Beware of These 5 Eco-Friendly Fast-Food Meals

It’s a misconception that all meals created with more-sustainable options are healthy.


finger on a menu

Photo by: Kai Koehler ©photo-poster

Kai Koehler, photo-poster

Fast-food establishments touting eco-friendly fare have been soaring in popularity. It’s a misconception that all meals created with more-sustainable options are healthy — the nutrition still matters. Here are five meals offered by popular fast-food joints around the country that are anything but healthy, each followed by a menu choice that's a better bet.

This Virginia-based chain serves burgers made from grass-fed, free-range cows. One Elevation Burger (with two beef patties) with mushrooms, cheese and ketchup with a side of fries contains 1,165 calories, 63 grams of total fat, 20 grams of saturated fat, 96 grams of carbohydrates and 1,190 milligrams of sodium.

Instead, order:

The Kid’s Burger (with one beef patty) with lettuce, tomato and Elevation Sauce — skip the fries, and drink water. This eco-friendly meal weighs in at 340 calories, 14 grams of total fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 32 grams of carbohydrates and 590 milligrams of sodium.

Peet's coffee roasting plant is certified LEED Gold, which means it meets eco-friendly criteria. It also sells a variety of fair-trade and organic coffees. Order a large Milk Chocolate Almond Mocha made with almond milk and you’ll be guzzling 365 calories, 6 grams of total fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 75 grams of carbohydrates and 335 milligrams of sodium.

Instead, order:

There are plenty of hot or cold beverages that are eco-friendly and calorie-friendly. A large Cafe Americano has 5 calories, 6 grams of total fat, 0 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of carbohydrates and 0 milligrams of sodium. Add skim milk for an additional 22.5 calories.

This delicious Mexican chain offers pork, beef or chicken that’s naturally raised. According to the Chipotle website, this means that the animals were raised in a humane way, fed a vegetarian diet, never given hormones, and allowed to display their natural tendencies. Order a burrito filled with chicken, brown rice, black beans, cooked vegetables, fresh salsa, cheese and guacamole and you’ll be downing 870 calories, 45 grams of total fat, 11.5 grams of saturated fat, 72 grams of carbohydrates and 1,680 milligrams of sodium.

Instead, order:

Enjoy your favorite fillings in a burrito, but ask for it to be sliced in half when ordering. Enjoy half the calories now and put half in a to-go container for later. You can also opt to split it with a friend.

With 23 locations throughout the United States and Canada, this fast-food chain offers a variety of proteins for your burger patty. Turkey, beef and chicken are more traditional choices, while lamb, elk, bison and ostrich are for the more adventurous type. Bareburger prides itself on serving organic foods and animals that are grass-fed, pasture-raised and antibiotic-free.

Order a Hog Wild Burger made from wild boar and topped with chickpea onions, fried egg, pickled green tomatoes and pimento cheese on a brioche bun and that’ll be 940 calories, 56 grams of fat, 17 grams of saturated fat, 59 grams of carbohydrates and 1,570 milligrams of sodium.

Instead, order:

Make your own burger with bison, queso fresco, wild mushroom, tomato and pico de gallo. That’s 470 calories, 38 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 19 grams of carbohydrates and 690 milligrams of sodium.

This bakery and sandwich chain touts the use of organic and local ingredients. Many of its locations contain green building elements like efficient appliances. You can find their calories alone on their menus, though not on their website. Based on the information on their Madison Avenue location in New York City, ordering a Basil Chicken & Mozzarella Tartine will set you back 720 calories.

Instead, order:

The Kale Caesar Salad topped with grilled chicken is 430 to 440 calories and will help you reach your recommended daily servings for protein, veggies and carbs.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.

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