Healthy Imposters: Part 3

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This week I’ve shared 9 foods which big food companies market as “healthy”, yet prove to be nothing more than fake food wrapped up in pretty packaging labeled with eye-catching health claims.  Check out part 1 and part 2.

Number 10 on this list of “Healthy Imposters” may not initially come as surprise as these places are considered fast food. Most people would agree that fast food  is not the best choice when looking to eat real food, however, these places appear to be “different”, healthy alternatives to your average Burger King and McDonalds, a step above.

10. Chick-fil-A and Panera Bread: After our transition to real food I knew I couldn’t visit fast food places anymore. I just knew McDonald’s chicken nuggets were not going to cut it anymore for a quick lunch, however, I easily justified a stop at Chick-fil-a or Panera.

Chick-Fil-a serves real chicken, right?

And come on Panera…salads, fresh bread, smoothies…sounds as real as it gets!

Chick-fil-A and Panera know that people think of them as a step above regular fast food. They use this idea of healthier fast food in their marketing.  Take a look at this advertisement for a new “Chick-fil-A” Grilled Chicken Cool Wrap.

Chick-fil-A marketing
Chick-fil-A marketing

Chick-fil-A boasts some pretty healthy claims…

” 1 cup of fresh veggies, 60% of daily value for fiber, NEW flaxseed flour flatbread, an excellent source of ALA omega 3’s”

That sounds like real food to me!

Chick-fil-A even advertises this new wrap as a “Fit Meal Choice”.  When you look at the ingredients in this healthy alternative you will find some very questionable ingredients:

Flatbread (water, flax flour, oat fiber, wheat gluten, corn starch, enriched wheat flour [wheat flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid], soy protein isolate, contains less than 2% of: whole wheat flour, defatted soy flour, canola oil, soybean oil, monoglycerides, yeast, sea salt, cultured wheat starch, raw sugar, fumaric acid, enzymes, vitamin D3), whole chicken breast (seasoning [salt, monosodium glutamate, sugar, spices, paprika]), Monterey/Jack cheddar cheese blend (cheddar cheese [pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, annatto {color}], Monterey Jack cheese [milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes], potato starch and powdered cellulose added to prevent caking, natamycin [a natural mold inhibitor]), green leaf lettuce, red cabbage, carrots.v 

While there are some real food ingredients in this list such as: carrots, red cabbage, and green leaf lettuce; there are a lot of other ingredients…toxic additives! A few that stand out as alarming are: monosodium glutamate (a toxin to both the human body and brain), canola oil (a genetically modified synthetic oil) , and monoglycerides (a source of trans fat).

I certainly would not define this as real food!

Now, you may be thinking, “Come on! I just get a salad there…real food at its finest!”

I used to believe this too!

So, what’s in a salad?

Chick-fil-A cobb salad (plain with no dressing)…

Chick-fil-A cobb salad Photo Credit:
Chick-fil-A cobb salad
Photo Credit:

Romaine lettuce, nuggets (whole chicken breast, seasoning [salt, monosodium glutamate, sugar, spices, paprika], seasoned coater [enriched bleached wheat flour {malted barley flour, niacin, iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid}, sugar, salt, monosodium glutamate, nonfat milk, leavening {baking soda, sodium aluminum phosphate, monocalcium phosphate}, spice, soybean oil, color {paprika}], milk wash [water, egg, nonfat milk], peanut oil [fully refined peanut oil with TBHQ and citric acid added to preserve freshness and dimethylpolysiloxane as an anti-foaming agent]), grape tomatoes, Monterey/Jack cheddar cheese blend (cheddar cheese [pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, annatto {color}], Monterey Jack cheese [milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes], potato starch and powdered cellulose added to prevent caking, natamycin [a natural mold inhibitor]), roasted corn, egg, baby field greens, bacon (cured with water, salt, sugar, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite. may also contain, potassium chloride, dextrose, smoke flavoring, sodium phosphate, honey, potassium lactate, sodium diacetate, flavoring), carrots, red cabbage.

I think the ingredient list speaks for itself!

So much for just lettuce, eggs, cheese, bacon, and veggies.

Okay, now that Chick-fil-A is a no-go for real food, at least we have Panera Bread. You know “Live Consciously, Eat Deliciously!” I mean, have you seen this commercial?

Fresh baked bread, farmers growing gorgeous fresh produce, healthy chickens feed zero antibiotics…take me to this place!


Before falling for another marketing hype by a company who uses all the right buzz words in real food, let’s take a look at what is actually going into that fresh bread and those crisp salads.

