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Healthy options at fast food restaurants

April 20, 2009 6:02:26 AM PDT
If you order the meal deal at a fast food restaurant, you can pretty much bank on the fact that you're going to get a lot of fat and calories, but most popular chains have menu items they can be proud of and you should be ordering. Here's a look at some grab-and-go grub that nutritionally and taste-wise is your best bet.McDonald's starts with making meals happy in more ways than one. There's apple dippers with low-fat caramel in lieu of fries, milk or juice rather than soda, and nice choices for breakfast as well.

Try the yogurt parfait, fruit, walnut and yogurt salad, and even the Canadian bacon Egg McMuffin. Grilled chicken snack wrap or the Grilled Chicken Classic sandwich also get good grades if it is sauce-free.

Got the hankering for Mexican flavor? Chipotle is a nice choice.

The restaurant uses hormone and antibiotic-free meat and organics when possible.

"Here you get to customize your own, so it's build your own. You get to come in, you get to point and choose what you like," said Rachel Head from Chipotle.

The "have it your way" theme allows for more veggies, no rice, and no cheese if you please, like the tortilla-free Burrito Bowl, which cuts down on starchy carbs.

A smaller, yet innovative chain called Z Pizza gives the typical tried and true pies a run for their money.

Owner Sid Fanarof attributes organic flour and tomatoes, along with unusual toppings, for reasons why health conscious customers are pleased.

"We reduce the cheese on most of our pizzas because that's where the fat is," he said.

Thin crust, low-fat mozzarella with pear, gorgonzola and thyme is one new Rustica pizza. How about trying chicken curry with roasted yam and chutney? The salads and sandwiches are equally as interesting.

Nutritionist-like Panera offers a variety of soup, salad, and sandwich combinations in their "Pick 2" program.

Turkey artichoke panini with black bean soup, or Asian chicken salad with fruit help to keep calories where they should be.

Whole grain bread, baked chips, and fruit are some healthy options at Panera.

There's even a whole grain grilled cheese with yogurt option for the little ones.

Kudos also goes to Au Bon Pain with has a 14-item menu of nutritious "small plates," all of which are less than 200 calories.

Einstein Bros. Bagels still serves oversized bagels, but they do have reduced-fat hummus, peanut butter and cream cheese. There are also bagels called "good grains" that offer 4 grams of fiber.

Corner Bakery Café also pleases the health crowd as their menu has smart options from breakfast to dinner, like the egg white scramble at 260 calories and oatmeal with lots of fruit.

Most of the restaurants have nutrition facts posted or in handout format at their stores, but when in doubt, log on the Web before you go.

For even more restaurant chains with good choices, see Health Magazine's March 2009 issue online


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