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The healthiest fast food restaurants

Newlywed, new mom and first-time home buyer, Sarah is currently playing out her exciting life in Phoenix, Arizona. She recently gave up her job in finance to stay at home with her baby girl, who between bath time and feeding time, keeps ...

The top 4 places to get healthy(er) fast food

Decades ago, healthy fast food was an oxymoron, but a few years into the new millennium, and several standout fast food restaurants are catching up with the times. If you too find fossilized McDonald's French fries to be kind of unsettling, or if you're just hoping to clean up your workday lunch, these fast casual chains have some delicious and fairly healthy options for everyone.

And if you have kids, just think of this as Parenting 2.0. While there's nothing wrong with giving your kids fast food every once in a while, taking them to one of these "fresh" restaurants can teach them to enjoy healthier versions of their favorite treats:

1. Subway

The top 4 places to get healthy(er) fast food
Image: Bill Keaggy/Flickr

Though not every sandwich is healthy, Subway is by far one of the healthiest fast food restaurant chains around. Nothing is fried and most of the ingredients are fresh (or as fresh as they possibly can be). Order your sandwich without any mayonnaise or fattening dressings and add a bag of Baked! Lay's on the side. The whole meal will be right around 500 calories (for a six-inch sub) versus more than 1,000 for a meal from McDonald's.

More: 7 Foods that aren't as healthy as you think

2. Paradise Bakery

The top 4 places to get healthy(er) fast food
Image: jdong/Flickr

Who doesn't love soup, salad and fresh-baked sandwiches? Paradise Bakery offers an array of healthy options for you and your family. We love their new Roasted Turkey & Avocado BLT paired with a Strawberry Poppyseed and Chicken Salad. Be warned, though — the cookies are big, delicious and fattening! Avoid them if possible or only eat half of one to save yourself some calories.

More: 4 Reasons healthy food tastes better than comfort food

3. Chipotle

The top 4 places to get healthy(er) fast food
Image: punctuated/Flickr

Craving Mexican food but don't want the grease and heaviness of a sit-down restaurant or the high-sodium content of Taco Bell? Head to Chipotle. Chipotle puts you in charge of your own meal and only provides the freshest of ingredients. Opt to get a burrito bowl to save 300 calories over the tortilla, and go light on the cheese and sour cream. Other than that, Chipotle is a healthy and affordable choice for a family Mexican meal.

More: About that 'healthy' breakfast smoothie we're supposed to be drinking...

4. Jason's Deli

The top 4 places to get healthy(er) fast food
Image: Dave Hensley/Flickr

Jason's Deli is similar to Paradise Bakery but has significantly more locations spread throughout the U.S. It offers sandwiches, salads, wraps, pastas, paninis and more. Though you could very well consume more than 1,000 calories in a single trip, it's just as easy not to. Choose fresh fruit or steamed veggies as your side, avoid the pasta dishes and go with broth-based soups instead of cream-based. Your waistline will thank you later.

Healthy eating at any fast food restaurant

If you don't happen to live near one of the above-mentioned restaurants, have no fear. Nowadays, almost all fast food restaurants offer healthy choices, you just have to know what to look for.

Healthy eating tips include:

  • Skip the soda. Soda packs on 130 calories or more. Opt for water or iced tea instead.
  • Choose healthy sides. Good sides include salad, fruit, soup or steamed veggies.
  • Order items without cheese, mayo or high-fat dressings.
  • Never "supersize" your meal.
  • Avoid bread when possible. For example, order your burger "protein-style" at In N' Out (the burger is wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun) or order chicken nuggets instead of a chicken sandwich.
  • Load up on veggies. If you're starving, ask for extra veggies on your main item to help fill you up.
  • Always order your food grilled instead of fried.

Updated by Bethany Ramos on 5/23/2016

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