We’ve all heard about the horrors of eating fast food — what’s most convenient for your time is most inconvenient for your health. Fast foods are typically high in calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt, all factors that contribute directly to obesity, which in turn gives rise to an array of other health problems. For example, McDonald’s, the devil in corporate form, has told its own employees that a typical meal, consisting of a burger, fries and soft drink, is in fact an “unhealthy choice.” Wendy’s Baconator Double, easily the most tempting item on its menu (I mean come on, who doesn’t love double the bacon?), has absurdly excessive amounts of calories, fat and salt. When you’re trying to get the most for your buck at Taco Bell, you look to the “Why Pay More” value menu and the Beefy 5-Layer Burrito is your go-to. As it turns out, this burrito is pretty expensive — it has the greatest number of calories and highest fat content of all the items on the value menu.
Right behind campus on North Olden Avenue are all three of these fast food restaurants — McDonald’s is to the right and Wendy’s and Taco Bell are to the left. Now, I’m not asking you to give up fast food. I, for one, completely understand its temporal and financial convenience. However, I am going to ask you to consider these healthier alternatives located a little outside the lovely suburbs of Ewing.
This first option is a college favorite and already gives you a bang for your buck. If done right, it can be a treat for your stomach, too. Chipotle gives you the ability to customize your meal so it would be shameful not to make healthier choices. The nearest Chipotle is less than 15 minutes driving distance from campus on Route 1 in Princeton.
If you’re in the mood for a burrito, choose to order the bowl with either steak or chicken, black beans, fajita veggies, guacamole and green salsa. Opting out of the cheese and sour cream shouldn’t be surprising, but did you know the flour tortilla is just as guilty? And just for reference, the unhealthiest burrito you can get is with carnitas, cilantro-lime rice, sour cream, roasted chili corn salsa and cheese.
Surprise, surprise, salads can be unhealthy, too! Your best option here is lettuce, chicken or steak, black beans, fajita vegetables and chipotle-honey vinaigrette on the side. Once again, just for reference, the worst salad includes lettuce, carnitas, pinto beans, roasted chili corn salsa, cheese and chipotle-honey vinaigrette with chips.
With soups, salads and sandwiches galore, Panera immediately seems like a healthy haven. Now, now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Even though Panera was named America’s Healthiest Fast Food Restaurant, not everything on the menu lives up to this title. You still have to be sure to choose wisely.
The best salad option is the half Fuji Apple Chicken Salad. Its calorie content is inversely proportional to the protein and fiber it boasts. Be sure to avoid the Steak and Blue Cheese Chopped Salad that is high in calories, fat and sodium.
Two of the best sandwiches on Panera’s menu are the Tuna Salad on Honey Wheat and Smoked Turkey Breast on Country Bread. No need to be stingy — go ahead and get full sandwiches when ordering either of these. The worst sandwich you can order is the Full Italian Combo on Ciabatta. There’s no mystery here — it’s the three types of meat, cheese and special sauce that contribute to the high calorie count.
Panera’s New England Clam Chowder is a definite no-no. However, a delicious alternative is the Low-Fat Garden Vegetable with Pesto.