You’re committed to adopting a clean eating lifestyle, but you also like to eat out. “So,” you ask, “Are there any restaurants that serve this type of food?” The answer is a resounding YES. In the last few years, several restaurant chains have emerged as leaders in serving clean food. Here are five of our go-to options for clean eating.
Chipotle™ Mexican Grill
Since 1993, Chipotle has had a simple goal: “show that food served fast [doesn’t] have to be a ‘fast-food’ experience.” Chipotle is committed to using the very best high-quality ingredients it can find and preparing them by hand, using vegetables grown in healthy soil, sourcing organically grown produce when possible, and using meat from animals raised responsibly, free to roam outdoors, and without antibiotics or hormones.
Chipotle is “all about simple, fresh food without artificial flavors or fillers. Just genuine raw ingredients” that they source from farms, not factories. In 2015, Chipotle began serving food made with only non-GMO ingredients.
When it comes to clean eating, Chipotle offers seemingly endless ways to customize salads, bowls, and tacos. In addition, the restaurant is extremely transparent about the ingredients in every one of its dishes, so you can choose only those items that include ingredients you want to eat. A good clean-eating choice from the menu is a burrito bowl with grilled chicken, black beans, fajita vegetables, lettuce, salsa, and guacamole.
This “health casual” restaurant was dreamed up in 2011 by former McDonald’s executives. The acronym (LYFE) in the company’s name stands for “Love Your Food Everyday,” and its mission is “to consistently provide flavorful, nourishing experiences and extraordinary service.” LYFE Kitchen prides itself on featuring balanced flavors from real, high-quality ingredients and providing its patrons with the freshest possible meals.
The LYFE food philosophy is “a dynamic synergy between greens, grains, proteins, and seasonal vegetables to create balanced meals,” which closely align with the principles of clean eating. In fact, LYFE Kitchen offers lean protein entrées, artfully composed salads, and delicious bowls combining proteins and veggies.
All the beef at LYFE Kitchen is grass-fed and antibiotic- and hormone-free; the company has banned white flour, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and GMOs across its menu. Even more, LYFE Kitchen is a family-friendly restaurant, with healthy options for kiddos on its Little LYFERs menu. A favorite option is the Quinoa Crunch Bowl with quinoa tabbouleh, fresh crunchy vegetables, avocado, arugula, edamame hummus, and sautéed shrimp.
Since 2005, Panera Bread has been an established name for healthy eating, slowly whittling away at ingredients it feels aren’t healthful. It has removed trans fats, artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors and preservatives. In 2015, the chain created the ultimate “No No List” of more than 150 ingredients that the restaurant has already or plans to banish from its menu, including BHA, BHT, high fructose corn syrup, sulfites, and parabens.
Panera prides itself on clean eating; in fact, it states, “To us, clean and simple go together,” and “100% of our food is 100% clean,” which Panera defines as “no artificial preservatives, sweeteners, flavors, and no colors from artificial sources.” Overall, Panera advocates clean eating, and it is committed to sourcing and serving high-quality ingredients without artificial additives and ingredients it doesn’t believe need to be in your food.
Panera is also committed to transparency, and you can find lists of ingredients for everything across its diverse menu. Even more, Panera is committed to making a positive impact on our food system; for instance, it believes that patrons deserve to know where their food comes from. Along these lines, Panera is also committed to animal welfare; it only uses meat from animals that have been raised responsibly, in reduced-stress environments, and without the use of antibiotics.
sweetgreen, a Washington, D.C.-based chain, is dedicated to using locally-sourced ingredients. sweetgreen’s goal is to inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food. The restaurant is committed to supporting small and mid-size growers who are farming sustainably, to creating transparency around what’s in your food and where it came from, and to creating more accessibility to healthy, real food for more people.
Founded in 2007, sweetgreen is “a destination for simple, seasonal, healthy food.” Its menu changes seasonally, varies by region, and incorporates organic ingredients when it can. All ingredients are delivered whole to stores every morning and prepared and cooked in-house in open kitchens.
Menu items concentrate on salads and warm bowls, and it’s easy to make your own from a long list of choices. A great example of a clean eating menu option is the Harvest Bowl, which is made with wild rice, shredded kale, apples, sweet potatoes, roasted chicken, goat cheese, almonds, and a balsamic vinaigrette.
In addition to these restaurants with physical locations, there are several companies that offer “meals by mail,” making clean eating even more accessible and convenient. One of the most popular is Freshly, whose mission is to “make you happy, healthy, and more free to pursue your passions.”
Freshly does this by making clean eating convenient, delicious, and sustainable. In our experience, many people struggle with healthy eating because it takes time to meal plan, shop, cook, and clean. With Freshly’s delicious, nourishing meals, which are ready to eat in less time than it takes to preheat the oven, this is no longer an excuse; even better, you can spend more time doing the things you love with the people you love.
All Freshly’s meals are high in protein, which is a central tenet of clean eating, and they only contain “smart carbs.” They are gluten-free and never contain processed sugars. Freshly meals, which are the creations of top chefs and culinary talents, are made only with fresh, natural ingredients. Freshly’s entire menu fits the bill of clean eating, and they offer both breakfast and entrée (lunch and dinner) options.
These are just a handful of a growing number of companies that pride themselves on providing options that fit into the clean eating lifestyle. Restaurants with a true commitment to clean eating display their pledge prominently on their websites and make it easy for customers to read about their philosophy and to peruse menu items. There’s virtually no excuse not to eat clean.