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Are You REALLY Eating Healthy?

Clean Eating: The Fresh Fork vs. Chain Restaurants’ “Healthy” Meals

As our society continues to strive for a healthier lifestyle, many people are deceived by false advertising and overstated claims of “clean” or “healthy” meals.  When swapping white bread for multi-grain, a burger for a salad, or fried for grilled, you may be under the impression that you made the “healthy” meal choice.  However, many chain restaurants that offer these alternative “healthy” dishes, do not show how the meal really contains very little nutritional value.

As Fitness Magazine defines it, “clean eating is about eating whole foods, or ‘real’ foods — those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.”  When you’re on-the-go or tight with time, sometimes a local Panera Bread, Potbelly, or Noodles & Company may seem like a reasonable choice, especially if you order the low-calorie, reduced-fat, or light menu item.  However, you are still eating a processed meal with several preservatives, added sugar, high-sodium, and a myriad of other unhealthy additives.  It’s not always about the amount of calories or grams of fat a meal contains, but the value and nutritional benefits of the meal as a whole.

Here is a basic comparison of the macronutrients of a “healthy” meal from Panera Bread, Potbelly, and Noodles & Company, and a typical meal from The Fresh Fork:

The Fresh Fork Calories Fat Carbohydrates Protein
Maple Glazed Chicken, Dilled Potatoes and

Lemon Garlic Asparagus

305 5.4g 30.1g 28.5


Panera Bread Calories Fat Carbohydrates Protein
Modern Greek Salad with Quinoa 510 40g 28g 11g


Potbelly Calories Fat Carbohydrates Protein
“Skinny” Ham and Tomato Melt 420 22g 39g 19g


Noodles & Company Calories Fat Carbohydrates Protein
Napa Market Salad with Chicken 540 38g 26g 26g

As you can see, The Fresh Fork has the highest protein per calorie ratio and the smallest amount of fat among all of the “healthiest” meal items at Panera Bread, Potbelly, and Noodles & Company. Not to mention, many of these chain restaurant dishes are racking up close to 1000 grams of sodium.  When eating a meal on-the-go, remember that even if you are choosing the light or low-cal option, it may not be as healthy as the advertisements make it out to be.

A special thanks to our Author- Jade Simon, Indiana University student and marketing intern at The Fresh Fork

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