7 Healthy Versions of Fast Food Favorites to Make at Home
Healthy eating can be both delicious and satisfying, but sometimes it’s nearly impossible to resist the temptation of our favorite fast-foods. With a little creativity in the kitchen, however, those cravings can be satisfied without shame. Sticking to your diet is easier than ever when you can whip up healthy, scrumptious versions of sweet and savory treats at home.
Allow yourself to indulge of some of fast-food’s finest offerings from McDonald’s, Burger King, Chipotle, and more with these 7 recipes. We guarantee you’ll love the results!
1. Homemade Big Mac (McDonald’s)
No dish more iconically represents McDonald’s than the Big Mac — a double-pattied burger with cheese, lettuce, onions, pickles, and special sauce on a sesame seed bun. Considering the fact that McDonald’s sells 900 million Big Macs per year, it’s safe to say this fast-food staple is a particularly tough one to resist. While a standard Big Mac contains 530 calories and 27 grams of fat, Prevention’s healthier substitute contains just 310 calories and 9 grams of fat. Recipe yields 1 serving. Note: Imitation special sauce can be made and chilled for up to one month in advance.
- 3 ounces 96 percent lean ground beef (about ⅓ cup)
- 2 pinches of salt
- 1 sesame seed hamburger bun + 1 bun bottom
- 1 slice (½ ounce) 2 percent milk yellow American cheese
- 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon McDonald’s Big Mac Sauce (see below)
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped white onion
- ⅓ cup shredded iceberg lettuce
- 2 rounds dill pickle
Big Mac Sauce
- ⅓ cup low-fat mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons dill pickle relish
- 2 teaspoons ketchup
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon finely chopped white onion
Directions: For the Big Mac sauce, in a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, relish, ketchup, sugar, and mustard. Stir to blend well; stir in onion immediately before serving.
For the Big Mac, divide the beef in half. On a sheet of waxed paper, shape each half into a 40-inch patty. Season both sides with salt. Transfer the waxed paper to a plate. Place, uncovered, in the freezer for 5 minutes.
Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until drops of water sizzle when splashed on the pan. Place the patties in the pan. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes per side, or until no longer pink. Meanwhile, place the bun top and bottoms, cut-sides down, in the pan. Cook for about 1 minute, or until toasted. (If the pan is not large enough to hold the patties and the buns, first cook 1 patty with the bottom bun and then start assembling the sandwich while the others cook.) Just before the patties are cooked, place the cheese on 1 patty.
Place 1 bun bottom on a plate. Spread on 1 tablespoon of sauce. Place the cheeseburger, cheese-side down, on the bun. Spread 1 teaspoon of sauce on the second bun bottom and place, sauce-side down, on the cheeseburger. Top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sauce, the onion, lettuce, pickles, the remaining burger, and the bun top.
2. Crispy Chicken Breast (KFC)
Crispy fried chicken is what KFC does best, and this baked version of the dish from The Wonder Twins is spot-on in both texture and tastiness. Instead of gorging on a KFC Extra-Crispy chicken breast containing 490 calories and 29 grams of fat, you’ll safeguard your diet by giving your homemade chicken breasts a simple breadcrumb coating.
- 3 pounds chicken breast
- Non-fat milk
- Butter or butter spray
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 1 tablespoon Season-All (seasoned salt)
- ¾ teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup flour
- 2 teaspoons paprika
Directions: Place thawed chicken breast tenderloin strips in a bowl of milk. Let soak for 20-30 minutes. In a bowl, mix up the last five ingredients listed.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut ½ stick of butter into a few pieces and place in a 9-by-13-inch pan. Melt butter in pre-heated oven. Spread melted butter around the bottom of the pan. Lightly spray the pan, if needed, to make sure that there are no dry spots.
Shake excess milk off of chicken and completely coat each piece with the seasoning mix. You can either shake the chicken in the bag until coated, or dip each piece in the bowl until coated. Place each piece of chicken in the pan. Cook for 20 minutes. Turn each piece of chicken and continue cooking for 20 more minutes, or until cooked through.
3. Tara Stiles’ Homemade Frosty (Wendy’s)
Model-turned-yoga-instructor Tara Stiles shares her own sweet and guilt-free taste of a classic Wendy’s Frosty with Birchbox. Unload the snack’s extra calories and fat content by sweetening it with banana and maple syrup, and use almond butter for a thick and tasty texture. On top of that, this dish is as easy as it gets — just toss the ingredients into a blender, mix, and enjoy! Stiles’s recipe yields 2-3 servings.
- 1 frozen banana (or a cup of ice and a regular banana)
- 1 cup almond milk
- ½ cup almond butter
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
Directions: Add all ingredients to a blender and mix. Add ice to reach preferred consistency.
4. Chicken Burrito Bowl With Cilantro Lime Rice (Chipotle)
Crazy for Chipotle? You’ll love Brunchtime Baker’s homemade interpretation of the fast-casual chain’s Chicken Burrito Bowl With Cilantro Lime rice. Use fresh ingredients and omit calorific add-ons such as cheese, sour cream, and guacamole for a light and mouthwatering taste of the dish. Recipe takes 40 minutes to complete and serves 4 people.
