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Healthy Food: On-the-Go!

healthy fast food

Healthy fast food…yes, I said it! It does exist!

Gone are the days of advising clients to “avoid all fast food!” Honestly, this was never really a realistic thing to say in the first place. Fast food restaurants convenient and budget-friendly. Likewise, they’re also serving up healthy fast food that has all the makings of a healthy, balanced meal.

Let’s take a look at Taco Bell. Did you know that the Bell was the first quick-service restaurant to offer certified vegetarian items? Since 2015, their innovation team has worked tirelessly to make-over their menu. “Veggie-Mode” transforms any favorite into a vegetarian meal; “Fresco-Style” replaces high-fat sauces and condiments with pico de gallo, and recipes have been re-imagined with less sodium.

Similarly, several other fast-food chains have followed suit like Dunkin Donuts, Burger King and Carl’s Jr., yet we don’t hear much about their healthy strides. Restaurants don’t want to deter loyal customers with the idea that sacrificing something like salt, is also sacrificing major flavor.

Even with less publicity, strategists and marketing gurus from the National Restaurant Association think improved offerings are here to stay. In 2030 they predict demand for more healthful menu items will lead to a push for more plant based protein, fresh produce, local produce and whole grains, with a reduction of added sugars and sodium becoming priority.

Healthy fast food options are all around…and on occasion can help you work towards your goals, not offset them.

If a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist were to visit three popular restaurants in Lexington, what would he/she recommend for a nutritious meal?

  • Chick-fil-A:  a Grilled Cool Wrap with fat-free honey mustard dressing, a Kale Crunch Side, and regular-sized Diet Lemonade (or make one like this and pack for lunch!).
  • Zaxby’s:  the Grilled House Zalad with Lite Vinaigrette and unsweetened tea.
  • Wendy’s:  full Summer Strawberry Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette and Minute Maid Lite Lemonade.

References:

Dennet, Carrie. “Healthful Fast Food.” Today’s Dietitian, Jun./Jul. 2020, pp. 10-13.