Fast food is rarely good food. That’s just a fact. In order to be cheap and prepared in a flash, chain restaurants opt for low quality, highly processed ingredients. Then they throw it in a microwave, further depleting any nutrients, and serve it up in wasteful disposable packaging. Just thinking about it is enough to turn the stomach.
Consumer awareness about the social, environmental and health consequences of fast food is growing rapidly. Pressure from the public has encouraged many of these chains to clean up their act. They’re still not what I would consider “healthy,” but the restaurants listed below are taking significant steps to improve the quality of their food.
5 Chain Restaurants That Are Dumping Fake Food
I worked at this fast-casual chain for almost three years during college. I can tell you firsthand that their menu is already leaps and bounds above other places where you can be served in minutes. According to a recent announcement, however, Panera is getting ready to up the ante. The chain’s new food policy will eliminate all artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors and preservatives from the menu by 2016. The company also announced it is removing artificial trans-fats from its standard bakery-cafe menu.
In 2009, this popular coffee shop chain committed to removing artificial flavors, dyes, HFCS and artificial sweeteners from its food products and removing artificial preservatives “whenever possible.” As the Food Babe reports in marvelous detail, they’ve been slow to take action on those promises. Still, it stopped using crushed up bugs to color the strawberry Frapuccinos, and many stores now carry bananas, organic dried fruit and some quality granola bars without synthetic ingredients.
Unlike many fast-casual restaurants, Chipotle started off semi-healthy. According to this response from the company, Chipotle does not use artificial colors, TBHQ , BHA, BHT, MSG or sodium nitrate in any of its foods. This fast-casual Mexican food chain made headlines when it became the first fast food company in the U.S. to label GMOs on their menu. But they didn’t stop there. Earlier this year, Chipotle’s CEO announced that they were taking steps to eliminate GMOs from the menu completely. They also recently launched a non-GMO vegan option as well.
In early 2014, the world was shocked to learn that Subway’s bread contained Azodicarbonamide, a chemical primarily used in the rubber and plastics industries, as well as in some pesticides. After a survey protesting the ingredient gathered more than 50,000 signatures, Subway agreed to remove the ingredient. Now it’s patting itself on the back with a series of commercial that make it sound like it was all their idea, but that’s to be expected. Subway is also experimenting with vegan options.
This Pacific Northwest-based chain has around 40 locations in Oregon and Washington. “Burgerville’s model is based on creating personal relationships with farmers in the area, working with growers to understand who they are and what they can provide and then introducing them to Burgerville’s distribution partner, Sysco,” wrote Anna Brones for EcoSalon. The company’s burgers are made with pastured, vegetarian-fed and antibiotic-free beef from local farms, and their seasonal milkshakes often feature local fruits as well.