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
- ½ lime, juiced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 packet taco spice mix
- ½ teaspoon tomato paste (optional)
- 2 cups long grain rice
- 3½ cups water
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 teaspoons salt
- ½ lime
- Bunch of cilantro
- ¾ cup sliced bell peppers (any color combo)
- ½ cup diced tomatoes
- ½ cup diced onions
- ½ cup of canned corn
- ½ cup of canned black beans
- 1 cup chopped Romaine lettuce
- 2 scallions chopped
- Small bunch of cilantro chopped
- ¼ cup sour cream, optional
Directions: Wash rice in a large bowl under cold water for 2-5 minutes until the water runs clear. Allow to soak for at least 5 minutes. Boil 3.5 cups of water in a large sauce pan, pour rice, and let simmer on low heat for 10 minutes or until the water has dried into the rice and the rice is soft. Place 2 tablespoons of butter on the rice to melt with the heat off, cover and set aside. The cilantro and lemon will be added later before serving.
In a medium bowl, mix the halved chicken breast with the olive oil, tomato paste, and taco spice mix. Squeeze half of a lime on the mixture and mix. Cover the chicken and allow to marinate in fridge for anywhere from 15 minutes-3 days.
Heat a grill, griddle, or pan on medium-high heat, place chicken on grill and cook for 5 minutes on each side. Remove from heat and set aside. While the chicken is on the grill, chop all of the veggies and salad. After the chicken has finished cooking and the rice is ready, in a medium bowl, toss the rice with minced cilantro, salt, and the juice of half a lime. Spoon the rice into bowls, top with salad mixture (beans, corn, bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and cilantro). Place chicken on top and top with 1 teaspoon of sour cream and chopped scallions. Enjoy cold or warm.
5. Onion Rings (Burger King)
A medium-sized order of Burger King onion rings contains 410 calories and a whopping 21 grams of fat. Lighten up the dish with this variation from Sally’s Baking Addiction, which bakes the rings to a perfectly crispy exterior and a warm and flavorful onion interior. Letting the onions soak in buttermilk for 4-12 hours prior to preparation will allow for them to reach a perfect level of tenderness. Instead of a heavy batter, these onions rings are breaded with cornmeal and breadcrumbs for a delightful and satisfying crunch.
- 2 large sweet onions, cut into ½ inch slices
- 1 quart low fat buttermilk
- 4 egg whites
- ⅔ cup whole wheat flour (or all-purpose)
- ¾ cup ground cornmeal
- 1 cup panko bread crumbs
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- Nonstick spray
Directions: At least 4 hours ahead of time, place the sliced onion rings into a large dish and pour buttermilk over top. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator to tenderize. Once the onions have soaked, remove from the refrigerator. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites. Set aside. In a large, shallow dish, mix the whole wheat flour, cornmeal, bread crumbs, and the seasonings together until combined.
Remove each ring from the buttermilk and dip in egg whites. Immediately submerge in bread crumb mixture, mixing around to coat the onion well. If the bread crumbs won’t adhere, dip in egg whites and breading once more.
Lay each breaded ring on the baking sheets in a single layer. When all the rings are breaded, spray each with nonstick spray to “seal” the breading, which will prevent the breading from staying raw and allows it to bake onto the onion rings.
Bake each batch for 15 minutes, remove from the oven, and flip each ring using tongs. Spray the other side with nonstick spray. Then bake for 15 more minutes or until desired level of crispiness. Allow the onion rings to sit out for 10 minutes and enjoy.
6. Sweet & Sour Chicken With Rice (Panda Express)
Panda Express’s Sweetfire Chicken With Rice totals up at 820 calories, also containing 15 grams of fat. Try whipping up a healthier variation at home using Eating Well’s recipe for sweet and sour chicken with brown rice. Eating Well’s dish contains 469 calories and 10 grams of fat, also providing 320 percent your Vitamin C intake you need in the day, along with 70 percent of your Vitamin A, and 28 percent of your dietary fiber. Recipe takes 35 minutes to make and yields 4 servings, each consisting of 1½ cups of chicken stir-fry and ½ cup of brown rice.
- 2 cups instant brown rice
- ¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar
- 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons apricot preserves
- 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
- 1 pound chicken tenders, cut into bite-size pieces
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons finely grated or minced ginger
- 1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 6 cups bite-size pieces of vegetables, such as snow peas, broccoli, and bell peppers
- 1 (5-ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
Directions: Prepare rice according to the package directions. Meanwhile, whisk vinegar, soy sauce, cornstarch, and apricot preserves in a small bowl. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink on the outside and just starting to brown in spots, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a plate.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, garlic and ginger to the pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 20 to 30 seconds. Add broth and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Add vegetables, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until the vegetables are tender-crisp, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in water chestnuts and the chicken. Whisk the reserved sauce and add to the pan. Simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened and the chicken is heated through, about 1 minute. Serve with the rice.
7. Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns (Cinnabon)
If you’re having trouble satisfying your sweet tooth, perhaps it’s time to call in the big guns by creating a healthier imitation of Cinnabon’s Caramel Pecan Sticky Buns. While Cinnabon’s version of the treat contains 1,080 calories and an incredible 50 grams of fat, Redbook’s delightful take on the dish has just 372 calories 14 grams of fat. Recipe makes 8 cinnamon buns.
- ½ cup dark-brown sugar, packed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons honey
- ½ cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
- 1 can (16 ⅓-ounce) reduced-fat buttermilk biscuits
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon melted butter
- ⅓ cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2 teaspoons low-fat milk
Directions: Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small saucepan, heat brown sugar, butter, honey, and 1 tablespoon water over medium heat, until mixture is smooth. Pour into a 9-inch-round cake pan. Sprinkle pecans over mixture, then place biscuits on top of pecans in pan.
In a small bowl, combine granulated sugar and cinnamon. Brush each biscuit with melted butter; sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Bake 20 minutes or until tops of biscuits are browned. Remove from oven and immediately invert onto a wire rack (with foil underneath to catch drips); let cool slightly.
In a small bowl, whisk together glaze ingredients and drizzle over buns. Serve warm.