a dietitian’s top tips for eating healthy at Wendy’s

No. Sad. Salads. Here’s how to eat what you really want at Wendy’s while working toward your weight-loss goals.
Published November 3, 2022
Image of Wendy's cheeseburger Image of Wendy's cheeseburger

Sometimes dinner looks like a home-cooked meal at your kitchen table. Sometimes it looks like a long-overdue catchup with friends at a restaurant. And sometimes it’s a bag of Wendy’s® in your car because you worked late, traffic blew, and the red pigtails-emblazoned sign called to you like a mirage in the desert. But no matter where or how your meal is served, you can get something that keeps your weight loss on track.

“We’re conditioned to believe that fast food is ‘bad,’ but that isn’t actually true,” says Angela Goscilo, M.S., R.D., a registered dietitian and the senior manager of nutrition at WeightWatchers®. And, if you’re trying to lose weight, that line of thinking can set you up for failure. “For weight loss to work, it has to work in the context of your real life. And in real life, people sometimes eat fast food!”

Luckily, there are lots of healthy options at Wendy’s to choose from—fiber-rich chili, salads overflowing with filling, leafy greens, and lean, protein-packed grilled chicken sandwiches. Here’s how Goscilo navigates the menu.

WeightWatchers

Wendy's menu cheat sheet

  • Grilled Chicken Sandwich 6 Points®
  • Small Chili 6 Points
  • Small Fries 7 Points
  • Plain Baked Potato 6 Points
  • Jr. Hamburger 8 Points
  • Classic Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich 9 Points
  • Jr. Frosty® 11 Points


try smaller sizes

It makes sense that the chain famous for the line “Where’s the beef?®” has loads of burger options. Choosing a junior version instead of a bigger burger can make a significant dent in how much saturated fat your meal has, and how many Points—the WeightWatchers calculation for a food’s nutritional info. For example, a Jr. Cheeseburger has 10 Points while a Dave’s Triple® burger has 42. This less-is-more approach applies to dessert too. The classic Frosty is 22 Points for a regular, but a way-more-manageable 11 Points for a junior size.

Goscilo also suggests checking out the kids’ menu: It has all the favorites like burgers and chicken nuggets in smaller (but still reasonable) portions, plus the meals are served with a side of apple bites for something sweet and fiber-rich.


ask for extra toppings

Pickles, onions, lettuce, and tomatoes are all ZeroPoint® additions that add more volume, fiber, and flavor to your meal—and they’re free at Wendy’s. “Toppings can help make your burger or chicken sandwich more filling,” says Goscilo. Her fav? Avocado. This topping costs a little bit extra, but it goes a long way toward curbing hunger with a combo of fiber and healthy, unsaturated fats.


go basic with condiments

They may not seem like much, but adjusting the condiments can make a big difference in nutritional value and Points. “Mayo, honey mustard, and barbecue sauces can add up quickly,” says Goscilo. For example: Mayonnaise adds 7 grams of fat to a sandwich, while the hot honey ups total sugar by 13 grams. Goscilo recommends sticking with mustard, ketchup, and hot sauce for flavor with less fat and calories.


just get the fries

If you want French fries, you’re probably not going to be satisfied with a baked potato—and it actually might not be more nutritionally superior anyway. While Wendy's baked potato is a good option on its own, when you load up with all the toppings—bacon, cheese, chili, and sour cream—you also up the saturated fat and sugar. A junior size of the fries or seasoned potatoes, on the other hand, are both just 7 Points. “Choose the option you really want to eat,” says Goscilo.

Read More: WeightWatchers guide to fast food


don’t sleep on the chili

Getting chili at a burger joint might not be the obvious move, but chili is a cult classic at Wendy’s—it’s been on the menu since 1969. And it ticks the right boxes for Goscilo: “Thanks to the veggies and the beans, it provides both protein and fiber.” Read: It’ll help you feel full for hours.


stick with eggs for breakfast

You might think the healthy-sounding Oatmeal Bar is the perfect way to start your day. But names can be deceiving. “It’s high in sugar and very low in protein and fiber, meaning you’ll be hungry well before lunchtime rolls around,” says Goscilo. The Classic Bacon, Egg & Cheese Sandwich has 9 Points and is a good source of protein, which can help you stay full longer. (Choose that over the croissant breakfast sandwiches, which are higher in saturated fat.)


keep chicken classic

No surprises here—chicken is lean and packed with protein, so (naturally) it’s at the top of Goscilo’s list. Since Wendy’s offers quite a few takes on the chicken sandwich, pay attention to how it’s prepared. Generally, the term grilled is a good sign. But instead of the Grilled Pretzel Bacon Pub or Grilled Asiago Ranch Club, both of which are high in saturated fat, try the plain Grilled Chicken Sandwich. Even with the honey mustard sauce, it has just 6 Points.


de-accessorize your salad

Salads are notorious for their health halo—they always seem like the healthiest option on the surface, but once the fixins are on top, it can be surprisingly high in saturated fat, added sugar, and Points. “Most of the salads at Wendy’s have at least cheese and nuts, and some may have croutons too,” says Goscilo. Her pick, the Apple Pecan Salad, is flavor and nutrient-dense, but with 11 Points, it’s not exactly a “light” choice. One tweak Goscilo says to make? Ask for the cheese and nuts to come on the side so you can control the portions. (The dressing already comes on the side, so you don’t need to make a special request there.)


bottom line


Nothing is off the menu at Wendy’s, but if you’re trying to lose weight, consider ordering a smaller size of foods you really want—like burgers and fries—and going big on veggie-filled toppings or sides. And you really can’t go wrong with a classic, grilled chicken sandwich.


Read More:

How to use your Points at McDonalds

8 tips for eating at Taco Bell on WW

What to order at Chick-fil-A, according to a dietitian