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25 Best Healthy Restaurants in America

Forget the burger and fries. Try these quick-serve dining options that serve up much healthier foods.

Everyone knows the feeling—you're slammed with work, rushing to get to an appointment, starving at lunchtime. You need some food, quick. The moment calls for fast food, but how do you avoid the energy drop into nap mode when you order something too greasy and super heavy?

Over the last few decades, the fast-food model has grown to include healthy restaurants that offer salads, smoothies, bowls, and vegetable-forward cuisine to balance out the more traditional burger-and-fries model.

Here's a full rundown of 25 healthy restaurant chains where you can get something speedy that won't break the bank and won't make you hit your daily calorie count in one meal.

Tender Greens

Tender Greens / Facebook

Based in California, this nutrition-focused fast-casual chain offers up not just salads but also bowls, sandwiches, and plates—all designed with balance, flavor, and health in mind. Originally founded in Culver City, the company now runs more than 20 locations throughout Southern California, the Bay Area, and Orange County—each with an executive chef. Grilled salmon with farro salad is a strong pick, or go for the Mediterranean steak salad with feta, pickled cucumbers, and baby greens.

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mixt exterior

Don't live in California? No problem. Though Mixt, formerly Mixt Greens, was founded in San Francisco, the company has since expanded to Phoenix and Dallas, too. And, of course, it has locations in the Bay Area and now Los Angeles. It's focused on fresh greens—despite the name change—so expect craft salads, warm bowls, and sandwiches with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. Organic greens, grains, and responsibly sourced proteins make this a great pick for a nutritious and tasty meal. The Cowboy salad with romaine, grilled chicken, black beans, red peppers, cheddar, scallions, and blue cheese dressing is a standout.

Mendocino Farms

mendocino farms sandwich market
Tada Images / Shutterstock

Mendocino Farms—affectionately shortened to "Mendo" by the restaurant's slightly obsessive fan base—is all over California as well as Seattle and Texas. Expect to see the chain expanding even more. The Mendo model is to partner with local farmers on nearly every ingredient and to continuously revamp its menu items to reflect seasonal changes and availability. Sandwiches, salads, deli items, and soups—plus, my personal favorite, the 1/2 sandwich combo with a soup or side—are updated regularly. The vegan banh mi with baked tofu is a good flavorful vegetarian option, and the Impossible taco salad uses plant-based protein that tastes just like the real thing, topped off with vegan chipotle ranch dressing.



Created almost completely in direct opposition to the fast food status quo, Everytable is a subscription-based food service that also provides healthy, affordable options at grab-and-go storefronts. With a specific focus on opening locations in food deserts where access to nutritious food is hard to come by, the brand also prices its offerings based on neighborhood, making sure the rate is accessible for those who live nearby. The shop sells everything from breakfast and coffee to family-sized portions, and you'll find wraps and sandwiches, salads, and hot plates. Everytable is only in California for now, but its expansion has been rapid, so keep an eye out for locations in your area.

The Little Beet

the little beet

Those based in the greater New York City area are likely already familiar with The Little Beet, a vegetarian-focused model with locations throughout the city, as well as Virginia, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C.. Make-your-own options let guests choose a grain or salad as a base, add either hot or cold veggies, pick a protein like falafel and tofu (meat is also available), and top it off with a sauce and garnish. There are also chef-designed dishes, seasonal options, and diet-friendly meals for those who prefer keto, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, and Whole 30.

 36 Best Vegan Proteins To Crush Cravings & Feel Full


melissamn / Shutterstock

Likely the best-known option when it comes to healthy food in the fast-casual space, Sweetgreen opened the door for so many other salad-and-bowl chains around the country. That's a good thing! It's harder to find a state without a Sweetgreen these days, and if the chain isn't in your area yet, it probably will be soon. The Hot Honey Chicken protein plate with sweet potatoes and quinoa is great on days when you need a warm-up, but don't sleep on the tried-and-true Shroomami salad with tofu, portobello mushrooms, cucumbers, basil, cabbage, almonds, kale, wild rice, and sesame ginger dressing. It's a thing of beauty.



Sometimes a smoothie will do the trick. Jamba (formerly Jamba Juice, in case you're an elder millennial wondering where the "juice" went) is all over the country. Its extensive drink menu includes plant-based options, immunity blends, and super blends, which are packed with protein powder, whey, vitamins, and more. The Mega Mango comes in at less than 300 calories with a mix of pineapple and orange juices, mangos, and strawberries.


