There’s a good chance a juice bar or vegan bakery has popped up somewhere near you. With so many consumers looking to improve their health and maybe even lose some weight, it’s no surprise that healthy eating has become a business model for those in the restaurant industry. It turns out that more restaurants, including fast food chains, are now offering lighter, healthier meals in hopes of accommodating the desires of customers. Thankfully, you don’t have to resort to eating a salad either! If you’re hoping to find a restaurant near you with healthy and delicious options, take a look at some of the options below. You may be surprised by some of the dishes that are now available to you.

Panera Bread

With more than 1,200 locations across the country, it’s no surprise that Panera Bread would show up on this list. While Panera serves as both a bakery and a restaurant, it’s certainly the restaurant side that really wow’s when it comes to healthy options. If you can manage to avoid falling prey to the delicious-looking pastries in the display case, you’ll find there’s a variety of healthy and tasty options available to order. Additionally, instead of asking for a baguette on the side, you can order an apple! It’s all about ordering smart at Panera and health-conscious customers love the “pick two” option. Not only is it great for portion control, but it allows you to enjoy both a hearty soup and a loaded sandwich without the guilt.

There are half a dozen half sandwiches at Panera that you can enjoy for less than 400 calories:

  • Half Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich on Tomato Basil
  • Half Tomato and Mozzarella Panini on Ciabatta
  • Half Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich on Sesame Semolina
  • Half Smoked Turkey Sandwich on Country
  • Half Chicken Caesar Sandwich on Three Cheese
  • Half Asiago Roast Beef Sandwich on Asiago Cheese

When it comes to the soup, you’ll want to order one of the “pick two” sizes for the following to stay under 200 calories:

  • Low-Fat Chicken Tortilla Soup
  • Low-Fat Black Bean Soup
  • Low-Fat Vegetable with Pesto Soup

Au Bon Pain

With more than 200 locations across the country, Au Bon Pain isn’t as widely-available as Panera, but it’s arguably just as tasty. If you’re lucky enough to have one near you, you’ll want to take advantage of their small plate menu. The list consists of 14 items that are less than 200 calories each. Of course, it’s important to check the sodium content of each menu item you’re considering ordering.

Fortunately, there are four sandwiches under 500 calories you can enjoy. Check out the list below:

  • Classic Chicken Salad Sandwich
  • Half Turkey and Swiss Sandwich
  • Half Roast Beef and Herb Cheese Sandwich
  • Half Caprese Sandwich

Perhaps even better, at Au Bon Pain they have a Hot and Cold Lunch Bar with loads of healthy options like vegetables, salads, Pearl Barley with Vegetables, and Roasted Chicken and Thyme. Additionally, like at Panera Bread, there are healthy soup options with sodium counts you don’t have to feel guilty about.

  • Southwest Vegetable Soup
  • Tomato Basil Bisque
  • Mediterranean Pepper Soup


It should first be noted that while Subway’s most popular ad campaign encouraged everyone to try their subs as part of an effective way to lose weight, not all options are guilt-free. To be sure you’re making a healthy decision when ordering a meal at Subway you’ll want to stick to a six-inch sub or a salad. Additionally, don’t be fooled by the “6 grams of fat or less” menu because it doesn’t include cheese or dressing like you’ll likely want to add. If you’re looking for a guilt-free lunch or dinner, try one of the following sandwiches for less than 500 calories:

  • 6-inch Veggie Delight
  • 6-inch Oven Roasted Chicken
  • 6-inch Turkey Breast
  • 6-inch Roast Beef

You’re best off avoiding all condiments except for the yellow mustard, deli brown mustard, or vinegar. If cheese is a must, go for provolone or Swiss. And as for the bread, try wheat bread, 9-grain wheat, honey oat, or the sourdough. Yes, options are far more limited than you likely realized, but a little homework can go a long way when it comes to your health and your goals.


Someone with a bad craving for Mexican food likely isn’t thinking about eating healthy, but thanks to Rubio’s, they can! Rubio’s has around 180 locations, primarily in the western portion of the United States. While not all menu items are exactly guilt-free, you have a variety of dishes to choose from. If you’re in the mood for a taco, try one of the following for less than 300 calories:

  • HealthMex Mahi Mahi Taco
  • Grilled Mahi Mahi Taco
  • Chile Lime Salmon Taco
  • Grilled Portobello and Poblano Taco
  • Chicken Street Taco
  • HealthMex Chicken Taco
  • Carnitas Street Taco
  • Steak Street Taco

You can also order three Chicken Taquitos or one Cheese Enchilada for less than 350 calories. Additionally, while their burritos tend to be high in sodium, the Regular Mahi Mahi Burrito is 650 calories, the HealthMex Mahi Mahi Burrito is 560 calories, and the HealthMex Chicken Burrito is 520 calories. If you decide to go with a salad, order the dressing on the side and as for the side dishes, go with the side salad, rice, pinto beans, or black beans.