It is no big secret that the fast food industry in the United States is undergoing a major metamorphosis. This evolution has been largely due to the American consumer’s desire for more healthy options. That might be higher protein or lower fat or lower calorie or more vegetarian menu items. Regardless of what it is that the American people want, the fast food industry has been forced to examine its products and ingredients to cater to these requests.
As such, we have seen many fast food chains shrink or fail and new chains rise. Those that have managed to stick around have had to overhaul their menu, particularly in response to the government order that all menus must list calorie count. That seems fair enough; but which fast food chain has fared the best in this period?
The answer might surprise you.
Taco Bell has been named one of the healthiest fast food chains in the United States over the past few years.
Now it is important to note that this rating does not necessarily describe the whole of the Taco Bell menu. What the company has done, though, is add healthy items to the existing menu. Indeed, you can still get your Dorito-shell tacos and your ultra-cheesy Crunch Wrap Supreme, but Taco Bell dietitian and product developer Missy Nelson has focused on moving in a new direction. Since her hire, the company has moved towards all natural ingredients, switched to cage-free eggs, and reduced sodium by 15 percent, overall.
That last thing—the sodium—is big. According to registered dietitian and nutritionist, Angie Murad, one of the biggest obstacles to eating healthy at fast food and traditional casual restaurants is massive sodium levels. She advises that Taco Bell is “trying to decrease the amount of sodium, which is great because usually when you do eat out, the menu options are higher in sodium.”
Perhaps more importantly, though, Taco Bell has lighter (lower-calorie) options that actually taste like fast food. The chain now offers a “Cantina” (high-protein) and a “Fresca” (low-calorie) menu as well as a vegetarian menu that has actually been certified by the American Vegetarian Association.
Murad also advises that people should investigate online and learn more about their fast food options before heading out. This can lead to making better choices in a bind, when you are out and want a quick bite to eat.
“Since there is the nutrition information online you can use some tricks to find healthier options if you are in a bind and have to eat our or go to fast food,” she contends.