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Healthy Fast Food Lunch Picks

 

Au Bon Pain

In an ideal world, you'd steer clear of greasy, high-fat takeout and pack yourself a perfectly balanced lunch to bring to work every day of the week. In the real world, brown bagging can be an extra hassle that you can't always handle. Here's your guide to the healthiest sandwiches, soups, and salads at your favorite grab-and-go lunch spots.

Au Bon Pain

Best Salad: Steak Salad with Cranberries and Mandarin Oranges, Fat-Free Raspberry Vinaigrette
370 calories
7 g fat, 4 g saturated fat
590 mg sodium
7 g fiber
20 g protein

Best Sandwich: Fields and Feta Wrap
551 calories
16 g fat, 4 g saturated fat
880 mg sodium
14 g fiber
20 g protein

Best Soup: Jamaican Black Bean (Reduced Sodium, Low-Fat)
120 calories
1 g fat, 0 g saturated fat
310 mg sodium
17 g fiber
11 g protein

Worst Overall: Chicken Caesar Salad, Caesar Dressing
920 calories
60 g fat, 16 g saturated fat
1,640 mg sodium
4 g fiber
44 g protein

Takeout Tip: Although the Thai Chicken Salad sounds healthiest (just 140 calories and 2.5 g fat, half a gram of which is saturated), ordering the Thai Peanut Dressing to match more than doubles the calories, almost quadruples the fat, and doubles the saturated fat. Sodium also skyrockets from 470 mg to 1,650 mg total. Stick with "lite" or fat-free dressings.

Blimpie

Best Salad: Seafood Salad
122 calories
4.4 g fat, 0.7 g saturated fat
418 mg sodium
3.2 g fiber
6 g protein

Best Sandwich: Union Square Ultimate Veggie Six-Inch Cafe Sandwich
280 calories
17 g fat, 4.5 g saturated fat
480 mg sodium
6 g fiber
19 g protein

Best Soup: Garden Vegetable, 8-ounce cup
80 calories
0.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat
620 mg sodium
3 g fiber
5 g protein

Worst Overall: Ultimate BLT Wrap
831 calories
50 g fat, 15 g saturated fat
2,677 mg sodium
3 g fiber
34 g protein

Takeout Tip: Choose Blimpie's cold subs or Cafe sandwiches over their grilled subs and wraps — the latter usually contain an entire day's allowance or more of sodium. (Aim for no more than 2,300 mg per day of sodium; too much raises your risk of high blood pressure. Since lunch meats and soups are notoriously high in salt, keep a close eye on your intake the rest of the day.)

Cosi

Best Salad: Shanghai Chicken Salad with Low-Fat Ginger Soy Dressing
295 calories
11 g fat, saturated fat amount unavailable
675 mg sodium
6 g fiber
27 g protein

Best Sandwich: Hummus & Fresh Veggies
432 calories
8 g fat, saturated fat amount unavailable
1,128 mg sodium
8 g fiber
13 g protein

Best Soup: Chicken Noodle, regular size
116 calories
4 g fat, saturated fat amount unavailable
818 mg sodium
1 g fiber
10 g protein

Worst Overall: Tuna Melt sandwich
1,012 calories
60 g fat, saturated amount fat unavailable
1,948 mg sodium
4 g fiber
64 g protein

Takeout Tip: Yes, the bread comes free with your soup or salad, but spring for an apple or bag of baby carrots instead. Each slice of Cosi's famous bread adds 265 calories and 740 mg sodium to your meal!

Panera Bread

Best Salad: Fandango Salad: mixed greens with walnuts, gorgonzola, orange slices, and fat-free raspberry dressing
390 calories
27 g fat, 7 g saturated fat
530 mg sodium
6 g fiber
12 g protein

Best Sandwich: Smoked Turkey Breast Sandwich on Sourdough
430 calories
14 g fat, 2.5 g saturated fat
1,820 mg sodium
3 g fiber
29 g protein

Best Soup: Low-Fat Vegetarian Moroccan Tomato Lentil Soup
120 calories
1.5 g fat, 0 g saturated fat
730 mg sodium
6 g fiber
7 g protein

Worst Overall: Italian Combo Sandwich
1,110 calories
56 g fat, 20 g saturated fat
3,220 mg sodium
5 g fiber
61 g protein

Takeout Tip: Go for the soup or salad here. All the sandwiches — even our top pick — are fairly high in sodium.

Subway

Best Salad: Grilled Chicken & Baby Spinach
140 calories
3 g fat, 1 g saturated fat
450 mg sodium
4 g fiber
20 g protein

Best Sandwich: Deli Style Turkey Breast
210 calories
3.5 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat
730 mg sodium
3 g fiber
13 g protein

Best Soup: Spanish Style Chicken with Rice, 1 cup
90 calories
2 g fat, 0.5 g saturated fat
800 mg sodium
1 g fiber
5 g protein

Worst Overall: Double Meat Meatball Marinara six-inch sub
960 calories
42 g fat, 18 g saturated fat
2,490 mg sodium
10 g dietary fiber
37 g protein

Takeout Tip: Skip all the packaged dressings on your salad — Atkins Honey Mustard and Ranch each add 22 grams of fat, while the Fat-Free Italian contains 720 mg sodium. Ask for oil and vinegar (from the sandwich condiments) instead, which add just 45 calories and 5 grams of fat.

Originally published in Fitness magazine, April 2006.

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