When you want to grab a quick, healthy meal where do you go? Do you head to a restaurant like Panera Bread or Chipotle? With the rise of fast-casual restaurants that boast fresh, healthy, sustainable and local ingredients, it seems like you may have many healthy choices at the palm of your hand. But research has shown that fast-casual restaurant entrees have, on average, 200 more calories per entrée than fast food restaurant entrees.
It could be argued that although fast-casual entrées have more calories, they contain more nutrients. With the rising popularity of these eateries, the fast food industry is trying to improve their appeal by stripping away their unhealthy image and replacing it with a fresh and healthier one. It’s possible that one day fast food will actually be lower in calories and higher in nutrients than fast-casual restaurants.
But until then, if you’re in a hurry and looking for a quick bite, remember to think twice when choosing a place to eat. Follow these tips for a healthier meal when eating at a fast-casual restaurant.
• Check the nutritional information before ordering. If it’s not available in the restaurant, many chains post their menu’s nutritional information on their website.
• Skip the high calorie, high fat toppings like cheese and sour cream. Choose the healthier options like pico de gallo and lettuce.
• Don’t go overboard on the toppings; pick two to three.
• Go light on the dressing. Avoid creamier dressings and ask for all dressing on the side.
• Order half sizes of items when you can.
• Watch out for beverages. Stick with water or carbonated water.
Bottom line: Eating out can still be healthy. Remember to check the nutritional information before you order to make an informed choice.
Written by: Christina Jung, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern
1. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
2. Food & Nutrition
3. Berkeley Wellness