Chain restaurants and fast-food joints are known for having convenient but less than healthy food choices, but lately, the average consumer has become more likely to expect healthy alternatives.
Most of the popular options at chain restaurants are fried or fatty and are designed around taste, price, and speed rather than the impact they could have on our health. Luckily, more and more places are beginning to offer side dishes, salads, and fresh fruits and vegetables that can be selected as healthy options that won’t ruin your diet.
When you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to prepare a healthy meal at home that fits more neatly into your nutritional plan, it’s good to know that you actually have options at many chain restaurants and fast-food joints that won’t devastate your diet. Options like these didn’t even exist as recently as a few years ago.
We’ve put together a list for you of fast-food joints and chain restaurants that have menu options that are reasonable alternatives to homemade meals, so even when you are starving and on-the-go you can still make smart choices that can help you stick to your diet and not kill your momentum.
Kentucky Fried Chicken
It’s hard to believe that a fast-food chain with the word fried in the name would have any healthy options available, and it’s true that most of the popular products here are deep fried and heavily battered. However, many KFC locations now offer healthier options like grilled chicken.
Many locations also offer healthier sides like corn on the cob or green beans to go with your grilled chicken, and they also have Caesar salads with roasted chicken if you want a light and delicious meal.
These healthy options are available at almost 25,000 LFC locations all over the world, and there’s no doubt that their options are tasty. KFC regularly makes over $20 billion in sales every year.
Chik-fil-A is another chicken-centric fast-food establishment, and they are actually a bit more well-known for being a healthier alternative, despite carrying predominantly fried foods. They were the first fast-food restaurant in America to provide a variety of menu options that have absolutely no trans fats.
Chick-fil-A also has a variety of options that are great for kids, such as milk and fruit cups as a side dish. Many locations take the time to make diet lemonade that is sugar-free as an offering alongside their regular lemonade.
There are several options for fans of chicken salad, along with grilled chicken nuggets and oatmeal made with whole grains as a breakfast option.
Chick-fil-A is a proud American chain and cannot be found internationally, but they have locations all over the United States.
In the hamburger market, the only chains that are bigger than Wendy’s are Burger King and McDonald’s. Most Wendy’s branches are located in the United State, but there are a few branches located in Asia, South America, the Caribbean, and Canada, among others. They have established locations in 30 different countries.
The main offerings at Wendy’s are hamburgers and French fries, and they also offer chicken sandwiches and other various treats. However, they also have a variety of salads that are great options for anyone looking for a quick and easy meal that is still healthy. They also offer grilled chicken wraps that many people love.
McDonald’s is a fast-food giant and a household name, and they have locations all over the world in over 100 different countries. The chain is well-known for offering processed foods that are far from anything that could be called a healthy choice, and they have even been accused of being a part of the culture that has caused a rise in obesity and Type 2 Diabetes.
Luckily, McDonald’s does have to care about what their customers ask for, and 1 thing their customers do want is healthier menu choices. As they have noticed a demand for quality, healthy options, they have responded by providing them. Their website claims that they care about evolving along with their customers’ needs.
McDonald’s offers a variety of different salads, and most of them include chicken as the main star. Many locations also have fruit salads, and some offer parfaits as a healthier alternative to ice cream.
The Cheesecake Factory is a sit-down restaurant chain that has become famous for huge portion sizes and equally huge calorie counts. They now offer a SkinnyLicious menu that features meals with healthier ingredients and smaller portion sizes. The menu features options like seafood, salads, steaks, and appetizers, along with many other health-conscious choices.
The majority of Cheesecake Factory locations are based in the United States, but they have also recently opened a few locations in the Middle East.
Panera Bread is a restaurant that has locations in the United State and Canada. They are primarily known for serving sandwiches, salads, baked goods, and healthy soup choices.
The company’s slogan is “Food As It Should Be”, and they seem to believe in this motto. They provide calorie counts for all of their menu items, their meats are sourced solely from animals that are raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics, and their bread is baked fresh every day without using any artificial ingredients.
The number of locations in the United States and Canada is continually rising, and they currently have over 1,900 branches that all offer high-quality fast-food options.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Chipotle Mexican Grill is another company with a slogan that implies at least some thought goes into their menu, “Food with Integrity”. They prioritize locally grown foods when sourcing for their Mexican themes menu of tacos, burritos, and other traditional Mexican options.
The meat that Chipotle uses in each menu item is either organic or naturally raised, without the use of antibiotics or hormones. They have locations all over the world, with the majority in the United States but others spread across Canada, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and various other countries.
Ruby Tuesday has a menu that certainly isn’t without its fair share of unhealthy high-fat and high0carbohydrate offerings, but they also have a selection of items that are labeled Fit & Trim which any health-conscious customer can enjoy. The Fit & Trim options are all 700 calories or less. Many of them are gluten-free or designed to meet the needs of other dietary restrictions, like low-carb alternatives.
Their menus feature a good selection of poultry, meats like steak, seafood, and some vegetarian options. There are plenty of food choices that aren’t fried and they have a good selection of vegetable-based side dishes.
Ruby Tuesday has locations internationally, with most of them located in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
The Subway menu is primarily known for sandwiches, but they also have a selection of soups and you can turn any sandwich option into a salad. You can customize the ingredients of your sandwich or salad however you like, so getting plenty of fresh veggies in won’t be any problem. The amount of control you have at Subway is a great way to make sure you get exactly what you need and can pack in more fiber, fewer calories, or whatever your heart desires.
If you’d rather have a sandwich than a salad, you can still cut down on calories by opting for whole grain bread and limiting yourself on condiments and dressings. If you do go for a salad, you can still get a good amount of protein like salami or chicken to help yourself feel full.
Subway has over 44,000 locations across over 100 different countries, so finding one near you shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
Customize Menu Options At Many Restaurants For A Healthy Meal
Most restaurants understand that your business is the key to their ongoing success, so they will try to provide at least a few options that are geared towards more health-conscious customers. Even if you can’t find an option that is exactly right for your needs, many establishments are willing to make adjustments to tweak their meals to better suit you.
Many restaurants and fast-food joints have listed calorie counts for their meals, and if you can’t find them directly on the menu they are almost always available online. These can be incredibly useful to help you follow your specific calorie intake guidelines and make sure that you don’t accidentally make a mistake because you did not have the correct information.
Some locations aren’t as accommodating, but many places will allow you to substitute one part of a meal for something similar, so you can ditch the French fries and opt for steamed vegetables or a side salad instead.
With any meals that you choose, try to make sure that they are primarily made up of whole foods and avoid refined or overly processed options. If you’re willing to test things out and weigh the pros and cons, it isn’t hard to find plenty of fast-food and sit-down restaurants with healthy, clean menu choices.
9 Restaurants With Healthy Choices Final Words
It wasn’t too long ago that it was nearly impossible to find a quick and convenient meal that wasn’t also ridiculously unhealthy. Luckily, we now have a variety of fast-food and restaurant options that provide nutritional, real food alternatives that are still just as good as their standard menu fare.