For all of you who think eating out isn’t healthy, think again. Health magazine has recently published a list of the healthiest fast food restaurants in the country, judging based on “the use of healthy fats and preparations, healthy sodium counts in entrées, availability of nutritional information, and the use of organic produce.” So, which food franchises topped the list? Take a look!
- Panera Bread. Good news for all of you Panera lovers out there — this franchise, which has close to 1,300 stores across the United States and Canada, stole the top spot for healthiest food franchise. What’s so great about Panera? Well, the judges praise the bakery-café-based eatery for its “comprehensive menu of healthy choices for every meal.” Its black bean and garden vegetable soups are highly nutritious, low-calorie, low-fat options, as are its beloved sandwiches, such as the turkey artichoke on focaccia bread. In addition, the judges say that Panera deserves acclaim for its kid fare, especially its “RD-approved crowd-pleasers like squeezable organic yogurt, PB&J (with all-natural peanut butter), and grilled organic cheese on white whole-grain bread.” Just be sure to skip those decadent desserts if you’re looking for a healthy meal. Those cheese danishes and monster-sized cookies might look tempting, but they are loaded with calories and fat.
- Jason’s Deli. This local deli is rapidly picking up steam, with more than 200 locations throughout the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, and Southern regions of the United States. And with good reason — it is absolutely devoted to healthy, organic options. An impressive one-fifth of Jason’s Deli ingredients are organic, and its creative salads actually make you want to eat your vegetables. Oh, and did we mention you can literally build any kind of sandwich you want on an organic, whole-wheat wrap? Yup, any kind. The judges were particularly impressed by portion size, and applauded the deli for offering reduced sizes of popular sides for $1 or less.
- Au Bon Pain. The judges describe this gem as “a pioneer in healthy fast food” and applaud its “sandwiches, soups, salads, and hot entrées made with whole grains, veggies, and hormone-free chicken.” The onsite nutritional information via computer kiosks is also definitely a highlight. Customers can easily see the fat, caloric, and nutrient information of each menu item before ordering. Making healthy choices has never been so easy.
- Noodles and Company. This innovative fast food joint, which boasts three unique styles of noodles — Asian, Mediterranean, and American — boasts lean proteins; hormone- and antibiotic-free meats, including chicken and beef; and organic tofu. There is even whole-grain linguine! Noodles and Company currently has roughly 200 locations throughout the West and Midwest, and expansion plans are in the works.
- Chipotle. Yup, this fan favorite made the list! The judges were impressed by the franchises’ fresh, local ingredients, explaining “Chipotle won high marks for its commitment to organics, hormone- and antibiotic-free meats, and produce sourced from local suppliers, which is revolutionary in a chain this big.” They also pointed out the low-sodium options available, as well as the ultra-healthy burrito bowls. Just be sure to skip the sour cream!
Article by Jason Duncan, CEO/Founder of ManagerComplete.com. ManagerComplete is an online software application that helps multi-unit franchises manage operations effectively. Follow him on Twitter for latest updates.