Today we would like to discuss a topic slightly contradictory to our nature. Let me preface this by saying that I am not endorsing these as everyday options. We feel that home cooking with fresh, organic produce is always the most beneficial way to eat, but there are times when you may need to know just which fast food chain to choose. Here is your answer.
Health.com’s panel of experts recently conducted a study of the top 100 fast food chains. Among other factors, they took into account healthy preparations, use of healthy fats, healthy sodium counts, use of organic produce and availability of nutritional information.
Our main complaints with this study are that it seems chains were scored based primarily on the healthy items in their menu, not taking into account the unhealthy options. In addition, each of the top 5 chains features offerings loaded with various breads and grains. We typically advocate a diet consisting primarily of protein, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats but do recognize that most of the major fast food chains offer this outside the context of a salad. That said, lets get to the list.
By far the most common of the top 5, Panera Bread offers a wide variety of sandwiches, salads, soups and baked goods. Easily satisfying meat eaters and vegetarians alike, their menu features an opportunity for smaller portions like a half sandwich and allows for fruit as a substitute to chips. Finally, most of their chicken is raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones which can be hard to find among the fast food giants.
With a menu featuring an assortment of sandwiches, wraps and salads, Jason’s Deli made the list as a result of its healthy items, organic offerings and portion control options. Roughly one-fifth of the ingredients used at this growing chain are organic and from what we hear, its salads are to die for.
Au Bon Pain
This high tech deli-style chain offers a unique combination of hot plates, sandwiches, soups, salads and baked goods. Before ordering you can plan your entire meal online or at a computer kiosk within their location. This gives you the opportunity to plan your nutritional intake from each meal. They may also be the only chain on the list where you can get a hot meal consisting of protein and veggies that is not delivered in a salad, sandwich or pasta.
Noodles and Company
The only non-deli in the top 5, Noodles and Company offers a wide variety of made to order pasta bowls with Asian, Mediterranean and American inspiration. Smaller portions are available if desired and some decent health concessions are made. One caution, while side salads are available, the bulk of this offering is pasta and bread so make sure to use moderation and if possible, stick to the whole grain noodles.
Corner Bakery Café
This deli-style chain offers – you guessed it – sandwiches, soups and salads, but Health.com did not feature their lunch. Apparently the strength of Corner Bakery Café is their breakfast menu. They feature “the Farmer’s Scrambler: eggs scrambled with red and green bell peppers, red onion, mushrooms, potatoes, and Cheddar cheese.” In addition, you can find other great day-starters as well as an extensive list of portion control options.
Didn’t find what you were looking for? If this list left you wishing for more, rest assured that Chipotle, Atlanta Bread and Taco Del Mar also made the top 10. As always, don’t forget about your local, family owned, eateries. One piece of advice. Though these chains may top the list, it is important to remember that not every item on these menus should necessarily be considered healthy. First you must define healthy for your self. If you need some help doing this, please feel free to access the health library at www.rejuvinstitute.com. If you have any questions contact us – we are glad to help.