Robeks smoothies
Robeks / Facebook

This national juice and smoothie chain is popular on the West Coast where it was founded, on the East Coast, in Florida, and midwestern states including Kansas, Ohio, and Illinois. Look for its signature hummingbird if you're in the mood for blended goodness. Juices, smoothies, açaí bowls, and toasts are all on offer, though the smoothies remain king. Or, go for a combo and get an açaí smoothie—the Emperor Açaí has blueberries, strawberries, greek yogurt, açaí juice, and probiotics.

Simply Salad

simply salad
Simply Salad

Back to the salad chain lifestyle, this is another brand that's only available in Southern California for now. But, you can go as far down as Long Beach and Torrance and still find locations ready to serve signature options such as the Buff—a take on Buffalo chicken that comes in salad or wrap form with carrots, crispy onions, celery, jalapeños, and cheddar. The menu hews close to salads or the same ingredients in the salad transferred into a wrap. Keeping it simple is sometimes best.



Despite the influx of California-based salad shops, Saladworks was created in 1986 in New Jersey, and it's still popular in Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. It's known for its extremely flavorful combinations, and you can build your own salad, wrap, or grain bowl, or order up a sandwich or panini.

 The 10 Best Salad Chains In America


​Nicole Glass Photography / Shutterstock

Chopt might be the only salad chain to do something different to the salad—as the name suggests, salads are chopped into very small pieces. Founded in New York City, where it is still popular, this chain restaurant is the perfect place to grab a quick, healthy lunch if you're working in Manhattan. You can rest assured that there won't be any large pieces of lettuce in your bowl. It's all chopped, all the time.

The Halal Guys

the halal guys exterior

An alternative to the agenda of Big Salad, why not add something new to your lunchtime routine? As long as you lay off the white sauce—well, maybe just a little—these gyro with falafel, chicken, beef, or some combination of the three are a protein-packed option along with rice, lettuce, and tomatoes. Founded in New York City, these pita purveyors have made their way to California, around the U.S., and have expanded internationally—that's how good the gyros are.

Juice Crafters

juice crafters
Juice Crafters / Facebook

Best known for its cleanse options, Juice Crafters is the spot to run in and grab a juice, wellness shot, or superfood to tide you over. Currently, the brand is located around greater Los Angeles, and it has an outpost in the South Bay near Huntington Beach.



Located inside most Equinox locations, but usually open to the public for ordering, Earthbar is another classic smoothie shop where superfoods and protein powders are the draw. Juices, smoothies, supplements, and protein bars are all available. Run in on your break and stock up on supplies.

Just Salad

just salad
Just Salad / Facebook

Ironically, this fast-casual spot does offer more than "just salad," with everything from warm bowls to toasts and soups to plant-based smoothies. The salads are the hero item for this New York City-based grab-and-go model. The Thai Chicken Crunch salad is exceptionally good, stuffed with cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, and wontons.

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cava salad bar
Cava / X

This cool-kid Mediterranean joint is a Maryland-based company, originally operating as the full-on restaurant Cava Mezze. The Greek-American founders were intent on bringing their cuisine to a wider group, however. Now, with locations all across the country and more of a fast-casual concept than the original, they've done just that. From the tahini Caesar to a harissa avocado bowl, plus a whole slew of pita sandwiches, there's a welcome hint of Mediterranean flavor in every option.

Smoothie King

smoothie king menu
Monae I./ Yelp

With a name like Smoothie King, you know what you're getting. Created by Steve Kuhnau in the 1970s to improve his health, Smoothie King features Kuhnau's potent blends of fruit and protein powder that proved popular when he opened the first storefront in New Orleans. Now with more than a thousand locations worldwide, the brand is still committed to using whole fruits and organic ingredients to create health-focused drinks.

 The 8 Healthiest Fast-Food Smoothies To Order Right Now

Noodles & Company

noodles & company
Photo: Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

Founded in Colorado, this fast-casual spot is an all-purpose celebration of everything noodles, from Asian cuisine to Italian options—and everything in between. These days, there are almost 500 locations of the popular concept. If you're hungry, you should be able to find one nearby. Though its chicken parm and pad thai might not be the healthiest of choices, the chain recently expanded to include zoodles dishes, aka noodles made with vegetables, for anyone trying to cut down on carbs. Additionally, the salad and soup menu also has healthy options.

