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What to eat (and avoid) at Starbucks, Pret a Manger, and other grab-and-go spots. By Caroline Cunningham
Salted almonds from Starbucks will give you a hit of protein in a portion-controlled serving. Image via Shutterstock.

It’s 3:32 in the afternoon and you’re starving. Dinner is still a few hours away, and that bag of all-natural trail mix you meant to bring to work is sitting on the kitchen counter at home. Before you give up and reach for a sugar-laden baked good from your favorite coffee chain, try one of these healthier grab-and-go options that will keep you satisfied and help you avoid another energy crash.


While a slice of the iced lemon pound cake may sound light and airy, its 470 calories and 47 grams of sugar say otherwise. Avoid the pastry case and go for a pack of salted almonds instead; the nuts are packed with monounsaturated fats, which are great for your cardiovascular system, and protein to calm your growling stomach.

Corner Bakery

The “nuts equal healthy” rule doesn’t carry over here, however, where the 690-calorie maple pecan bar offers a whopping 37 grams of fat and 51 grams of sugar. Try the seasonal fruit medley and a pack of bakery chips, which contain a much more reasonable 8 grams of fat.

Pret a Manger

The “hearty grains” muffin may sound healthy, but with 470 calories and 26 grams of fat, it’s a frightening false advertisement. Swap the muffin for mixed fruit for an all-natural sugar kick, paired with Pret’s organic popcorn for something that’s truly whole-grain.


If you’re in the mood to sip your snack, don’t attempt to down one of Potbelly’s milkshakes. The mocha shake packs a mind-boggling 802 calories and 100 percent of your daily recommended value of saturated fat. Instead, go for the mixed-berry smoothie, which at 464 calories isn’t ideal but at least has a third of the fat and many more antioxidants than its coffee-flavored counterpart.


While you don’t really have to ask whether Cosi’s Mississippi mud pie is good for you, you’d be surprised to know how much sugar also sneaks its way into the “healthy” yogurt parfaits. The Greek yogurt clocks in at 24 grams, while the strawberry fresh fruit parfait has nearly double that. Ditch the dairy and try a bag of carrots, a fruit cup, or even a turkey sandwich off the kids’ menu.

Au Bon Pain

Pecans are going to give us a complex: ABP’s 740-calorie pecan roll contains 43 grams of fat. Instead, go for hardboiled eggs, which have 13 grams of protein to give you that last-leg-of-the-day power boost you need. Or if your sweet tooth will not be denied, try the 230-calorie pack of chocolate covered almonds.

Posted at 12:20 PM/ET, 10/16/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Put down the pumpkin bread and try roasted sweet potatoes instead. By Caroline Cunningham
Local chains are offering healthy fall-themed dishes such as pumpkin soup. Image via Shutterstock.

Pumpkin-flavored treats are popping up everywhere, but indulging in all of the breads, cupcakes, muffins, and lattes—many of which are loaded with sugar, fat, and empty calories to keep you craving more—unfortunately doesn’t count as a balanced diet.

Instead, we’d like to introduce you to five fall specials around town that will allow you to taste the season without ditching your healthy eating plan.

Turkey & Cheddar on 9-Grain Cranberry Ciabatta at Au Bon Pain

The cranberry ciabatta bread is certainly festive, but it’s also responsible for 290 of the 550 calories in this sandwich. Dine open-faced instead, and focus on the rest of this flavor-packed meal: savory turkey, cheddar cheese, and arugula with an apple butter and mustard spread.

Jamaican Sweet Pumpkin and Vegetable at Soup Up DC

This Union Market eatery offers a fun alternative to basic pumpkin soup. It’s composed of locally grown vegetables and is gluten-, additive-, and preservative-free, making it a great choice to warm up on a chilly October afternoon.

Sweet Potato Falafel Flatbread at Pret A Manger

This fun twist on a Mediterranean staple brings pumpkin’s superfood cousin, sweet potato, into play. The falafel is topped with immunity-boosting pickled cabbage and carrots paired with cool tzatziki sauce and tomatoes, and the whole ensemble rests on Pret’s artificial-flavoring-free flatbread. Though this sandwich offers 25 grams of protein, it contains about half the daily recommended amount of sodium; if you’re watching your salt intake, you may want to give this one a pass.

Roasted Turkey and Fall Vegetables Salad at Sweetgreen

The salad chain’s new menu includes this bowl of organic mesclun topped with roasted turkey, in-season Brussels sprouts and roasted sweet potatoes, and a cranberry vinaigrette. This is a low-calorie, vitamin-packed way to treat your taste buds to the harvest season in a low-calorie, vitamin-packed meal.

