesn’t mean there are not some decent options.
Let’s explore some of the options on the Wendy’s menu, and which may be best for your goals. Whether that’s finding an option with the lowest calories, or the highest protein, or the fewest carbs- let’s explore the entire Wendy’s menu!
Is Wendy’s Healthy?
Many people tend to look at fast food and automatically think that it’s unhealthy, but that’s not true at all.
If you do a quick internet search for “is fast food healthy” you’re going to be bombarded with links about “what fast food does to your body” or “worst fast food options to eat.” Blah blah blah.
To me, that is all nonsense.
It’s just food.
Sure, some of the options may not be considered healthy, but that doesn’t make them UNhealthy. There’s a big difference there.
Nobody is going to argue with you if you call vegetables healthy food.
Well, since this is the internet, someone might argue with you… but you get the point.
But on the other hand, if something is NOT considered healthy, that doesn’t mean that it is UNhealthy.
Let’s use the Wendy’s menu as an example. More specifically, a Wendy’s burger.
We’re going to generalize here, but most people probably don’t consider Wendy’s to be “healthy” food. The problem there is that because of that labeling, they then see Wendy’s as unhealthy.
But it doesn’t need to be one or the other.
Just because something doesn’t directly benefit your health, it doesn’t make it unhealthy.
No single food is inherently unhealthy. It may provide fewer health benefits than other foods, but it can never be unhealthy on its own. That holds true for burgers, fries, ice cream, pizza, or any other food you can think of.
You should never look at food and see it as unhealthy.
Sure, you may not consider most items on the Wendy’s menu to be health food, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
And besides, there’s always the mental health aspect as well. If a spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy’s is going to bring you joy, you should be able to enjoy it!
Wendy’s Quality Ingredients
When we think fast food, we typically think of low-quality ingredients, and the Wendy’s menu is no exception.
I remember a rumor from many years ago that Taco Bell used the lowest possible quality meat allowed, which basically equated to eating meat scraps suitable for dog food.
People took that and ran with it, and it seems that the stigma has continued to live on across all fast food options.
But that is not at all the case. Some fast food restaurants (if not most, at this point) use incredibly high-quality ingredients.
If you visit the Wendy’s website, I feel they hit the nail on the head:
Is it just us, or are a lot of restaurants using words that don’t really mean anything? They talk about their “artisanal” chefs and “superfoods,” and how their “all-natural” menus are perfect for “eating clean.” Wait, what?
Honestly, it’s true. Do we even know what artisanal means?
Wendy’s cuts right to the chase. Here’s what makes their ingredients higher quality than other options (according to their own website):
- Meat that is always fresh and never frozen
- Fruits & vegetables from quality farms
- No artificial flavors or preservatives
- All sandwiches made to order
- Transparent nutrition, allergen, and product sourcing info
So what you will about Wendy’s, but to me, that is quite impressive!
Let’s look at some of the specific Wendy’s menu items though, and how they stack up nutritionally…
There are quite a few burger options at Wendy’s, and I couldn’t quite fit them all on this graphic, but I included most of ’em.
They do change occasionally, with seasonal items making it onto the menu, so note that the menu may be slightly different depending on when you’re seeing this.
Lowest calorie Wendy’s Burger
Jr. Hamburger: 240 Calories, 10g Fat, 25g Carbs, 13g Protein
If you want something a little more substantial, but still lower in calories, The Jr Bacon Cheeseburger has 380 Calories, 23g Fat, 26g Carbs, and 19g Protein.
Highest protein Wendy’s burger
Dave’s Triple: 1,100 Calories, 73g Fat, 41g Carbs, 70g Protein
While 70g of protein is a ton, we cannot argue that 1,100 calories is also very high for a burger.
If you want a higher protein option, without overdoing it on calories, The Doublestack is your best bet. With 24g of protein and 390 Calories, it won’t break the calorie bank, and will help you get some extra protein in!
Wendy’s burgers calorie saving tips
When it comes to burgers, most of the options at Wendy’s have cheese. How many calories can you save by leaving the cheese off? Let’s figure it out.
Since we know the nutrition for a Jr. Hamburger as well as a Jr. Cheeseburger based on the graphic above, we can do some quick math to figure out the nutrition for the slice of cheese (since that is the only difference in these burgers).
When you find the difference, you’ll see that one slice of cheese at Wendy’s is 40 calories, 3g fat, 1g carb, and 2g protein.
If you want to go for a Dave’s Triple, which has 3 slices of cheese, you can save yourself 120 calories & 9g fat by asking for no cheese.
That monster of a burger still would have nearly 1,000 calories, but I’m not judging.
And while it’s tough to say exactly how many calories are added by condiments, we can always estimate how many there are. But if you want to definitively save some calories, ask for condiments on the side!
Something like mustard won’t be adding a ton of calories, but mayo can end up adding 100s of calories to your burger. Asking for it on the side allows you to control how much you’re using, but you can of course just leave it off altogether.
Wendy’s Chicken & Chicken Sandwiches
Ahhh, Wendy’s chicken. In my humble opinion, the best chicken sandwiches in the fast food game.
The spicy chicken has long been one of my favorite options out there! Note that I mean the spicy chicken sandwich and not the “spicy crispy chicken sandwich”. They are very similar when it comes to flavor, but the crispy chicken sandwiches are a bit smaller or utilize a chicken patty, similar to one you’d find in a cafeteria.
Similar to the burgers, the nutrition here is mostly dependent on the cheese and condiments, because the chicken stays the same throughout. The homestyle and spicy chicken patties always end up the same, with grilled chicken giving you some slightly more favorable options.
