10 best casual food joints

10 Best Fresh Casual Restaurants to Grab a Meal on the Go

As you probably know by now, I’m very anti-processed food in general. In fact, I prepare about 90% of my meals at home.

But on occasion, there are times when I get stuck in traffic, or have a client meeting go longer than expected. I’m sure it’s happened to you as well.

When this happens, know that there are many healthy options available that can save you from pulling up to the McDonald’s (not that you would dare to, right?)

Check out some of my favorite on-the-go options (in no particular order) for when I’m not cooking something delicious in my own kitchen.

1. The Protein Bar - "Green City Vegan" 

The founders of Chipotle’s more sophisticated cousin that uses quinoa for all of it’s burritos has been expanding all over the US, currently operating over 19 locations in the Chicagoland, Colorado and Washington DC. The Green City Vegan really does taste delicious (I have personally tried it!), and it’s a perfect combo of quinoa, black beans, tofu, salsa, and vegan cheddar cheese wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla.


Calories: 550 Protein: 27 g Total Fat: 15 g Sodium: 1130 mg Sugar: 3 g


2. Panera Bread - "Power Chicken Hummus Bowl"

This one is part of Panera Bread’s secret (or not-so-secret?) power menu. What’s most important to note here is that the chicken is completely antibiotic free. Ask for a little packet of extra virgin olive oil and lemon wedge, and you’ve actually gotten yourself quite a tasty dish. This secret menu also includes other items such as egg white breakfast bowls that are equally as healthy.


Calories: 330 Protein: 25 g Total Fat: 14 g Sodium: 500 mg Sugar: 20 g


 3. Chipotle - "Two Soft Chicken Corn Tacos with Black Beans, Fajita Veggies and Side of Guacamole" 

This one is is a good option for those of you who may want to limit your calorie intake. I find it that although anyone can build a semi-healthy bowl, they tend to get so large that we can easily overeat our recommended serving size. This is why two chicken soft corn tacos can ensure you’re well under 500 calories, plus you even get to have some fresh guac with it which if you didn’t know contains only six ingredients (avocados, red onions, jalapeños, cilantro, lime juice). This is sure a win/win.

If you like the extra kick of cilantro in your food, make sure to ask your server to add an extra pinch of it to your plate! A bit of this fresh herb onto your Chipotle order adds a little zip of both flavor and color.


Calories: 415 Protein: 16 g Total Fat: 18.5 g (but it’s mostly good fats from the avocado) Sodium: 675 mg Sugar: 1.5 g


4. Starbucks - "Protein Bento Box"

This awesome snack box contains a hardboiled egg, apples, honey peanut butter spread, grapes, multigrain muesli bread, and white cheddar cheese (not so happy about that). But for the most part, it is a lot healthier than reaching for any of the Starbucks pastries, or sandwiches which tend to have quite a few processed ingredients. If you are grabbing your daily brew (and I like to go with a Doppio Espresso Macchiatto which is only 15 calories!) then this will be a good on-the-go snack option for you.


Calories: 380 Protein: 13 g Total Fat: 19 g (mostly good fat form peanut butter, but 6 g saturated from the cheese) Sodium: 470 mg Sugar: 19 g (mostly fruit sugar from grapes & apple)


5. Doc B's Kitchen (Chicago only) - "The Alexis Kitchen Quinoa Salad"

Doc B’s calls itself fresh-casual. The place is all about innovation and convenience, and believes that busy people deserve the best- in a quick and comfortable setting. The tech-to-table approach allows you to customize your dining experience. Whether you prefer a streamlined order-at-the-counter bite, or a full service meal, they’re here to give you what you want.


Calorie information not available.

6. Roti Mediterranean Grill - "Chicken Laffa Bread Wrap with Mixed Veggies and Tahini"

Roti Mediterranean Grill is a healthy-leaning “fast casual” joint founded by the former chairman of Chipotle. You choose a base (sandwich, salad, plate), a hearty topping (chicken, steak, falafel, roasted veggies), and vegetables and sauces (i.e. hummus, Spanish eggplant, and red cabbage slaw). There are lots of veggie, vegan, and gluten-free options (like gluten-free pita bread). It’s makes for a really, really yummy lunch, but unfortunately is a bit heavy on the sodium again.


Calories: 519 Protein: 41 g Total Fat: 14 g Sodium: 1063 mg Sugar: 11 g


7. Corner Bakery - "Build Your Own Salad Trio"

I had no idea that the Corner Bakery is a lot different now than what I had remembered. It now offers what are called the salad trios, that allow you to pick your own composition of healthy picks. Salad choices to build your own tri include:




























Toasted Sesame Kale Salad: 110 calories, 6 g fat, 2 g protein, 5 g sugar, and 390 mg sodium

Quinoa & Pico Salad: 110 calories, 2 g fat, 2 g protein, 2 g sugar, and 280 mg sodium

Asian Edamame: 140 calories, 8 g fat, 6 g protein, 6 g sugar, and 840 mg sodium

Tuna Salad: 260 calories, 20 g fat, 20 g protein, 2 g sugar, and 520 mg sodium

Mozarella Tomato Arugula Salad: 160 calories, 14 g fat, 6 g protein, 2 g sugar, and 240 mg sodium

Southwest Avocado: Calories 220, 17 g fat, 3 g protein, 3 g sugar, and 300 mg sodium

My suggested trio would be Sesame Kale Salad, Tuna, and Quinoa & Pico totaling just under 500.


8. LYFE Kitchen - "Fish Tacos"

This place is heaven for those looking to control their serving sizes while eating fresh, whole food ingredients that taste fantastic. At LYFE Kitchen, every item on the menu is under 600 calories, and there are absolutely no artificial ingredients in the food! The food is sourced using local and sustainable ingredients, and is ready in minutes.


Calories: 456 Protein: 25 g Total Fat: 26 g Sodium: 687 mg Sugar: 4 g


9. California Pizza Kitchen - "Quinoa & Arugula Salad"

CPK now has a section in their menu called “Lite Adventures” that also other lighter options such as Quinoa & Arugula Salad, Grilled Chicken Chimichurri and Cedar Plank Salmon. CPKs also allows to pre-order online option so now there are no excuses for grabbing a healthy on-the-go lunch in case you have forgotten to make a healthy one at home 😉 Just fill out online form, drive up, and pick up.


Calories: 590 Protein: 17 g Total Fat: 36 (but only 4.5 g saturated fat) Sodium: 730 mg Sugar: 13 g


10. Einstein Bagels - "Asparagus, Mushroom, and Swiss Bagel Thin with Fruit Cup"

This is a pretty decent on-the-go option. It certainly beats breakfast at McDonald’s. All Smart Choice Options at Einstein Brother’s are under 385 calories & 15 grams of fat.

Asparagus Mushroom Swiss EggWhite_v3










(sandwich only, excludes fruit cup) Calories: 270 Protein: 16 g Total Fat: 11 g Sodium: 420 mg Sugar: 5 g

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1 Comment

  • Karen

    Reply Reply September 2, 2014

    Thanks for sharing! I absolutely love the Protein Bar. I usually get the chicken bar-ritos, but will have to try the Green City Vegan next time.

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