Chipotle Pumpkin Soup at Cosi

Sip this cancer-fighting soup made with butternut squash (not pumpkin, as the name suggests) and spiked with chipotle sauce. The bright orange fall vegetable is packed with alpha and beta carotene, which can help prevent the spread of cancer cells.

Posted at 11:15 AM/ET, 10/10/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Hit these major chains for a satisfying lunch that won’t break your diet. By Caroline Cunningham
Look for Paleo-friendly avocado in your lunch options. Photograph via Shutterstock.

Plenty of people credit the Paleo diet with helping them eat better and feel healthier. But in the middle of a busy day at work, it’s not always easy to find quick lunch spots that cater to the grain-dairy-legume-sugar-free diet. 

We parsed the menus at five popular chain restaurants and came up with some suggestions for what to order, plus a few things to avoid. 


Say yes to: A make-your-own mix of roast chicken on a bed of organic baby spinach and mesclun, with organic carrots, toasted almonds, local apples, and red grapes topped with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Avoid: The raw corn—which is really a grain, not a vegetable—and the candied pecans, which are loaded with sugar. 


Say yes to: A burrito bowl filled with lettuce, a meat of your choice, fajita vegetables, salsa, and guacamole. 

Avoid: The beans and rice, which are off limits. Also, instead of balancing out the spicy meat with cheese and sour cream, load up on the delicious superfood guacamole instead.

Pret a Manger 

Say yes to: Chicken and avocado salad with cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil. 

Avoid: The soups. Though Pret’s butternut squash and tomato soups may look promisingly dairy-, grain-, and legume-free, there’s a splash of cream in both that makes them forbidden.

Roti Mediterranean Grill

Say yes to: A Greek-inspired salad with steak, olives, tomatoes and cucumbers, sumac onions, and Roti vinaigrette. 

Avoid: Feta and pita bread, though staples of the Greek salad, aren’t on the Paleo diner’s guest list. 

Jimmy John’s

Say yes to: A sandwich! Or rather, an “unwich”—a lettuce wrap stuffed with smoked turkey, tomato, and more lettuce, and slathered in avocado spread. 

Avoid: Mayo and cheese—most of Jimmy John’s sandwiches come with these toppings, but to stay Paleo, you’ll have to pass on both. 

Have another favorite Paleo-friendly restaurant or menu item? Give us your recommendations in the comments!  

See also: Food Diaries—How to Eat on the Paleo Diet

Posted at 11:20 AM/ET, 09/25/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Embrace the season with these nutrient-packed wintry mixes. By Melissa Romero
Give seasonal salads a try this winter for an extra boost of nutrients at lunch. Photograph courtesy of Sweetgreen’s Facebook page.

Health-conscious Washingtonians live on salad in the warmer months, if the line at Chop’t at lunchtime is any indication. But when the weather turns frigid, thoughts often turn to meaty chili or heaping plates of pasta.

We’re here to help you stick to your health goals through January with this handy guide to healthy and winter-appropriate salads you can find at popular lunch spots. They’re a great way to try new vegetables (kohlrabi, anyone?), and even better, they’re all under 500 calories.

Pret’s Sesame Chicken Sushi Salad = 342 calories

The good: It’s stuffed with tasty Asian ingredients such as edamame, ginger sushi rice, and seaweed, which is loaded with nutrients like vitamins A and C, calcium, and magnesium.

The bad: It contains 1,100 milligrams of sodium—the highest amount in all of the salads listed here.

Panera’s Mediterranean Shrimp Couscous Salad = 360 calories

The good: Panera’s newest salad takes a cue from the Mediterranean diet with its mix of spinach, romaine lettuce, couscous, shrimp, feta, olives, and roasted tomatoes. You get 140 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin A and a sizable dose of vitamin C, plus healthy antioxidants from tomatoes.

The bad: This salad will set you back 1,040 milligrams of sodium—close to half the daily recommended amount.

Sweetgreen’s January Salad = 395 calories

The good: You have just one week to savor Sweetgreen’s seasonal salad of organic mesclun, shredded kale, kimchee, apples, carrots, sesame seeds, raw beets, and cucumber. The salad, topped with miso-sesame-ginger vinaigrette, is 395 calories and entirely vegan.

The bad: While it has a hearty eight grams of fiber and nine grams of protein, it also has 1,055 milligrams of sodium. Ask for the dressing on the side.

