With more of us becoming more health-conscious while being busier than ever, fast food joints have started to improve their menus to stay afloat. These healthy options are no longer limited to the “Swap fries for fruit” opportunities we’ve been seeing, but now some companies are going as far as cutting artificial ingredients from their foods, along with removing antibiotics from their meats.
Here, we have compiled a list of the healthiest fast food restaurants.
We’re going to be looking at the quality of ingredients, customization options, calorie content, and how nutritionally well-rounded the meal is.
In this article
7 Amazing Healthy Fast Food Restaurants You Must Try
Let’s start out with the lesser-known chains. There are some amazing fast food restaurants that prepare incredibly healthy meals. Here are our personal votes:
This chain specializes in salads and bowls made from scratch with organic ingredients whenever possible. They prioritize the quality of ingredients and source everything sustainably, and often locally. They advertise their “Better Chicken Commitment” which ensures that the chicken and egg sources that they use have sufficient space, enrichment, lighting, and more for the health of the animals.
The salads are highly customizable and there are options for any type of diet from vegan to Mediterranean. They provide detailed nutritional information for each menu item. They also state their carbon offset on each item, which is refreshing to see that they prioritize sustainability.
CAVA serves Mediterranean-inspired dishes that are rich in vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Their proteins are certified to be antibiotic-free and don’t take any shortcuts when it comes to sustainability and quality of ingredients. Relationships with their ingredient sources are prioritized over what is cheapest and most accessible.
They offer free pita on the side of their meals, their grain bowls and salads are highly customizable, and they have a great collection of unique sauces for every palate. Most of their meals are very well-rounded with ample fiber, vitamins, and healthy fats.
LYFE uses organic local produce, healthy alternatives to fast food staples like sweet potato fries, and boasts that they would NEVER use artificial ingredients. They are currently working toward using 100% biodegradable packaging to decrease their carbon footprint.
With a menu designed by a celebrity chef, LYFE Kitchen offers a range of dairy-free, gluten-free, and vegan options. Their focus on “Modern Comfort Food” includes dishes like quinoa pancakes and turkey meatloaf. They have hearty and diverse options that provide significant nutritional value.
This chain takes plant-based fast food to another level, offering 100% plant-based offerings, no meat here! They want to change food culture by taking the focus away from meat-centric meals in order to cut down on the emissions and inhumanity of the meat industry.
With a menu full of veggie burgers, salads, and bowls, they make it easy to get your daily dose of vegetables. They have a nutrition calculator on their website that gives you the full picture, including the nutrition facts for any customization you may need.
Known for its focus on organic ingredients, Jason’s Deli is a family-owned, independent, and community-focused business. They have long relationships with their ingredient-sourcing providers and only use “wholesome” foods. They have eliminated a lot of key artificial ingredients that have the potential to negatively affect the body such as MSG, high fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, and artificial trans-fats.
Jason’s Deli offers a range of sandwiches, salads, soups, and wraps that can be customized to fit various dietary needs, with entire menu sections for people who are gluten free or vegetarian.
Bareburger touts its offerings with a “mindful” menu, so you don’t have to choose between taste and ethics. They use all-natural, local, sustainable ingredients so that you don’t have to worry if your meal is coming from the right place.
All of BareBurger’s burgers are organic, grass-fed, antibiotic-free, and hormone-free. They also offer free-range chicken, bison, and turkey options. There are options for vegans, vegetarians, and gluten-free customers.
If you don’t mind consuming your meals juiced, this may be the right place for you. Pressed believes in premium ingredients without the premium cost. They want to show people that healthy, whole foods can be delicious without excess ingredients like preservatives or added sugars.
Pressed juices are said to reduce inflammation, and they have a juice cleanse program for anyone looking to reset their diet. They offer smoothie bowls and soft serve on top of their cold-pressed juices, smoothies, and wellness shots. Each is packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.
5 Healthiest Popular Fast Food Restaurants
There may not always be a quick, sustainable option around you, so here are the healthiest of the mainstream restaurants. Restaurants that have the most menu items with high scores will earn the “healthy” title. If you want to see the healthiest offerings of each of these restaurants as well as how we came up with our scoring system, head over to our Healthy Fast Food Options article for more details
1. Taco Bell
Taco Bell sources its ingredients from farmers who prioritize sustainability and environmental responsibility and they are currently working on an initiative to make its beef more sustainable.
Since many of their items are bean and vegetable-based, they provide ample dietary fiber without piling on the calories. Taco Bell has the highest number of items that score a 6/7, about 20 items. Some of their healthiest choices are their bean chalupa, locos tacos and crunchy tacos.
Panera offers a range of salads made with antibiotic-free chicken and fresh, high-quality veggies. They are committed to sustainability and release a yearly responsibility report for anyone who is interested in looking at their sustainable practices and suppliers.
At Panera, you can never go wrong with a classic “You Pick Two” soup, salad, or sandwich combination. Panera has one salad that scores a 6/7, and most of their soups, salads, and bagels score a 5/7, so you don’t have to worry too much about picking something healthy.
Chick-Fil-A claims that they use “quality ingredients” but don’t really elaborate too much on what that means. Other than breaking open a chicken tender and seeing real meat rather than ground chicken, we don’t know much about their sourcing.
When it comes to nutritious items, Chick-Fil-A has the Cobb Salad, which scores 6/7. Their nuggets and chicken strips are their next best offering, so we love to see that they’re at least somewhat healthy. Nuggets and some of their sandwiches score a 5/7.
Chipotle allows for high customization, offering fresh ingredients that include pasture-raised, antibiotic, and hormone-free meats. They also disclose any GMO ingredients they may use. Most of their meal components are cooked or prepped fresh every day on-site, making them flavorful and fresh.
Chipotle’s ingredients are minimally processed, so they don’t have a ton of sodium, which helps the healthy factor. The swap from a burrito to a bowl helps cut extra calories for those who are watching their waistline. Their main protein choices score 5/7 and their vegetarian alternate, fajita vegetables, scores a 6/7.
Starbucks aims to become “resource positive,” meaning that they give more than they take from the planet. This manifests in different areas, such as limited carbon emissions, fresh water use, and waste production. They have removed all artificial trans fats from their foods and try to limit their use of preservatives.
They are currently expanding the availability of plant-based menu options. Starbucks’ healthiest item is their multigrain bagel, scoring a 6/7, but that’s if you plan on eating it plain, which most people don’t. Some of their wraps and protein boxes score well, at a 5/7.
Tips for Healthy Fast Food Dining
- Avoid supersized servings since these would automatically mean a few more hundreds of additional calories!
- If you can request for it, lessen the total amount of bacon to reduce the fat content of your order. Bacon is flavorful enough even if you get just a few of it when combined with the rest of the ingredients.
- Instead of drinking shakes and sodas, why not try drinking water or fruit juices instead?
- Read the preparation information. Choose those with lean meat, more vegetables, and if possible, not the deep-fried options to have a healthier fast food order.
- Try out vegan items. These food items are especially prepared for those who have chosen the vegan diet, and you may even find a new greener favorite!
Try out these fast food options and be mindful of what you eat next time you go out to these healthy fast food chains!
Depending on what you’re looking for, there’s a healthy option for everyone’s taste. Sustainable and organic ingredients are prioritized by these healthy restaurants, allowing you to enjoy your food worry-free. If you’re trying to avoid sodium, get your fiber in or stay under your dieting calories for the day, you’ll be able to find something that fits your macros. Are there any other restaurants you’d like to see reviewed? Comment below!