Noodles & Company
Why does this Colorado-based chain top our quick-serve list? Noodles & Company combines 19 fresh vegetables with seven types of pastas in Asian, Mediterranean, or American entrees (think Indonesian Peanut Saute or Wisconsin Mac & Cheese).
We love: The Triosoup, noodles, or salad paired with your favorite protein, plus a side salad or a cup of soup.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
The idea is simple: Build your own gourmet burrito, fajita burrito, taco, or burrito bowl. The flavor and the healthiness are in the detailsnaturally raised, antibiotic-free meats, organic beans, and even hormone-free sour cream. Corn tortillas give you a whole-grain option, and the tortilla-less Burrito Bowl lets you ramp up the proteins and veggies.
We love: Anything with the chipotle-adobo-marinated grilled steak.
Any chain that calls small appetizers “Shareables” has the healthy idea down. Cosis central themethe hearthyields tasty hearth-baked entrees (in the locations where they serve dinner), from Alpine Chicken to Grilled Wild Alaskan Salmon. High marks for baby carrots as a substitute for chips to go along with sandwiches.
We love: The delicious, healthy fruit smoothies in a green tea base.
The bread is fresh and tempting (and you can go whole-grain). But look to Paneras soups for great low-calorie and low-sodium options. Fresh fruit cups and apples make for healthy sides, and we give the restaurant special kudos for offering kids meals that come with organic cheese and all-natural peanut butter.
We love: “You Pick Two” combos. You can get half a sandwich paired with a vegetarian soup
Au Bon Pain
This chain boasts hormone-and antibiotic-free chicken. Plus, it provides a great nonfood nutritional tool: computerized kiosks available in most locations allow you to plan your meal and even sort the menu by your goalwhether it be high fiber and protein; or low carb, fat, cholesterol, sodium, or calories.
We love: The restaurants recent move to using preservative-free chicken, for better flavor and less sodium.