Chop’t’s Hokkaido Salad = 450 calories

The good: This seasonal dish comes with lemon-pepper chicken, local kohlrabi (similar to a turnip), soba noodles, carrots, walnuts, mesclun, and spinach. Soba noodles are a low-fat source of fiber, and you’ll get a good dose of hearty fats from the walnuts.

The bad: The recommended creamy Asian sesame dressing is an additional 80 calories.

Cosi’s Smart Fit Salad = 472 calories

The good: It’s chock-full of vitamin A and vitamin C, thanks to the kale and sweet potatoes. The avocado provides a healthy dose of good-for-you fatty acids, too.

The bad: This salad contains 28 grams of fat, although some of that comes from the avocado.

Posted at 10:30 AM/ET, 01/27/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Find out which chain’s burger contains 103 grams of fat. By Melissa Romero
Olive Garden recently added a burger to its menu for the first time ever. But how does it compare nutritionally to other restaurant chains' burgers? Photograph courtesy of Olive Garden's Facebook page.

Remember when Olive Garden was mostly known for its unlimited salad and breadsticks? Those days are long-gone with the addition of the restaurant’s first-ever burger to its menu of monstrous pasta dishes.

Naturally, this piqued our curiosity. What are the nutritional stats on this Italiano burger, and how does it compare with burgers at other restaurant behemoths such as Applebee’s, TGI Fridays, and Ruby Tuesday?

We had registered dietitian Kait Fortunato take a look at the nutritional content of each burger. Read on for her breakdown, from highest- to lowest-calorie.

1) TGI Fridays All-American Stacked Burger
The two beef patties and two cheeses were a dead giveaway, says Fortunato. The burger has a total of 103 grams of fat (35 grams of saturated fat), and an insane 4,030 milligrams of sodium. Stay far, far away—if you must have a burger, opt for the 930-calorie turkey burger.

2) Ruby Tuesday Classic Burger
At 1,366 calories this burger with lettuce, tomato, pickles, red onions, and mayonnaise isn’t that much better. Plus, it comes with a scary 2,519 milligrams of sodium, which is more than the recommended daily intake.

3) Olive Garden Italiano Burger
It’s a hefty 1,020 calories and is second only to the TGI Fridays burger when it comes to saturated fat content (66 grams!). The crispy prosciutto and garlic aïoli explain the high 1,800 milligrams of sodium.

4) Applebee’s Bacon Cheddar Burger
Even with the not-so-healthy red meats, Fortunato says this burger is the healthiest of the bunch because it contains the least amount of sodium and fat. She also points to the fresh meat and cheddar cheese, “which is less processed than American cheese.” But that still doesn’t mean it’s all that nutritious: It’s 970 calories with 63 grams of fat and 1,710 milligrams of sodium.

Want a burger you can indulge in without blowing your caloric budget? Check out these five healthy options around town

Posted at 10:52 AM/ET, 12/09/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
The nutritional breakdown of stuffing-filled burritos and turkey-topped subs at Boloco, Au Bon Pain, Capriotti’s, Jettie’s, and Pret. By Melissa Romero
Thanksgiving-themed sandwiches and wraps have hit the menus of lunch spots in Washington. Capriotti's Bobbie sub comes with stuffing, cranberry sauce, and turkey. Photograph courtesy of Capriotti's.

If you can’t wait until Thursday to feast on your favorite Thanksgiving fixings, popular lunch spots have got you covered. Sandwich shops such as the spankin’ new Capriotti’s have their take on Thanksgiving meals, topping bread rolls with heaps of stuffing, cranberry sauce, and turkey, while Boloco wraps everything in its signature tortilla.

But how do these Thanksgiving-themed meals compare when it comes to nutrition? Read on for our menu breakdown of five wraps and sandwiches, listed from the unhealthiest to your best bet.

The Late November at Boloco
Boloco’s special original-size burrito is filled with roasted turkey, homemade stuffing, green beans, and cranberry chutney. But that translates to almost 700 calories and 1,767 milligrams of sodium. Opt for the bowl option to cut 340 calories. (One bonus: Boloco will donate $0.25 from the sale of every Late November burrito or bowl to Movember.)

Waldorf Turkey Wrap at Au Bon Pain
There are plenty of things in this 650-calorie whole wheat wrap that sound decently healthy (turkey, cheddar, apples, cranberries, walnuts, romaine lettuce, and maple-walnut dressing), but the sheer number of ingredients—there are almost 50!—is enough to scare us away.

The Bobbie at Capriotti’s
The sub, Vice President Biden’s favorite, includes four main ingredients: homemade turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and mayonnaise. The mayo isn’t ideal, nor is the high amount of sugar from the cranberry sauce. Stick to the nine-inch, and keep this sandwich a once-in-a-while treat rather than a weekly meal. 

