A plant-based way of eating has become extremely popular in recent years, and the trend will only continue to boom further. Options for meat, egg, and even fish substitutes are proliferating on the market, and once-niche items like veggie burgers, tofu, tempeh, and jackfruit are becoming more mainstream in grocery stores and on restaurant menus.
While some of these plant-based eats aren’t here to mimic actual meat, others are beloved exactly for that reason—they resemble the real thing closely in both texture and flavor. So it’s now easier than ever to dabble in plant-based eating, whether you’re a carnivore or a vegan.
And loading up your diet with plant-based foods is both a healthier and a greener choice. It helps cut back on the total carbon footprint (which is higher through transportation mechanisms, animal farming, etc.), which starts with people changing their dietary habits to decrease their personal carbon footprints themselves. All of those things add up!
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But regardless of environmental concerns, plant foods are also great for your overall health and wellbeing. They pack in fiber, antioxidants, and other essential vitamins and minerals you might be missing out on if you’re eating more animal-based foods, especially when it comes to fast-food restaurants where menu items aren’t necessarily the healthiest.
According to nutritionist Lyssie Lakatos, “when you focus more on plant foods and cut back on meat, you reap benefits ranging from weight loss to reduced blood pressure, risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and stroke, and plant-based diets also have been shown to improve brain health and have been linked to living a longer life.”
So even fast-food restaurants are responding to the surge in plant-based consumer demand by adding more plant-based foods to their menus to attract this growing demographic. Check even the most mainstream fast-food chain and you’ll likely find a plant-based burger, hot dog, sandwich, sub, or breakfast item on the menu.
Of course, as with any fast-food category, some menu items are healthier than others. And according to Lakatos, there’s one plant-based fast-food item that stands out among the rest for being not only green, but super healthy and nutritious.
The #1 Healthiest Plant-Based Fast-Food Item: Chipotle’s Vegan Lifestyle Bowl
PER SERVING: 420 calories, 14 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat, 0 g trans fat), 1860 mg sodium, 59 g carbs (18 g fiber, 14 g sugar), 22 g protein
Chipotle is a great option when you’re looking for customization since you can build your own bowls and burritos with the specific ingredients you want to eat, instead of being forced to choose something already pre-made that could have excess calories, carbs, sodium, and sugars. And it’s just as easy to customize your item to be plant-based.
However, we also highly recommend going with their pre-made Vegan Bowl which can be found in the Lifestyle Bowls section of the menu. These bowls are Chipotle’s way of taking the guesswork out of healthy eating, and you should absolutely take advantage of that shortcut.
The Vegan bowl starts with the chain’s new cauliflower rice, and packs in black beans, the plant-based sofritas protein, fresh salsa, corn salsa, and lettuce.
“This bowl is packed with fiber, anti-inflammatory compounds, and antioxidants from vegetables, beans, and spices,” Lakatos says. What’s more, beyond satiety-promoting fiber and those anti-inflammatory antioxidants, which directly improve your heart health, there’s also a great dose of protein to really fill you up for longer.
“It packs in a whopping 18 grams of health-promoting fiber, which is 6 grams more than the average American gets in an entire day and you’ll get 22 grams of satisfying protein for a modest 420 calories,” she says.
That’s a good macronutrient and calorie range for a quick fast-food meal, and it hits the mark as a light lunch or dinner, and even a post-workout recovery meal.
The only fault we can find with this bowl is that it’s a bit salty. But our nutritionist says the pros outweigh the cons here. “Although the sodium is a bit on the high side, the ingredients are wholesome and unprocessed, unlike other plant-based options like the new fast-food burger alternatives,” she says. Plus, the sodium could actually be a perk if this is a post-workout meal, since your body needs sodium to replenish lost electrolytes, which get depleted during your sweat session.
If it’s not a post-workout meal, you can cut some 550 milligrams of sodium from this meal by skipping the sofritas. Take it a notch further? Slash even more sodium by going light on the salsas, too. Either way, it’ll taste delicious and be just as satisfying! And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest restaurant news delivered straight to your inbox.