Fast food makeover: Who’s offering healthier choices?

Chipotle, Panera Bread rate ’very good.’

SAN ANTONIO – As we grab more takeout and fast food, Consumer Reports evaluated the menus at 17 popular chains to find which ones offer nutritious choices.

A growing number of chains are offering customized grain bowls, locally grown produce and vegetarian entrees. And, two-thirds of Americans surveyed said it’s easier than ever to eat healthy at restaurants.

“We rated a restaurant’s overall healthfulness on many criteria,” said Amy Keating, CR nutritionist. “Do they feature whole healthy foods front and center? Are there healthy alternatives to sugar-sweetened beverages? And, can you find a variety of whole grains on the menu?”

Two that rated “very good” and have local locations are Chipotle and Panera Bread. Freshii also rated “very good,” but the location at Trinity University is currently not open to the general public.

The four at the top of their ratings, CoreLife Eatery, Sweetgreen, Chopt and True Food Kitchen do not have a presence in San Antonio, although Sweetgreen and True Food Kitchen do have Texas locations.

CR found that calorie counts generally matched what the restaurants claim.

Sodium, though, was problematic.

“We found there was a lot of room from improvement,” Keating said. “Sodium levels at restaurants can be off the charts, and we found in our laboratory tests, the sodium levels the restaurants claim are not always accurate.”

Condiments like barbecue sauce and soy sauce are high in sodium, so she suggests using them sparingly.

Restaurants post their nutritional information on their websites, so you can plan before you go.

Cheesecake Factory, Subway, Olive Garden, Applebee’s, McDonald’s and Domino’s Pizza were at the bottom of the list. CR said those chains could better serve customers by cutting back on sodium, offering more fresh vegetable and whole-grain options, and more drinks that are not loaded with sugar.

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