Diet planning can take a lot of time. Fast food seems to be the only way to fit a meal into a busy schedule. Or you just probably LOVE the way Wendy’s burger tastes. Regardless, we all know that it’s easy to overload fast food with a lot of trans fat, sodium, and additives that are bad for your health. But whether you’re on a road trip, on the way to a sport, or doing errands, stopping through the drive-through is merely a lifesaver.
According to 2016 research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 37% of individuals in the United States consume fast food at least once daily. In 2014, about 58% of Americans ate at a fast-food restaurant at least twice a week.
Fast food contributed roughly 16% of our daily calories in 2012, up from less than 6% in the late 1970s, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. The increased popularity of fast food has led to a general decline in nutritional quality and increased consumption of fat, salt, and calories.
Though most fast food is still made with low-quality, harmful ingredients, several chains have started providing the healthiest fast food options. Fast food that is both delicious and good for you is becoming more popular, and several large businesses have dedicated themselves to this niche. In this article, we look into some healthiest fast food options that offer or are transitioning to providing healthy foods on the menu.
10 Healthiest Fast Food Options in the US
Chipotle can accommodate most diets, whether you are vegan, vegetarian, keto, plant-based, gluten-free, or a meat eater. This chain is all about using clean and fresh ingredients. They also let you mix and match meals however you want, so you decide how many calories, grams of fat, protein, carbs, and sodium are in your meal.
Healthy foods on the menu: Salads, burritos, tacos, and different options of meats, rice, beans, veggies, and guacamole.
Locations: Number of branches across the US, Canada, France, United Kingdom, and Germany.
While Chick-fil-menu A’s includes decadent products such as milkshakes, waffle-cut fries, and fried chicken sandwiches, it also offers several healthier selections than the average fast food establishment.
In fact, according to Healthline, the restaurant provides low-calorie, low-carb, low-sodium, and vegetarian dishes to accommodate a variety of dietary preferences.
Healthiest fast food options on the menu: Chicken noodle soup, chicken wrap, kale salad, veggie wraps, gluten-free bun, white egg sandwiches, greek yogurt parfaits, and fruit cups.
Locations: 2,600 branches spread across 47 states.
Following McDonald’s and Burger King, Wendy’s is the world’s third biggest fast-food hamburger chain.
Although most of the menu consists of hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, and french fries, there are also some healthier options.
Healthiest fast food options on the menu: Pick a good Junior Hamburger with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle, mustard, or ketchup. Add a garden side salad with pomegranate vinaigrette, spicy cashews, and apple slices for 460 calories. They also have healthy chicken salads and chicken wraps.
Locations: Wendy’s has branches in 30 countries worldwide, prevalent in North and South America, Asia, and the Caribbean.
4. Panera Bread
Panera Bread might look like a typical sandwich and soup place, but they have great options for even the healthiest eaters. They pay attention to every single ingredient. They’ve made a “No-No List” with over 85 ingredients they won’t use, like high fructose corn syrup, lard, FD&C artificial colors, and many more.
According to their website, they are devoted to delivering only green products and have eliminated any dishes containing artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors, and colors from artificial sources.
Healthiest fast food options on the menu: They offer greek salad, turkey sandwich, fuji apple salad with chicken, kale salad, and a variety of healthy yogurts.
Locations: Their stores are based in Canada and US.
5. Native Foods
Native foods offer mainly plant-based foods. They are a 100% vegan chain established in 1994. While plant-based eating hasn’t always been popular, this eatery is way behind the curve in serving only eco-friendly dishes. While you can choose between their ultra-healthy food options, their biggest flex may be their plant-based versions of meatballs, nachos, steak sandwiches, and cheeseburgers. Instead of using beef in ingredients, they use soy-based protein, of course, without compromising flavor and taste.
Healthiest fast food options on the menu: Plant-based meatballs, nachos, sandwiches, and burgers.
Location: They operate in California, Oregon, Colorado, and Illinois.
6. Fresh Brothers Pizza
Fresh Brothers is a pizza restaurant that serves healthy pies as promised on its website. Fresh Brothers only uses nutrient-dense ingredients, beginning with dough and finishing with toppings, while regular pizzas are often rich in calories, salt, and fat. The restaurant says that all its dough is fresh and never frozen to eliminate hazardous preservatives.
Healthiest fast food options on the menu: Premium vegan pizzas with preservative free-sauce
7. Mendocino Farms
Unlike your standard fast food outlet, Mendocino Farms offers a rotating menu that changes per season. There’s so much to eat here that boredom is a rarity. Sandwiches, salads, and soups make up the bulk of their menu. Although sandwiches may not be appropriate for those following a low-carb diet, Mendocino provides breadless choices and can transform any sandwich into a salad.
Healthiest fast food options on the menu: Chicken sandwiches, tacos, and salad bowls.
Locations: California and Texas
8. Veggie Grill
Veggie Grill, like Native Foods, is a fast-casual restaurant brand that serves only vegan cuisine. However, you will not be forced to consume a stale, uninteresting salad here. This restaurant serves delectable vegan fare that will make you forget it’s entirely plant-based. Their commitment to providing nutritious cuisine does not end with plant-based options; they also offer dishes for people who avoid gluten and carbohydrates.
Healthiest fast food options on the menu: Buffalo wings, mac and cheese, and burgers.
Locations: California, Washington, Portland, New York, and Massachusetts
Subway is a fast food restaurant that provides build-your-own sandwiches and salads. That said, you may skip the bread and have a salad with chicken breast and an abundance of fresh veggies instead.
Healthiest fast food options on the menu: Whole grain bread with abundant vegetables.
Locations: 44,000 restaurants in 110 countries.
10. Pressed Juicery
If you don’t mind the thought of drinking your meals, the Pressed Juicery may be the best approach to get your daily dose of fruits and vegetables. Your favorite cold-pressed juices, smoothies, and wellness shots are available at Pressed. For those who want to “spoon their juice,” they also have soft serve and smoothie bowls on the menu. Pressed’s website boasts that they only use food in season and forgo artificial sweeteners and preservatives.
Healthiest fast food options on the menu: Cold-pressed juice, smoothies, smoothie bowls, and wellness shots.
Locations: About 115 stores are in the United States, mainly New York.
Healthy fast food is trending worldwide. Fast food restaurants are spicing up the menu with more nutritious options that taste great. Today, most fast food places offer salads rich in vitamins and nutrients. Pizza chains have salads on the menu with fewer calories and fiber, and fast food restaurant chains like Chipotle and Wendy’s now have nutritious packed burgers, tacos, and burritos.
A healthy fast food option is something that everyone is striving for. Fast food restaurants produce more nutritious and tastier choices, but are they worth the extra money? The answer depends on you. If you are getting along to a healthy lifestyle and do not want to compromise that, then spending a little more on a more nutritious option is worth it.