Now, more than ever, fast food drive-thrus are no longer the only option when you need a quick meal. Instead, fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle and Panera have started to take over. Focusing on fresh ingredients that are often local and hormone-free, these options certainly taste better and may generally be better for you.
Granted, just because it’s fast casual and not “fast food” doesn’t mean everything on the menu would get a dietitian’s seal of approval. But there’s a much better chance your meal will have a good amount of vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and unsaturated fats at these places.
Here are five chains with locations in major cities worth checking out:
Sweetgreen sources local and organic ingredients that are delivered daily to use in its bowls and salads. You can even see where your food comes from, because it lists the sources on a wall in each store. Salads aren’t only greens — they add protein in the form of chicken, tofu and shrimp and healthy fats like avocado and cashew dressing. You can also DIY your own meal, choosing from ingredients like quinoa, kale and sweet potatoes.
With a mission to make healthy food convenient and affordable, Freshii works with an in-house nutritionist to design nutrient-dense bowls, burritos, salads, wraps, soups, smoothies and juices. Even better: You can ask the nutritionist for help to make a meal that suits your dietary or taste preferences (e.g., reduce calories, increase protein and more). All you have to do is email your needs — the address is displayed in all locations — and you’ll get a reply within 24 hours. Maybe you’ll ask for the bowl on a split base of greens and quinoa, with a half portion of sauce and chicken.
3. CORELIFE EATERY
The menu at CoreLife Eatery centers around food that gives you the energy to do all the things you love. Ingredients are seasonal, local and organic whenever possible, and they are always free of GMOs, trans fats, artificial colors, sweeteners and other artificial additives. Plus chicken and steak are raised sustainably without hormones or antibiotics. Choose from hearty salads, grain bowls and soups.
READ MORE > CHEF, CYCLIST, AND CARNIVORE CHRIS COSENTINO ON HEALTHY BALANCE
4. CAVA GRILL
Enjoy modern, authentic, vibrant Mediterranean food that’s made from scratch in-house every day, and from local and sustainable sources whenever possible. Everything is your choice here — pick a base, dip or spread, protein, toppings and dressing to make more than 58 million combinations. Use CAVA Grill’s online nutrition calculator before you go if you want to see if it’s better to add Sriracha, Greek yogurt or spicy turmeric tahini as your dressing.
Sourcing local ingredients when possible and always using high-quality, wholesome, simple foods, honeygrow doesn’t even have freezers in stores — it’s that fresh. It combines nourishing, seasonal foods and housemade sauces to create meals that prove healthy does taste delicious. For the calorie-conscious, it’s better to DIY than order one of the suggested salad or stir-fry options.