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14 best fast-food meals for under 500 calories

Sep. 24, 2012 at 9:21 AM ET

From the Editors of Men's Health

Fred Prouser / Reuters /
Order almost any Taco Bell menu item "fresco" style and the fast food chain will replace cheese and sauces with a chunky tomato salsa, cutting calories and fat by at least 25 percent.

How serious can you be when you're talking to a clown? Millions of us face that problem as we approach the drive-thru squawk box-ornamented with wacky fast-food characters-and go all Goofy with our orders. No wonder so many of us weigh more than we want.

Dustin Robinson had exactly that problem. He was a busy guy, so he hit the drive-thru five times a week. The drive-thru hit back, to the tune of fifty extra pounds that Dustin didn't need to be carrying. But when he reached 250 pounds, he reached for Eat This, Not That!

Armed with better information, he was still talking to the clown, but not speaking nonsense. Concentrating on Eat This! Entrees like the ones you'll learn about below, he shed 10+ pounds a month. Now he's down to 215, and well on his way to his goal of 200 pounds. And he's still eating at the restaurants he loves-just eating smarter. To help you do the same, Eat This, Not That! has compiled this list of 10 fast food meals under 500 calories.

(Tell the clown we sent you.)

Less Than 500 Calories at Wendy's

Ultimate Chicken Grill Sandwich

with a Mandarin Orange Cup and a Medium Iced Tea

480 calories

7 g fat (1.5 g saturated)

980 mg sodium

This is the healthiest sandwich on the menu. just don't order your chicken spicy: That's their cue to fry rather than grill your bird, tacking on extra 9.5 fat grams.

Less Than 500 Calories at Taco Bell

Two Fresco Soft Beef Tacos

with Mexican Rice and a bottle of water

470 calories

17 g fat (6 g saturated fat)

1,760 mg sodium

Order almost any menu item "fresco" style and the Bell boys will replace cheese and sauces with a chunky tomato salsa, cutting calories and fat by at least 25 percent.

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Less than 500 Calories at Subway

6-inch Double Roast Beef Sub

with Veggie Delite Salad with Fat-Free Italian Dressing and Medium Iced Tea

455 calories

8 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat)

2,100 mg sodium

Even with twice the meat-and double the protein-this sandwich still has only a fraction of the fat found in Subway alternatives like gloppy, mayo-based tuna salad.

Less than 500 Calories at Quiznos

Small Honey Bourbon Chicken

with a Cup of Chili (no crackers), and bottle of water

460 calories

11.5 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat)

1,540 mg sodium

Opt for the honey bourbon mustard sauce over mayo or creamy dressings to add flavor without guilt.

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Less Than 500 Calories at Pizza Hut

Two Slices Thin 'N Crispy Pizza (12")

with Quartered Ham & Pineapple, and Medium Diet Coke

360 calories

12 g fat (5 g saturated fat)

1,110 mg sodium

No matter which pizza joint you pick, head for Hawaii. The ham and pineapple pizza is one of the healthiest combos you can order. Ham is one of the leanest meats you can put on a pie, while pineapple adds low-cal sweetness and a dose of antioxidants.

Less Than 500 Calories at McDonald's

Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich

with a Side Salad with Newman's Own Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette, and a Medium Iced Tea

480 calories

13 g fat (2 g saturated fat)

1,945 mg sodium

Just because the calorie count is relatively low doesn't mean the food is good for you. Mac's Grilled Chicken Classic matches the Quarter Pounder calorie count -- but the chick has no trans fats, while the burger does. Choose the sandwich and a side salad for a good combination of protein and veggies.

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Less Than 500 Calories at KFC

3 Crispy Strips

with Green Beans and 3" Corn on the Cob, and a Medium Diet Pepsi

475 calories

22.5 g fat (6 g saturated fat)

1,165 mg sodium

Order a side of green beans for a good source of vitamins K, A, and C-key players in maintaining strong bones and reducing cancer-causing free radicals.

Less Than 500 Calories at Jack in the Box

Chicken Fajita Pita

with Side Salad with Low-Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing and a 20-oz Fresh Brewed Iced Tea

390 calories

13.5 g fat (5 g saturated fat)

1,650 mg sodium

Loaded with fresh veggies in a fairly harmless pita vessel, this is Jack's healthiest entree, hands down. The biggest pitfall here is in the salad dressing--the low-fat balsamic costs you only 35 calories, but other decent-sounding options, like Asian Sesame Dressing and Lite Ranch--add over 100 extra to your meal.

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Less Than 500 Calories at Hardee's

Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich

with a Side Salad with Low Fat Balsamic Dressing

445 calories

7 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat)

1,690 mg sodium

Barbecue sauce and a mound of fresh produce keep this meal in the safe zone. Resist the shakes and malts, though. They're meal-breakers of hte first and worst order.

Less Than 500 Calories at Dunkin' Donuts

Ham, Egg & Cheese English Muffin Sandwich

with English Breakfast Tea

350 calories

15 g fat (6 g saturated fat)

1,040 mg sodium

English muffins have a fraction of the carbohydrates of a bagel, and none of the trans fats of the donuts and croissants. Drinking antioxidant-rich tea is also a great way to jumpstart your day.

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Less Than 500 Calories at Cosi

Bombay Chicken Salad

with a tall cafe blend coffee

481 calories

17 g fat

1,094 mg sodium

Skip the free flatbread that comes with your salad, even if it's whole grain. Both the whole grain and the original kind pack a whopping 43 grams of carbs and 215 calories.

Less Than 500 Calories at Carl's Jr.

Charbroiled BBQ Chicken Sandwich

with Side Salad with Low Fat Balsamic Dressing, and Medium Iced Tea

445 calories

8.5 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat)

1,690 mg sodium

Barbecue sauce and a mound of fresh produce keep this meal in the safe zone.

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Less Than 500 Calories at Burger King

Whopper Jr. without Mayo

with Garden Salad and 10-oz Minute Maid Orange Juice

445 calories

12 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat)

520 mg sodium

Save 9 grams of fat by opting for barbecue sauce instead of mayo. At 80 calories a packet BK's mayo is one of the worst in the fast food world. Still feeling hungry after the last bite? Order a second Garden Salad. You'll still take in fewer calories than if you had consumed a small order of fries.

Less Than 500 Calories at Arby's

Chicken Fillet Sandwich - Roast

with Applesauce, and a 20-oz Diet Peach FruiTea

470 calories

16 g fat (3 g saturated fat)

934 mg sodium

Replacing some of your daily carbohydrates with protein can lower blood pressure. Always choose a roasted or grilled chicken over "crispy" (read: fried) to save on calories.

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More links from Men's Health: 

The 20 Worst Grilled Foods in America

The Best and Worst Sandwich Meats

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