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By Kel Brianne

Healthier alternatives to choose in the fast food drive-thru

As a fast-paced culture, the American lifestyle does not lend itself to healthy eating. Eating on the go more often than not equates to poor food choices like fries, greasy burgers, and milkshakes. In today's day and age, it doesn't have to be that way. Gone are the days where you have to pack your lunch to avoid eating an unhealthy meal. Fast, yet healthy, food options are available at almost every major fast food chain in the country.

You may not have to give up as much for the sake of health as was once thought. Business Insider published an article in 2015 listing the top 20 most successful fast food chains.[1] Apart from the few obviously healthier options such as Subway, Panera, and Chipotle, many of the fast food joints listed you may immediately write off if trying to make better food choices. Don't be so quick to judge; many of your favorite spots have come a long way in healthier menu offerings.

Take McDonald's, for instance, the quintessential name in fast food. The company has made great strides in the last few years to create healthier menu options. In an article published in the New York Times in September of 2013, McDonald's released a statement that it would no longer market its unhealthiest meals and would offer healthier alternatives like salads, fruits and raw cut vegetables.[2] McDonald's has stuck to its word, now offering a wider variety of menu options. If you are concerned with calories, McDonald's now has an "under 400" list, published on their website. For those who are not only concerned with calories, but also how wholesome their food is, McDonald's has added several fresh options as well. In the under 400 category you'll find popular items such as the six-piece chicken nuggets and, surprisingly, a small cheeseburger. Breakfast offerings include choices such as the sausage burrito, a small order of hash browns, and fruit and maple oatmeal. For those looking for low calorie and wholesome options, the premium salads, oatmeal, yogurt parfait, and egg-white McMuffin are viable options.[3] McDonald's isn't the only major fast food chain catching on. Many other popular chains are adding healthier alternatives to their existing menus. Below is a quick reference guide to some of the healthiest options at a few popular drive-thru destinations.

Starbucks: nonfat iced vanilla latte, nonfat iced caramel macchiato, Teavana shaken iced passion tango tea, brewed coffee, nonfat cappuccino, nonfat café latte[4]

Taco Bell: shredded chicken mini quesadilla, triple layer nachos, fresco soft taco, fresco crunchy taco, flat bread sandwich, black beans[5]

Chick-Fil-A: grilled chicken sandwich, grilled nuggets, super food side, Greek yogurt parfait, side salad, fruit cup[6]

Carl's Jr.: kid's hamburger, low carb "Thickburger," three-piece chicken tenders, side salad, charbroiled chicken salad[7]

Jack in the Box: chicken fajita pita, grilled chicken salad, grilled chicken strips, chicken club salad [8]

Don't see your favorite drive-thru spot listed? Try googling the nutritional information before jumping in the car. Most large chains have easily navigated websites where you can quickly browse for healthier options. Also, many restaurants are hearing the consumer's desire for alternative menu offerings, and are answering with updated menu boards clearly listing "fresh" or "healthy" options, making it easier for those on the go. Eating healthier doesn't have to replace convenience. With more and more drive-thru restaurants offering healthier meals, there are more opportunities than ever to eat healthy and on the go.

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