Top 5 Fast Food Restaurants with Healthy-ish Options

lunch-at-paneraIn this day and age, the problem that has plagued those who try to eat healthy but simply have no time is finally being answered – where can you go to get something fast yet healthy?  The problem of needing food on the go has existed for decades and is undoubtedly the original reason for the existence of fast food restaurants.  With the dawning of people seeking healthier options and some not even considering the traditional burger and fries option, there are several places where you can now get a decently healthy meal on the go.

Now before we begin, we are using the term “healthy-ish” about our list because frankly, everyone has their own ideas on what is healthy these days; some people seek gluten-free, others want all natural ingredients, while others may just be seeking something that’s a step up from the usual burger menu that features a fried fish sandwich as its “healthy” option.  This list is based on our recent experiences, and we feel like these restaurants at least offer options that allow a health conscious customer to put together a healthy meal based on what they are seeking.  Now on to the list:

5. Chick fil A – I first experienced Chick fil A as a teenager being handed a chicken nugget sample in a mall; the nuggets stood out flavor wise and seemed to be real chicken too which was a major plus.  Still, when most think of Chick fil A, fried chicken in some form is what comes to mind; in reality Chick fil A now offers a variety of grilled chicken options (including the new grilled nuggets which was a nice option to see added to the menu for those who want to avoid anything fried) and have made moves to quietly remove ingredients like high fructose corn syrup from their menu; the term “quietly” is used because the company didn’t want to announce the change and scare some customers into thinking they were becoming an ALL healthy restaurant which would turn a percent of their current customers off.  With options like adding a fruit cup instead of fries and the multiple salad varieties, you can definitely make some decent choices at Chick fil A.

4. Boston Market – We rarely read of Boston Market mentioned on any lists of healthy food options, but what it really boils down to here are options.  Sure there is a menu packed with Thanksgiving-esque items like stuffing, potatoes and gravy, mac and cheese, cornbread etc., but by putting some effort in you can still get a healthy meal.  With chicken and turkey options along with a few sides like steamed vegetables available, Boston Market can delivery a filling protein and vegetable meal as long as you’re not tempted by the other not so healthy options.

3. Jason’s Deli – Jason’s Deli is the place to be if you’re a fan of organic food, as much of their menu is indeed organic.  Jason’s has a wide variety of soups, sandwiches, and salads that are made with mostly healthy ingredients.  Again, it’s mostly about choices here i.e. if you are trying to eat a low carb diet, you probably shouldn’t go for the sandwich or pasta options.  If you have a little more time on your hands and can dine-in, Jason’s also has an outstanding salad bar that features a host of healthy options that you wouldn’t find on a typical salad bar offering.

2. Corner Bakery – By the name alone, “bakery” makes us think of bread and all things carb related, but Corner Bakery has many other options including soups and salads along with an outstanding breakfast menu that features choices that can cater to just about any healthy eater’s diet.

1. Panera Bread – Again, with “bread” in the name one would normally associate a restaurant with a variety of bread and other carb loaded options.  A recent visit to Panera Bread opened our eyes to the many nutritional options and pairings that the customer can put together between healthy soup, salad, and sandwich options; one thing that really caught our eye is that the menu boasts that it features antibiotic free chicken – a fact that we’ve rarely seen but one that is becoming important as more and more becomes known about where food actually comes from.  The one downfall here is the temptation of the sweets that are readily advertised as you walk by the counter and also offered as an add-on to your meal choice; if you aren’t easily tempted and can stay on the right path, you can keep it healthy and fast at Panera Bread.  Panera is also in the process of adding kiosks where you can avoid the line and order via touch screen (already available in some locations) as well as the ability to order online and even drive through in some locations.

All in all, there isn’t really a “perfect” stop for fast food that will meet every person’s health requirement, but we feel the above list are better choices than most.  If you feel you are easily tempted, you will find some form of unhealthy food to indulge in no matter where you go.  If you have the will power and feel like you are nutritionally informed in your choices before entering any restaurant, you are much more likely to make a good nutritional choice.

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