Good Fast Food

Posted by Catur Setiawan | 12:10 AM | , , | 0 comments »

A crop of new quick-service restaurants make it easy to enjoy healthy eating outside your home.

By Kirsten Henri

Whole grain breads? Check. Cage-free eggs? Check. Organic veggies, free-range meats and pesticide-free fruits? Check, check and check.

You’ve stocked your fridge and kitchen cabinets with the essentials to encourage your kids to eat healthy. You’ve made sure that they have plenty of options that are good for them and taste good, too.

But then you take them out to eat and what do you get?

Often, it’s kids menus that are overrun with processed chicken nuggets, greasy fries, and macaroni and cheese made with questionable “cheese product.” There’s rarely a vegetable in sight and you can forget about finding anything organic.

Fortunately, smart restaurateurs are catching on to the idea that families want to continue eating healthy when they eat out. Although not all establishments are on top of this trend, we’ve found some forward-thinking restaurants that are.


A restaurant chain that sources its food locally, is environmentally responsible and has a social conscience? We’ll take it! There are 39 Burgerville quick-service restaurants, scattered throughout the Pacific Northwest. We all know that a burger is not the healthiest choice for everyday eating. Nonetheless, these burgers are made with free-range beef that is devoid of antibiotics and hormones; the franchise also serves garden burgers and free-range turkey burgers. All ingredients—from the halibut for the fish and chips to the Tillamook cheese on the cheeseburgers—are locally sourced in the Pacific Northwest.

Burgerville’s kids’ meals are served with either apple slices or fries. Soft drinks cost the same as a glass of milk, which allows parents to make an ordering decision based on ingredients rather than price. Burgerville also makes healthy choices for its employees and for the environment. The company offers no-deductible medical, dental and vision insurance to its hourly employees at the low cost of $30 per family per month. Under this plan, 155 previously uninsured children now have health insurance. As for planet protecting, all used cooking oils are turned into biodiesel and in 2005, all of the chain’s restaurants became 100% wind-powered.


An impressive food pedigree (co-founder Gary Hirshberg is president and CEO of organic yogurt-maker Stonyfield Farm) and a family-friendly focus make O’Naturals one of our favorites. Ingredients are organic whenever possible and each location sources seasonal produce from local suppliers and farmers. Kids menu offerings include sandwiches like hormone-free turkey or grilled cheese on flatbread, served with your choice of organic milk or juice and carrot sticks with ranch dip. Locations are both child-friendly—dedicated kids sections are stocked with dollhouses and trains—and environmentally conscious, incorporating natural sunflower seed-husk panels and locally salvaged wood into the decor.

Although there are currently only five O’Naturals locations (in Maine, Massachusetts and Kansas), construction has started on a franchise in Orlando, Florida, with four to six more restaurants planned for 2007.

Organic To Go

While it doesn’t specifically cater to kids, Organic To Go has plenty of soups, salads and sandwiches that will satisfy children and parents alike. The first “fast casual” café to be officially certified as an organic retailer by QAI (Quality Assurance International, the leading independent certifier of organics) aims to use 100% organic ingredients in all of its breakfast and lunch items. O To Go serves meats with no hormones, antibiotics or nitrates added, locally grown produce when possible, and always has vegetarian options, like a Thai-style veggie wrap. Items like O To Go’s yogurt parfait and vegetable soups make good, nutrition-packed choices for kids.
With 11 retail locations already on the West Coast, O To Go has big plans for expansion in 2007. Expect to see branches opening in Colorado, Chicago, Texas and soon, farther east, too.

Panera Bread

Panera’s presence in 37 states makes it a very accessible option. The restaurant’s “white whole grain” bread was developed with kids in mind, particularly those who might be more finicky about the appearance and flavor of regular whole grain breads. The kids menu includes an organic American grilled cheese, antibiotic-free smoked turkey and all-natural peanut butter and jelly, each served with a squeezable tube of organic yogurt and a choice of organic milk, chocolate milk or apple juice.

Other Choices

Whole Foods and Wild Oats
Healthy grocery chains with a national presence offer prepared foods and seating areas. Wild Oats is ramping up its offerings over the next year to include prepared box lunches and more child-friendly items.


Is Kidfresh the wave of your kids’ dining future? This NYC-based, child-centric café uses organic ingredients and serves portions based on the nutritional needs and caloric content recommended for the ten-and-under set.

A streamlined menu of oversized burritos and taco salads might not be healthiest choice for everyday eating, but Chipotle gets a nod for its careful sourcing of ingredients and made-to-order philosophy. Keep in mind portions are large for little guys and some items are higher in calories and fat.