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Fast Food, Healthy Choice

The last decade has brought with it a tide of change when it comes to how younger generations are viewing and reacting to the world around them.

Aside from the growing concern for sustainability and our impact on the planet, there have been huge movements in the realm of self-care and health, including what we’re putting into our bodies.

For a nation where fast food has played an important role not only in economics but in long-term health, this is a big deal.

According to News Medical, fast food not only drives up the statistics of obesity, but have had a negative effect on portion control, energy density, and weight-loss maintenance.

It’s easy to see why – with a fast food restaurant only a few minutes away from many locations in the United States, the industry is easy to reach and cheap. And while food with a focus in organics and natural ingredients will always be the better alternative, sometimes it’s an emergency – which is why we’ve compiled a list of some of the healthiest fast food options out there. 

Subway

Subway originated in 1965, and has managed to hold their own against other sandwich-based fast food companies. They’re best known for their $5 foot long promotion, which is a perfect example of portion control getting out of control. But just because they’re offering a good deal doesn’t mean it’s good for your body.

Actually, part of what makes Subway stand out against their competitors is their willingness to confront the nutritional value in their menu items. Nutrition lists are easily found right on their glass cases to guide you in choosing the right meal. Overall Subway meals are low in sugar and higher in protein, and they do have a wide variety of vegetables to choose from. Just make sure you stay away from the dressings unless you’re going with a simple oil and vinegar combo – quite a few have 100 calories and double that in sodium. 

Wendy’s

One of the most alluring aspects of Wendy’s menu is their salad options. The Garden Sensations Salads are wonderful choices, but keep in mind that dressings are where a lot of the calories, fat, and sodium are. For example, their Light Classic Ranch has 90 calories, 8 grams of fat, and 360 mg of sodium. 

But what about their classic, popular offerings? Aim for the “Jr” size sandwiches, preferably without cheese, to cut down on calories and fat. Full-size burgers run around 800 calories with 1,000 grams or more of sodium!

Wendy’s also has the option of getting a side salad with meals instead of fries. Wendy’s is one of the few fast food restaurants offering sides such as baked potatoes, mandarin orange cups, and chili. The chili is surprisingly healthy when one looks at the nutritional content (270 calories 8 grams of fat for a large) and it’s a draw for kids, who most likely won’t find the Southwest Avocado Chicken Salad as attractive. 

Panera Bread

Like Wendy’s, some of the menu items Panera is best known for are their salads. But you might not know that they also offer other healthy choices such as strawberry granola parfait, garden vegetable with pesto soup, and whole grain breads as sides or as sandwich options. 

Unlike other restaurants, Panera’s website also has an interactive nutritional calculator, so you can check out your best options before you buy. For a chain that’s considered to be based in fast food, Panera has a refreshingly diverse menu. They carry healthier bread choices such as whole grain, stone-milled rye, and a three seed variety. 

Although we wouldn’t encourage eating at fast food restaurants regularly, we do understand the occasional need to grab a quick meal on the run. And with food order and delivery apps these days it’s an attractive deal. So instead of discouraging our readers, we’d rather educate you about the healthier options.

Finding the good stuff involves more than just showing up and perusing the menu. It’s important to look at the nutritional values of the items you’re interested in, and most restaurants should have pamphlets or guides posted somewhere close at hand. Ask employees what the healthier options are and they should be able to guide you. 

Unfortunately, your favorite salad dressing or bagel might not be the best bet. Keep an eye out for items on the menu with high fat and sodium content and skip those. They can contribute to high blood pressure, or exacerbate other health conditions. 

If you’re shuttling a family around and need to make a pit stop for some grub, look for healthy side options that are still attractive to kids. These days chicken nuggets and fries just don’t cut it anymore! It is possible to live a healthy life and still enjoy the occasional indulgence.