The Best Plant-Based Fast Food Meal You Can Order, According To One Nutritionist

Plant-based food has become so popular that many restaurants and fast-food chains typically known for beefy burgers are adding vegetarian or vegan options to their menus. But just because a meal is plant-based definitely does not mean it is inherently healthier. Dr. Nicole Avena, a research neuroscientist, expert in the field of nutrition, and author of "Why Diets Fail" weighed in on the subject with Mashed and even gave a tip on the healthiest plant-based fast-food meal you can order.

Dr. Avena started by explaining the health benefits of incorporating a plant-based diet into your lifestyle. "Research has shown that a plant-based diet can benefit people's health in many different ways. Hypertension (high blood pressure) is shown to decrease with a plant-based diet. Additionally, this type of diet can cut a lot of saturated fats from meat products that can lead to heart disease. This type of diet also may decrease chances of cancer and increase a person's lifespan," she said.

The new plant-based options at fast-food chains provide a good alternative to fast-food meals made with meat, which Dr. Avena notes don't necessarily have the nutrients that the meat's protein would usually offer.

This is the best vegan option at Chipotle

The best fast-food plant-based meal actually comes from Chipotle, according to Dr. Avena. It's the Vegan Lifestyle Bowl made with cilantro cauliflower rice, black beans, plant-based sofritas protein, fresh tomato salsa, corn salsa, and lettuce. These bowls pack 420 calories, 14 grams of fat (with just 1.5 grams of saturated fat and no trans fat), 1860 milligrams of sodium, 59 grams of carbs with 18 grams of fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 22 grams of protein.

Dr. Avena explains just why these bowls are a great healthy option. "It replaces the rice with cauliflower rice, which has a lot less fats. Also, the bowl offers a lot of protein from the black beans and plant-based meat, while avoiding the fats that meat can bring to your order. It also includes vitamins and important nutrients from the lettuce, tomatoes, and corn. This bowl can provide someone with a lot of energy without leaving a person feeling stuffed or lethargic from the increased fats." 

The lower fat and higher protein content isn't the only reason to order this bowl. "Cauliflower rice is really good for us!" Dr. Avena adds. "While it includes 85% less calories than white rice, it also contains more potassium, calcium, and fiber! It can help add to your daily calcium and fiber intake, while not adding as many carbohydrates."

The only thing Dr. Avena says you might want to consider changing is swapping the corn salsa for fajitas vegetables. You'll still get tons of great veggies and nutrients without quite as many calories.