In this busy world, it seems like we are always on the go. Whether you’re stuck working late hours at the office, forgot to pack a lunch or are just too exhausted to stand over the stove after a long day, it’s not always plausible to whip up a home-cooked dish come mealtime every day.
While there will inevitably be times that will require some fast food pit stops, there are some restaurants that are healthier (or at least offer healthy options) than others.
Au Bon Pain
Au Bon Pain is arguably the best healthy fast food restaurant out there today, due to its amazing menu options. Not only does the restaurant offer hormone-free chicken, whole grain dishes and vegetarian options, but it also boasts a “Smart Menu” option that helps to ensure your order is nutritionally adequate.
The Smart Menu can search for items by calories, saturated fat, sodium, carbohydrates or cholesterol count and can give you the total nutritional value of everything on your plate by using your web-enabled device. Many Au Bon Pain locations offer free Wi-Fi to further help you create a healthy meal when visiting one of their establishments.
While Panera Bread is still within the fast food category when it comes to dining out, it offers ingredients that are of high quality. Many of the chain’s chicken dishes are made from antibiotic and hormone-free chicken, and the bread features whole grain options.
Unlike other fast food chains that cater toward super sizing your meal, Panera Bread offers half sizes to help with portion control. The kids’ menu offers organic yogurt, all-natural peanut butter and even organic grilled cheese sandwiches. This is definitely a healthy alternative to processed chicken nuggets and greasy french fries.
Corner Bakery Café
While it can be easy to stop by the local donut shop for your morning sugar and coffee fix, consider checking out Corner Bakery Café, which offers breakfast items that aren’t so high in sugar or cholesterol. Opt for the egg white omelet for only 260 calories, breakfast cereal, low-fat yogurt or one of their many healthy salads or whole grain soups.
This locale is also great for midday meals — the menu offers 100 lunch combos under 600 calories so you can mix and match until your heart’s content without blowing your nutritional goals for the day.
We’ve all seen the commercials featuring Jared and his incredible weight loss, much of which he credits to his Subway diet. However it’s important to note that Jared didn’t get to his goal weight by slathering on the mayo and piling on the bacon.
Like any meal you order at a restaurant — fast food or otherwise — you must be conscious of what goes into it. While not everyone wants to eat plain turkey and mustard sandwiches for months on end in order to achieve weight loss, Subway’s menu does offer some great options for healthy, fast food dining.
While many are familiar with the whole grain and flatbread options at Subway, there are also yogurt parfaits and oven roasted chicken salads. Take advantage of the menu options that feature less than 400 calories (and stay away from creamy dressings, mayos and cheese) to ensure your belly will be full without greasing it down with fried extras.
While many may think of gut-busting burritos when they think of Chipotle, the popular Mexican grill has taken an increasingly targeted focus on providing customers with “food with integrity.” Chipotle vows to serve sustainably raised food with an eye on nutrition and taste. The menu also offers allergen- and gluten-free options.
Your best bet is to opt for the burrito bowl to save on carbs (go easy on the rice) and fill it with lots of veggies and a high protein, low-fat meat like chicken. Ditch the sour cream and opt for guacamole, which has unsaturated fats that are better for you. The main thing to be cognizant of when dining here is the portion sizes — they tend to be huge! Go here for lunch and save half of your burrito bowl for dinner or stow it in the company fridge for tomorrow’s lunch.
Keep in Mind …
The most important factor in choosing a healthy fast food restaurant is paying attention to the additions and sizes of what you order. While McDonalds is usually on the list of most unhealthy fast food restaurants, there are ways to eat healthy by choosing options on the menu that won’t go overboard. For instance, think about forgoing things like cheese, French fries and super sizing, and order grilled options when available rather than fried chicken.
With so much added attention on eating healthy, many fast food chains are trying to find ways to implement healthy items to their menus and side dish options. Looking into the healthy alternatives at your own fast food favorites can help to make a meaningful change in your routine.