Settling for McNuggets because “there’s nothing else to eat” won’t cut it anymore. Here, a healthy, low-cal sampling Roti Mediterranean Grill.
Elegant dining has its perks, but sometimes all you want is to get food off of your mind and into your belly, quick—and that’s when fast-food temptation comes knocking.
The problem is, the faster the food, the less nutritious it tends to be. But that’s starting to change. Although burger joints and mall foods still reign (taco) supreme, a new breed of healthy, fast-casual restaurants are sprouting up around the country. In fact, these nutrition-packed options are growing at 10 times the rate of traditional fast-food joints like McDonald’s and Wendy’s—Americans spent more than $21 billion at fast food restaurants like Chipotle in 2014 alone.
With smart choices like salmon, guacamole and cold-pressed juices available for grab-and-go, settling for McNuggets because “there’s nothing else to eat” won’t cut it anymore. So skip the old-school drive-thrus like McDonald’s and Burger King. These seven Eat This, Not That!-approved restaurants will whip you up something better—and healthier—in no time.
#1 HEALTHIEST NEW CHAIN
It’s like: A bizarro world Cracker Barrell, where everything is healthy
Picture a deluxe Sunday family dinner spread, with all your favorite fixin’s—minus all the unhealthy casseroles and pies—and you’ve got Dig Inn. It’s a seasonal market-style eatery that offers delicious, locally-sourced and reasonably-priced meals. You can make your own plate by picking a base (salad or whole grain), a protein (lean meat, tofu, or salmon), and then a few sides, and that’s when things get interesting. On a recent visit, we saw roasted sweet potatoes, pan-sauteed cauliflower, crunchy summer couscous and kale and rhubarb salad. You can get an entire plate of healthy, filling food for around eight to ten bucks—even more reason to dig in.
#2 HEALTHIEST NEW CHAIN
It’s like: A McFarmers Market
How sweet it is. The menu here is made from all-organic ingredients and sourced from farmers—franchisees form relationships with local providers. As a result, Sweetgreen features a wide variety of salad options and whole grain-filled bowls filled with nutrient-dense foods like quinoa, farro, avocado, shredded cabbage, beets and leafy greens. Or, mix your own superfood salad. Grab a base of shredded kale and organic wild rice and toss them with fresh add-ins like spicy broccoli, snap peas, roasted vegetables or any of these other 8 Secret Superfoods That Help You Lose Weight and Burn Fat!
#3 HEALTHIEST NEW CHAIN
Roti Mediterranean Grill
It’s like: Your favorite Mediterranean grill, but quick enough for a to-go lunch
Roti Grill’s entire menu is inspired by Mediterranean cuisine, recognized for its heart-healthy benefits—as well as its ability to boost brain health and power up weight loss. Their “Best Plate Ever” dish may live up to its name: A rice plate with chicken kabob, hummus, tomato and cucumber, fresh veggies, roasted red pepper sauce and a house-baked pita. Overall, the meals offer a perfectly-calibrated combination of protein, healthy fats and fiber to fuel your day. A quick visit can have you melting fat fast—along with these essential 14 Ways to Lose Your Belly in 14 Days!
#4 HEALTHIEST NEW CHAIN
It’s like: A Chipotle where quinoa and spinach replace the Mexican food
This chain made headlines challenging the CEO of McDonald’s to include Freshii’s food inside their locations. Are the meals as good as the marketing? Yes—most are made of lean protein, fiber, healthy fats and slow-burning carbs. You can choose from a wide range of made-to-order green wraps, salads, quinoa bowls, soups, and also fresh-pressed juices and smoothies—or build your own salad, wrap, grain bowl or soup from their long list of healthy bases and toppings. Speaking of smoothies, melt fat with each sip by making the The Best Weight-Loss Smoothie Ever from Zero Belly Diet—it helped many fans lose up to 14 pounds in 16 days!
#5 HEALTHIEST NEW CHAIN
It’s like: Someone opened an artisanal Five Guys
We at Eat This, Not That! love comparing the nutritional information of one fast food restaurant to another. B. good—a rapidly-growing chain focused on local ingredients—does that also, right on their packaging. And why not brag? Their fries, for example, have 9 grams of fat, compared to 21 grams at McDonald’s and 22 at Burger King—and 95% of the menu is gluten-free. At every location, the menu differs, with the Boston location featuring milkshakes from Cambridge-favorite Toscanini’s, and the N.C. spot serving craft beer from Raleigh.
#6 HEALTHIEST NEW CHAIN
It’s like: A celeb-friendly L.A. health food restaurant—in your town
Who better than someone from McDonald’s to out-McDonald’s McDonald’s? LYFE Kitchen—already a huge hit in California—was founded by two former execs from the Golden Arches, who prefer to talk about “taste” and “feeling good,” rather than “health food.” But healthy it is: Every dish is fewer than 600 calories, made with sustainable ingredients, never fried and additive-free. Art Smith, Oprah’s one-time personal chef, created the menu with chef Tal Ronnen. The result is the only fast food place we know that serves wild Mahi Mahi in their fish tacos, and “unfried” chicken strips (breaded but baked), an Oprah favorite.
#7 HEALTHIEST NEW CHAIN
Fresh & Co
It’s like: A nutritionist made over your local deli
Sensing a theme here? Fresh & Co sources their fruits and veggies from organic, local farms, like Sweetgreen. One difference here is the extensive breakfast menu, which includes a make-your-own omelette option, protein-packed breakfast wraps and even quinoa pancakes. They’ve also got a variety of quinoa bowls—many Mediterranean to Asian inspired—and sweet treats like vanilla chia seed pudding, hemp brownies and a raw vegan goji berry protein bar that puts McDonald’s Apple Pie to shame.