Nobadeer at Jettie’s
It has the same ingredients as the infamous Bobbie, but comes on sourdough. Again, the lack of healthy produce isn’t ideal, but sourdough is healthier than your average bread roll, thanks to its low fat content and decent doses of folate, selenium, and manganese.

Holiday Turkey Dinner Hot Wrap at Pret a Manger
The turkey wrap comes with gravy, sweet potatoes, nut roast stuffing, cranberry sauce, crispy onions, and black pepper and is a reasonable 550 calories. While the crispy onions are high in fat, the sweet potato provides a rich dose of vitamins A and C, fiber, and potassium. 

Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 11/25/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
How do the chains' holiday mochas, lattes, and hot chocolates compare? Take our quiz. By Melissa Romero

Those unmistakable red Starbucks cups have been out for a week now, and Dunkin’ Donuts recently debuted its red velvet latte. In other words, the holidays are in full swing, America. 

But how does one coffee chain’s peppermint mocha compare nutritionally to another’s? That’s the question in this week’s Lunch Break Quiz, which pits various holiday drinks against one another. Test your knowledge and find out which drink is the healthiest to order next time you’re in the mood for some liquid holiday cheer. 


Peppermint Mocha

Espresso, steamed milk, mocha sauce, peppermint-flavored syrup, sweetened whipped cream, and dark chocolate curls.

Caribou Coffee

Ho Ho Mint Mocha

Melted dark chocolate, steamed milk, espresso, mint flavoring, whipped cream, and crushed candy canes.

It has fewer calories and fat grams, and you'll save even more if you opt for nonfat milk and no whipped cream.
Even the small (a 10-ounce cup) has almost 100 more calories than the Starbucks version and nearly double the fat (24 grams).

Read More

Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 11/18/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Which salad chain has the healthier Caesar or cobb salad? Take our quiz! By Melissa Romero

Sweetgreen and Chop’t are two salad behemoths in Washington, with lines spilling out their doors during lunch every day. But how do their tasty salads and wraps stack up against each other? Take our quiz to find out. 


Earth Bowl

Warm grains, organic arugula, roasted chicken, white cheddar, grape tomatoes, raw corn, and spicy broccoli with pesto vinaigrette.


Chop't Po Boy

FreeBird panko fried chicken, tomato, red onions, and white cheddar cheese, and romaine lettuce with spa Tex-Mex ranch.

It's still high in calories (730) and fat (43 grams), but it contains a wealth of antioxidant-promoting veggies, and the grains provide a good dose of fiber and protein.
Beside the tomato, there's not too much going for you in this salad. Opt for grilled chicken and additional veggies next time.

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Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 11/11/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
It’s hard to go wrong at this downtown Asian-style lunch spot. By Melissa Romero
It's hard to go wrong at this downtown Asian-style lunch spot, says registered dietitian Jared Rice. Photograph by Andrew Propp.

Newton’s Noodles opened in September, offering downtown workers a fast-casual spinoff of the Bethesda restaurant Newton’s Table. The Asian-style Chipotle setup offers appetizers such as sesame-crusted ahi tuna and heaps of noodles piled into takeout boxes.

After trying out the spot ourselves one day, we had to know: What’s the healthiest item on the menu? We turned to registered dietitian and health and fitness specialist Jared Rice for the nutritional breakdown of Newton’s Noodles.

The good news: “In general, you can’t go too wrong on this menu from a health perspective,” he says.

Read on to see Rice’s picks for which bowls and appetizers to order—and which ones to skip.

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Posted at 10:00 AM/ET, 11/04/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
How do the two sandwich shops’ offerings compare? Take our quiz. By Melissa Romero

When you're looking for a sandwich, Potbelly and Taylor Gourmet are both good options. Potbelly is a national chain with a simple menu and numerous locations; the smaller, local Taylor Gourmet's offerings have attracted the likes of the President and Vice President. 

But where will you find the healthiest salad or vegetarian hoagie? Take our quiz to find out. 


A Wreck Sandwich

Salami, roast beef, turkey, ham, and Swiss cheese on six-inch bread.

Taylor Gourmet

Schuylkill Expressway

Prosciutto, roasted red peppers, and sharp provolone.

Yeesh—four deli meats and no vegetables? It's already 538 calories and 1,745 milligrams of sodium—and that's without any dressings or toppings.
This sandwich at least has one vegetable topping. Roasted red peppers are great sources of vitamin C and iron.

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Posted at 12:50 PM/ET, 10/14/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()