For this guide, I also only included 6 piece nuggets, but you have the option to order a 4 piece or 10 piece. I was going to include those, but I figured we could just go math instead.
Based on the nutrition above each nugget (regular, not spicy) is:
42 calories, 2.5g fat, 2g carbs, 2g protein.
Checking their menu, that math works out for the 10 piece nuggets:
420 calories, 27g fat, 24g carbs, 22g protein (some very slight rounding, but close enough)
Which Wendy’s chicken menu item is healthiest?
When it comes to chicken, it’s no secret that a grilled option is going to be a bit healthier than a fried option.
I mean, just compare the Crispy Chicken Sandwich vs the Grilled Chicken Sandwich.
While the calories are fairly similar (330 vs 370) the grilled chicken sandwich has 20g more protein!
The Wendy’s Grilled Chicken Sandwich is definitely your best bet, but if you’re looking for another option that isn’t as plain, the Avocado BLT Grilled Chicken Sandwich is still a great choice! While the calories are higher at 590, you’re getting a whopping 44g of protein!
Wendy’s chicken calorie saving tips
If you’re looking to lower the calories and up the protein a bit, getting any sandwich grilled is definitely the way to go!
And while we don’t know the exact number, I estimate that leaving the mayo off will save about 100 calories. When I order the spicy chicken sandwich without mayo, I estimate that the sandwich comes in at just about 400 calories. Not bad!
I was really surprised when I first tried Wendy’s salads- they always test pretty fresh!
My favorites are when they release their seasonal summer salads, which always have some kind of fruit in them. but since they are only seasonal, I stuck with the staples here.
One thing that is great about Wendy’s salad options is the ability to order half salads. As you can see by the nutrition, they’re not EXACTLY half of the full salad, and the size is still decent.
If you’re looking to save some calories, getting a half salad instead of fries can be a great option, and much more filling.
The nutrition for these salads does not include dressing- the dressing always comes on the side in packets, which you can see above. A full salad will come with 2 packets, and a half salad will come with one packet.
Which Wendy’s salad menu item is healthiest?
Depending on what you’re looking for in a salad, you have a few options. And, like I mentioned, there are always quality seasonal salads being offered as well!
Personally, I think the Southwest Salad is the way to go.
With only 450 calories and 42g of protein, it’s a great option that is not only delicious, but also incredibly filling.
Just keep in mind that this is without dressing, and if you were to add ranch to the salad, it will add an additional 80 calories.
Wendy’s salad calorie saving tips
When I order salads, I never add the dressing right on top. Instead, I keep it on the side, dip my fork into the dressing, then eat the salad with that. It helps me to use less dressing while still feeling like I’m getting plenty of flavor.
If you want to use dressing, I have nothing against it! At 60-80 calories, using a packet of dressing is surely not going to ruin anything you’ve got going. But, it is typically more than you’ll need, so aim to use half the packed instead of the whole thing!
Depending on the type of salad you get, you can also use alternatives for dressing. My go-to is always a Southwest salad wherever I go, and instead of salad dressing, I’ll use hot sauce or salsa! The caloric impact is very minimal, and the flavor is even better than a salad dressing in my eyes!
Do Frosty’s count as sides? They do now.
If you’ve never tried it, get yourself some fries and a Frosty and dip the fries right into it. I’ll admit, I thought that was really strange, but it is damn good.
There are a few things I left off this graphic, so I’ll mention them here: both Frosty’s and fries come in junior sizes.
A junior-sized fry will be 220 calories, 10g fat, 28g carbs, and 3g fat.
A junior-sized vanilla Frosty will be 190 calories, 5g fat, 32g carbs, and 5g protein.
At less than 200 calories, a junior Frosty can be a great option if you’re craving something sweet. Granted, they’re quite small- only 6 ounces. But they can still hit the spot!
The nutrition listed is also for vanilla Frosty’s, not chocolate. We all know vanilla is the superior flavor, but the nutrition is very comparable regardless of the flavor. Note that the chocolate Frosty’s may have an extra 20-30 calories, though.
Wendy’s also has a few different options for baked potatoes and loaded fries. Although not listed above, you can also get a Sour Cream & Chives Baked Potato, and a Bacon Cheese Baked Potato.
For fries, you also have the option to get Baconator Fries or Bacon Jalapeno Fries.
And if none of these sides tickle your fancy, there are a couple fruit options as well! You can get a side of apple slices or strawberries, which will only be 35 or 30 calories, respectively.
Which Wendy’s side item is healthiest?
I’ll admit, most of the sides from Wendy’s aren’t “healthy” in the traditional sense. We’re looking at French Fries or ice cream, after all.
That being said, the chili is a great option!
A small chili is only 240 calories and provides 16g of protein, which is more favorable than even a small fry. Plus, any kind of soup (or chili, in this case) is going to be much more filling than something like fries due to the volume.
Conclusion: is Wendy’s healthy?
That’s for you to decide!
There’s no true definition of what healthy means. For you, that might be high protein and low calorie. For someone else, it might mean something nourishing with lots of micronutrients. It’s totally up to you if the Wendy’s menu is healthy!
All I can do is provide you with the information to make that decision for yourself.
All of this being said, it’s okay to put calories and macros aside and enjoy a meal at Wendy’s. Even if that means eating a 1000+ calorie Baconator.
Remember: every food choice we make does not need to be in the pursuit of perfect health. You’re allowed to eat for pure enjoyment sometimes, too.