Fast food chains are traversing the coronavirus pandemic much better than smaller independent restaurants. As family-owned businesses falter, well-funded franchises are ready to swoop in and capitalize on the vacant real estate, as well as the customer base looking for remaining convenient food options.
And while we've been relying on fast food more than ever during the pandemic, we may have let the concern about unhealthy eating slip our minds.
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To that end, Consumer Reports just published a new evaluation of 17 different chains to determine which ones actually provide nutritious food options. The restaurants' overall healthfulness rating was based on several criteria concerning how easy it is to eat healthy from their menu. Are better-for-you options part of their ethos and featured front and center? Are healthy swaps like whole grains readily available? How much sugar is in their drinks? Is their food packed with salt?
Not surprisingly, the restaurants deemed as providing healthiest food options were ones that offer customizable grain bowls, colorful veggie-packed dishes, and delicious vegetarian options. Top marks were awarded to CoreLife Eatery, Sweetgreen, Chopt, and True Food Kitchen.
On the other hand, restaurants at the bottom of CR's healthy ratings were household names that may provide convenient, craveable food, but haven't yet graduated to a more health-conscious menu. Here's the bottom five.
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The Cheesecake Factory
While the restaurant chain is a great place to grab a tasty family dinner, eating healthfully at the Cheesecake Factory is quite a challenge, thanks to their large portions and the mouth-watering dessert displays that are hard to resist. There is one dish in particular, that we recommend never ever getting from their menu because it's the absolute unhealthiest. Here are the healthiest menu items you can get at this chain, according to our nutritionists.
Loaded with sodium, saturated fat, and sometimes even sugar, the sandwiches from this beloved chain aren't actually good for you. When you think about the fact that vegetables are found in traces, whereas the processed meats are piled high and all slathered with all kinds of dressings and sauces, it makes sense this would be one of the worst fast food options out there. But if you must, our nutritionists have weighed in on healthiest menu items from Subway.
Calories add up quickly at the fan-favorite Italian chain. Pastas, heavy sauces, high-fat soups, and sodium-loaded appetizers make it difficult to place a healthy order at the Olive Garden. While this pasta dish is the absolute unhealthiest option on their menu, our nutritionists recommend these lighter options if you're watching your weight.
You can think of Applebee's as a minefield of calorie bombs. A single chicken tenders entree will set you back a whopping 1,150 calories, and you'll notice that 1,000+ calories per entree is a trend there, not an exception (even for salads!). Here is the absolute worst item they have on the menu, while our nutritionists recommend these healthier options.
McDonald's is beloved for many reasons, but offering healthy options isn't one of them. While the chain is synonymous with junk food and unhealthy eating, there are actually some things on their menu that are lesser offenders when it comes to calories and sodium. However, stay away from these ten absolute worst menu items from the burger chain.
During the pandemic, pizza delivery has been a go-to for many families. But you may want to get your pizza habit in check, especially if you frequently get yours at Domino's. Most of the chain's pies are very high in sodium, especially when they're piled high with processed meats like pepperoni, sausage, and bacon. Not to mention, the generous amounts of cheese on all their pizzas brings the calories and the fat content sky-high as well. Here's what our nutritionists recommend you order from the beloved pizza chain's menu.