America's Healthiest Fast Food Restaurants

These 10 chains are praised for offering hormone-free chicken, organic ingredients, local produce and recession-friendly healthy options.

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Healthy and green can often go hand-in-hand, so Health's list of the 10 best fast-food chains in America is a useful tool indeed. I wrote last week that the economic downturn may be making American diets healthier, with one exception - fast food sales are up, because people are opting for cheaper fare instead of restaurants. If you have to grab a meal on the go, consider the restaurants below for these climate reasons (I'll let Health tell you about their nutrition here):

  1. Panera Bread - Whole-grain bread and fresh fruit are centerpieces here, and there are plenty of vegetarian options. Health says that most of the chicken is antibiotic- and hormone-free, a rarity in large chains.
  2. Jason's Deli - The chain is very dedicated to organic food - one-fifth of all its ingredients are organic, "from blue-corn tortilla chips and whole-wheat wraps to field greens and spinach."
  3. Au Bon Pain - Considered a "pioneer in healthy fast food." Au Bon Pain's chicken is hormone-free and antibiotic-free, also.
  4. Noodles & Company - Pasta is a filling enough meal that it's easy to omit the meat, but if you want protein, your choices include hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken and organic tofu.
  5. Corner Bakery - Not a lot here on the cafe chain's green cred, but a quick look at the menu reveals that beef, which has the largest carbon footprint, is found sparingly here.
  6. Chipotle - "Chipotle won high marks for its commitment to organics, hormone- and antibiotic-free meats, and produce sourced from local suppliers, which is revolutionary in a chain this big," said Health.
  7. Atlanta Bread Company - This sandwich chain was praised for the freshness of its veggies and other ingredients.
  8. McDonald's - Believe it or not, it's in the top 10 for healthy choices - but with the burger recently named the Hummer of our diet, the company isn't scoring many environmental points with its menu.
  9. Einstein Bros. Bagels - Bagels and cream cheese and fresh veggies combine for plenty of meal options with a small footprint.
  10. Taco Del Mar - Baja-style mexican cuisine is a growing trend, says Health, and the menu shies away from beef and chicken in favor of fresh ingredients and fish.
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