Going out to eat is one of America’s greatest pastimes. As much as you may value the home cooked meal, restaurants are a hot commodity. They’re not just a place to go- they’re an experience. What’s not to like about kicking back after a long day in a relaxed atmosphere with friends or family where you don’t have to cook for yourself and can choose from a plethora of food and drink options? Oh yeah…some of those options may not be so healthy if you’re trying to be conscious about what you eat.
It may be difficult, at certain restaurants, to find a tasty meal while also staying true to your diet. But it is NOT impossible. Most restaurants keep the health-conscious customer in mind and make an effort to offer a few clean eating options, but some are better than others. Here are five restaurants that have made healthy food a priority:
- Panera Bread
You may think of Panera as a carb heaven with its giant bread bowl soups and indulgent mac and cheese, but the popular fast food chain has made some major positive overhauls to its menu since 2005, gradually removing items that don’t fit its health standards. The company has removed trans fats, artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors and preservatives from all of its recipes. Additionally, Panera prides itself on being completely transparent about what goes into their food, so they provide lists of ingredients for all of the items on their menu. Panera is also transparent about where all of their food is sourced from and advocates animal welfare, so it only uses meat from animals that were raised in reduced-stress, antibiotic-free environments.
Chipotle gives the customer the power to take control of their diet by providing an array of fresh, high-quality ingredients. Since 1993, the company has had the same goal: “show that food served fast [doesn’t] have to be a ‘fast-food’ experience.” To make good on their promise, Chipotle uses organic produce whenever possible and only uses meat from responsibly-raised animals. Sure, if you’re building your own burrito bowl and load it with every topping available, that may not be so healthy, but if you’re conscious about what you put into your order, you can have a really healthy eating experience at Chipotle. If you’re looking for a good clean eating choice, try this: a burrito bowl with grilled chicken, black beans, fajita vegetables, lettuce, slasa, and guacamole.
This chain, founded in Washington D.C. in 2007, has expanded to several states since then, including California, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Illinois. Healthy food sells. The restaurant’s goal is simple: to inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food. This means they connect with small and mid-size farms to provide fresh and local ingredients and they are transparents about the ingredients that go into their food and where they came from. The menu changes seasonally to incorporate local, fresh ingredients. Looking for menu inspiration? Try the Harvest Bowl with wild rice, shredded kale, apples, sweet potatoes, roasted chicken, goat cheese, almonds, and balsamic vinaigrette.
- LYFE Kitchen
Believe it or not, this “health casual” restaurant is actually the brainchild of former McDonald’s executives, who founded the company in 2011. The acronym LYFE stands for “Love Your Food Everyday,” and it is the company’s mission to make that possible for their customers by consistently providing “flavorful, nourishing experiences and extraordinary service.” Unfortunately, you can only experience the restaurant’s fresh, high-quality food if you live in California, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, or Tennessee, but with food this good, the restaurant is bound to expand into new markets.
So freshly is not a physical restaurant per se, but I figured it’s worth highlighting here because it makes healthy eating at home easy and accessible. You’ve probably heard of meal delivery services like Blue Apron and HelloFresh that send you a weekly box of ingredients and recipes so that you can prepare healthy meals from home, but Freshly essentially delivers the restaurant experience to your door by delivering healthy meals that are already cooked. Their mission is to “make you happy, healthy, and more free to pursue your passions.” Freshly takes all the work out of healthy eating and all of its meals are gluten-free and prepared by top chefs with fresh, all-natural ingredients.
These five restaurants offering clean eating options are just a few among many. Restaurants all around the world are catching onto the clean eating craze, with restaurants like B.good, Au Bon Pain, Pret a Manger using only fresh, high-quality ingredients, and even less traditionally healthy fast food restaurants like McDonald’s adding healthy options to their menus.