Fast and healthy: the best of both worlds

By Eleni Antipas
February 28, 2011

It is no secret that most college students are strapped for cash and are extremely busy. Another well known fact is the ongoing obesity epidemic. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) 34 percent of adult Americans are obese. It is hard for people with a limited amount of time and money to eat healthy.


Currently, my week consists of classes, homework, an internship and two part-time jobs. I often eat in my car while driving from one job to the next. My options for nutritious meals are slim. After all, it is pretty difficult to balance a salad in my lap while driving.

This year “Health Magazine” rated the 10 healthiest fast food restaurants.  I was thrilled to learn that No. 1 on the list is a local restaurant and one of my personal favorites.  Panera Bread was selected for the No. 1 position because their menu offers a wide variety of options, which increases the likelihood that customers will make a healthy choice.

For example, there are 16 different types of bread including two whole-grain breads. Customers can substitute a bag of  baked chips for an apple. The menu allows people to cut calories by exercising portion control. For example, half size soups, salads and sandwiches are available. Panera Bread uses hormone-free chicken, all natural peanut butter and organic cheese and yogurt.

Corner Bakery Cafe, another local restaurant, was rated No. 5 on the magazine’s list.  Their breakfast menu is filled with healthy options, which is rare for a fast food restaurant.

One of the most popular breakfast dishes is the Farmer’s Scrambler. This includes two scrambled egg whites, bell peppers, red onion, mushrooms, potatoes and cheese, and the best part is that it is only 260 calories.

The cafe’s other healthy breakfast items include Swiss oatmeal, made of rolled oats, green apples, bananas, currants, dried cranberries, low-fat yogurt and skim milk, which is served cold. Old-fashioned oatmeal and fruit salads are also served daily for under 300 calories.


After reading the article in “Health Magazine,” I noticed that many of the fast food restaurants in the area have new additions to their menus.  According to Jim Skinner, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of McDonald’s, the company has made adjustments to their menus in an effort to promote healthy living.

Some items I have seen in the past on breakfast menus include McDonald’s “Fruit ‘n Yogurt Parfait” which is only 160 calories and their new fruit & maple oatmeal for 260 calories. Oatmeal is a soluble fiber, which helps lower cholesterol and control blood sugar.

Dunkin’ Donuts’ new egg white and cheese “Wake-Up Wraps” are 260 calories compared to their sausage, egg and cheese sandwich on a croissant, which is 680 calories. Finally, Cosi has a spinach florentine wrap for 334 calories, which is high in fiber and protein.

Fast food restaurants have also made changes to their lunch and dinner menus. Subway has added a turkey breast and ham sandwich on wheat bread with tomatoes, onions, green peppers, pickles, olives and mustard for 310 calories and 4 grams of fat.

This new sandwich is much healthier than many of Subway’s sandwiches like the “Spicy Italian” sandwich, which has pepperoni, salami and cheese, and 520 calories and 28 grams of fat.

Chick-fil-A’s new chicken nuggets with barbecue sauce has 315 calories and 12 grams of fat compared to their “Spicy Chicken Deluxe” sandwich, which has 580 calories and 27 grams of fat.

Many of Panda Express’ meals come with fried rice. However, they are now offering an alternative to the high calorie side dish. The Mongolian beef and fried rice for 540 calories is now available with mixed vegetables for 235 calories.

Although, the majority of fast food restaurants service high calorie foods, it is nice to know that some improvements are being made. These changes have definitely made it easier for me to eat better with my hectic schedule.

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Eleni Antipas

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