This Is Surprisingly One Of The Healthiest Fast Food Chains

When you head over to Taco Bell, you probably aren’t doing so with your health in mind. After all, we’re talking about the same fast-food chain that brought you the Naked Chicken Chalupa, with its bold taco shell made of fried chicken. And then there’s the legendary Bacon Cheddar Gordita Crunch: a taco inside a puff pastry layered with bacon and cheese. Well, we hope you’re sitting down right now because we have quite the bombshell for you: Taco Bell is generating a different kind of buzz these days… by establishing itself as one of the healthiest fast food establishments in America.

Although Taco Bell doesn’t exactly trumpet this fact in advertising campaigns, the chain has spent the past decade improving the health profile of its menu. In 2012, the company even created the position of in-house dietician, a role that has been instrumental in retooling Taco Bell’s menu with customer’s health in mind.

To be fair, the menu isn’t necessarily healthier because all the unhealthy stuff has been scrapped. Not at all. In fact, sales figures demonstrate a fact that we can already tell you anecdotally: People are still pulling up to the restaurant to indulge in guilty pleasures. After all, the 20-ounce Mountain Dew Baja Blast Freeze contains 51 grams of sugar — that’s almost an eighth of a pound! And to think this decadent little concoction has generated over $1 billion in sales. Many of Taco Bell’s wackiest calorie bombs were limited-time offers that you can’t order today… but you can certainly swing by to pick up the gluttonous Nachos BellGrande: It’s got 740 calories, and 340 of those calories come from fat.

Nevertheless, Taco Bell has made quite a few important changes to its menu: The chain has reportedly reduced the sodium content of its offerings by 15 percent, gotten rid of high fructose corn syrup, and eliminated artificial flavors and colors. And the fast food chain plans to knock sodium levels down 25 percent by 2025. According to Skift, Taco Bell’s dietician Missy Schaaphok calls these moves “stealth health” … because customers really can’t seem to taste the difference.

Schaaphok and her team also had the opportunity to develop a new menu item from scratch, with the specific aim of creating something healthy. As Skift reports, the new item needed to be less than 510 calories and contain at least 20 grams of protein. The result is the Power Menu Bowl, which includes grilled chicken or steak with rice and beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, and guacamole. It’s been quite successful sales-wise.

The key to the restaurant’s healthier philosophy can be summed up in one word: Choice. On its online menu, Taco Bell claims to be the first fast-food establishment to offer a vegetarian menu certified by the American Vegetarian Association. These options are displayed prominently in the mobile app, where customers can perhaps best appreciate Taco Bell’s revamp.

In fact, when you click an item on the Taco Bell app, you can customize the order however you want. Order the Nachos BellGrande vegetarian style, for example, and you knock off 70 calories. You can also go healthier and knock off 25 percent of the fat from your order by making your meal “Fresco style.” According to Taco Bell’s official website:

“[This involves replacing] mayo-based sauces, cheeses, reduced-fat sour cream and guacamole on almost any menu item with freshly-prepared pico de gallo.”

So yes, Taco Bell offers several healthy choices… and plenty of items that are unapologetic junk food. But it’s certainly not the only fast-food chain with a Jekyll and Hyde personality. For instance, Burger King offers the meatless Impossible Whopper… although it’s worth noting strict vegans have turned up their noses at this menu item. That’s because the meatless patty is cooked on the same grill as the traditional burgers, unless you specifically ask for your patty to be microwaved. Meanwhile, Carl’s Jr. offers both plant-based burgers and breakfast sausages. Wendy’s, Del Taco, and even Baskin Robbins also offer vegan menu items.

So whether it’s a healthy power bowl or a triple-stacked burger, fast food outlets actually seem to share a similar business strategy: Offer something for everyone. Taco Bell continues to do it right. Now, armed with this newfound knowledge, we’re going to march over to the nearest Taco Bell and triumphantly order a Cheesy Gordita Crunch and a Chalupa.

#TacoBell #FastFood

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