El Pollo Loco

el pollo loco

One of the alternatives to places like Taco Bell and Del Taco, El Pollo Loco's focus is on its grilled chicken. As you might've guessed from the name, the restaurant chain serves all kinds of dishes—including family-style meals—that feature chicken as the main event. A favorite thing to get here is the Double Chicken Avocado Salad. It's a romaine bed with so much chicken (a double portion), avocado, fresh salsa, corn, cotija cheese, and creamy cilantro dressing. All that, and it's less than 500 calories, so you can even add a small bag of chips if the craving strikes. There are now almost 500 U.S. locations of this franchise, which was originally founded in Mexico—not too shabby for grilled chicken.



Long heralded as the alternative to burger spots like McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, and Carl's Jr., this sandwich shop originally founded in Connecticut has done an excellent job of expanding its menu to include salads and soups—even sandwich options with smaller portions of bread. The chain is so ubiquitous that can feel like there's a Subway on almost every corner. No matter where you live, you should be covered if a sandwich craving strikes—or, if you're aiming to replace a cheeseburger craving with a simple roast turkey six-inch on wheat.


chick fil a

Stay with me here, there's more to the Chick-fil-A menu than waffle fries and fried chicken. The Georgia-created company has done more than its fair share lately when it comes to adding healthy options to its menu. With a whole slew of grilled chicken items, including a grilled chicken sandwich and grilled nuggets, a chicken wrap, and several salad options, this popular fast food spot gets points for going the distance when it comes to nutritious choices.

 7 Healthiest Chick-fil-A Breakfast Items, According to a Dietitian


JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock

Ah, the much-discussed Chipotle, where customers can easily build a bowl or burrito that delivers the allotted 2,000 calories for the day in one sitting. But, in the Denver-created company's defense, Chipotle's extremely generous menu modifications also allow customers to take things to a healthy place—if and when they want to. Go for a bowl with brown rice or a salad, and stick with beans, veggies, and protein. Voilà! A healthy lunch in record time.


wendy;s exterior
Your Hand Please / Shutterstock

Sure, the chain plays in the same fast-food realm as McDonalds and Burger King, with plenty of burgers topped with bacon and cheese and fried chicken sandwiches, too. But, from its days as a small fry joint in Columbus, Ohio, Wendy's has tried to offer more. Soups, salads, baked potatoes—even its chili—can all be substituted as a healthier option. This is one of the few fast-food restaurants that has apple slices on its menu, so let's give it credit for that.

 10 Unhealthiest Wendy's Orders, According to Dietitians


Starbucks menu boards
Castleski / Shutterstock

Healthy food items probably weren't top of mind for Howard Schultz when he opened up an espresso and coffee counter in Seattle all those years ago. Considering the way Starbucks has morphed into a global brand identity, it's hard to remember a time when the food wasn't a part of the appeal. Three words: spinach feta wrap. That little guy has tided me over too many times to count, and it works both in the morning and at lunch, coming in just shy of 300 calories.

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Panda Express

panda express restaurant logo
Kevin Chen Images / Shutterstock. Design: Eat This, Not That!

Use caution when pulling up to a place like Panda Express for lunch. It's all about what you choose when you're looking to eat healthy. Instead of a plate of hearty (and deep-fried, sugar-coated) orange chicken at this Glendale, Calif.-founded spot, go for some broccoli beef or grilled teriyaki chicken. Worldwide, there are more than 2,000 Panda Express locations, so access shouldn't be a problem. When you're on the run and looking for a healthy option, remember that brown rice is always a fiber-friendly alternative.

Panera Bread

Panera Bread exterior
JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock

While you might want to avoid recent headline-making lemonades, there are plenty of things at Panera that fall into the healthy category. Created in St. Louis, this chain has plenty of hearty soups and warming options. No matter your preference, there will be something on the menu for just about any diet. Skip the breads and heavy sandwiches, and find something on its salad menu, like the Green Goddess Cobb, to get a hearty meal for 500 calories.

Caitlin White
Caitlin White is a Los Angeles-based lifestyle reporter with an expertise in food and travel. Read more about Caitlin