Healthy Food, Fast

Quinoa on the run. We test the claims and reality of the healthy fast food movement.

Employees at a branch of the salad green fast-casual restaurant SweetGreen prepare ingredients. (SweetGreen Restaurants)

Employees at a branch of the salad-focused fast-casual restaurant SweetGreen prepare ingredients. (SweetGreen Restaurants)

Americans want their food fast, but we are – bite by bite – moving away from the old go-to of fast food burgers and fries.  Across the country, lots of new contenders are calling out with pretty fast food that’s being billed as better.  Healthy.  Quick-serve outlets that are chopping lots of veggies, bragging on their organics, tempting the locavores, holding the white bread.  Chipotle got out front.  Now there’s Sweetgreen, Tender Greens, Veggie Grill, Freshii, and a whole lot more.  This hour On Point:  The new new menus, the new claims of “healthy fast food” – and how good it really is.

— Tom Ashbrook


David Sax, food writer. Author of “The Tastemakers” and “Save The Deli.” (@saxdavid)

Alicia Kelso, senior editorial director of food for, and (@QSRWeb)

Pierre Panos, founder and CEO of Quality Service America.

Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. Author of “What to Eat” and “Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health.” (@marionnestle)

From Tom’s Reading List

New York Times: New Fast Food Chains Can Improve Businesses as Usual — “The new crop of healthy fast-food start-ups — Sweetgreen, LYFE Kitchen, Tender Greens and Native Foods — are not companies trying to dress themselves according to the latest fad. They are chasing a multibillion dollar market of well-off moms and Millennials who are demanding healthy and sustainable food that’s also convenient.”

Washington Post: Lunch wars: How fast casual took over D.C., and why the boom is fading — “Seemingly every week, a well-designed new lunch spot opens up, or the third or fourth or fifth branch of an existing one, with impressively fresh ingredients and fast turnaround — Chop’t, Sweetgreen, Zoup, Chix, Thaaja, Newton Noodles, Vapiano, Potbelly, Cosi, Shophouse. They’re usually some version of the proven Chipotle model, with an assembly line of base (wrap or salad?), protein (chicken, beef, or tofu?) and veggies (pick four).”

The Wall Street Journal: Burger King Drops Lower-Calorie Fry ‘Satisfries’ –” Burger King on Wednesday said it always intended to let customers determine how long Satisfries stayed on the menu. When franchise owners of its 7,500 North American restaurants were given the option of continuing to offer Satisfries earlier this week, owners of just 2,500 restaurants decided to do so. ‘The remaining restaurants will treat the product as a limited-time menu offering and have begun phasing it out after this unprecedented run,’ Burger King North America President Alex Macedo said in a statement.”

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