Years ago, I would frequently stop and pick up a Bacon, Egg, and Cheese breakfast sandwich. The fresh appearance made this little sandwich appear so healthy, but let’s take a look at what I was actually eating

Ciabatta (unbleached enriched wheat flour [flour, malted barley flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid], water, country base [natural wheat sour, salt, rye flour, wheat gluten, malted barley flour, sunflower lecithin, ascorbic acid, enzymes], olive oil blend [extra virgin olive oil, canola oil], yeast, natural base [calcium diphosphate, malted barley flour, dextrose, distilled monoglycerides, rye flour, sunflower lecithin, wheat flour, enzymes, ascorbic acid]), pasteurized eggs, applewood smoked bacon (cured with water, salt, sugar, sodium phosphates, sodium erythorbate, sodium nitrite), white cheddar cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, microbial enzymes), salt, black pepper.

Now, that simple bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich appears to be hiding a lot of synthetic fillers and chemical additives as well as genetically modified ingredients, and trans fats (monoglycerides)!

Real food? hmmm…

But what about that crisp, farm fresh salad…

A Thai Chopped Chicken Salad. Let’s take a look at the ingredients:

Romaine lettuce, citrus & pepper chicken (antibiotic free all natural boneless skinless chicken breast fillets with rib meat, water, seasoning [lemon, mangosteen, natural smoke flavor], sea salt, dehydrated garlic, dehydrated onion, sugar, dry lemon peel, spices, dehydrated rosemary, dehydrated basil, citric acid, malic acid and paprika for flavor, vinegar, rice starch), fire roasted edamame blend (edamame [soy], carrot, red bell pepper, oil [canola, olive oil], salt, pepper), thai style chili vinaigrette (water, rice vinegar, sugar, soy sauce [water, wheat, soybean, salt, alcohol, distilled vinegar, lactic acid], lemongrass, sesame oil, corn starch-modified, spice, lime juice concentrate, natural flavors, xanthan gum), wonton strips (enriched wheat flour [niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid], vegetable oil (cottonseed and/or canola), water, eggs, salt, enzyme, naturally colored with annatto and turmeric, cornstarch), thai cashew pieces (roasted no salt cashew pieces [cashew pieces, vegetable oil {may contain one or more of the following: peanut, canola, sunflower and soybean}], seasoning [sea salt, corn syrup solids, sesame seeds, spice, natural flavor], canola oil, sesame seeds, rice vinegar, water), thai peanut sauce (water, soy sauce [water, wheat, soybeans, salt, sodium benzoate as preservative), sugar, coconut cream [coconut extract, water], peanut butter [peanuts, peanut or cottonseed oil], tomato paste, soybean oil, distilled vinegar, red chili pepper, corn starch- modified, dehydrated garlic, natural flavors, salt, ginger, lime juice concentrate, dehydrated onion, xanthan gum, garlic, citric acid, guar gum, carrageenan), cilantro

Need I say more?

A Nourishing Option: If you are a Chick-fil-A or Panera Bread Fan you probably are not going to like my answer, but the most nourishing option is to stay away! I must say, giving up Chick-Fil-A was one of the hardest real food choices I ever made.

Let’s face it…those waffle fries and that chicken sandwich with the perfect pickle is pretty darn addicting!

And that’s exactly what big companies like Chick-fil-A desire, an addicted customer who will come back over and over again.  It was hard, but once I kicked the Chik-fil-A and Panera habit, I realized the “food” these companies serve really isn’t that wonderful tasting. Since that time I have found a few recipes which our family loves, all of which are real and will satisfy any Chick-fil-A or Panera craving you may have…these are the more nourishing option, real food prepared in your kitchen..

Food Babe’s Open on Sunday Sandwich

100 Days of Real Food Chicken Nuggets

Mama and Baby Love’s Grain Free Copy Cat Chick-fil-A Chicken Nuggets

Weelicious’ Black Bean Soup (Black Bean Soup was one of my favorite soups at Panera)

The Curvy Carrot’s Broccoli Cheese Soup (another one of my favorite soups at Paneral…BRF (Before Real Food) days)

Simple, Crusty Bread Recipe (forget the fresh baked bread at Panera and make your own! You can even make these into little bread bowls and fill them with Broccoli Cheese soup!)

What foods would you add to this list of 10, “Healthy Imposters”?

Live Simply,


If you know someone who would benefit from hearing the information about Chick-fil-A, Panera, or any of the other 9 “Healthy Imposters” please share this with them.







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  • Guilty of chickfila and panera..and I had a feeling but man …I didn’t want to believe it. Accountability and also the fact that not eating these places makes me feel better inside and out is awesome.sooo not really that big of a “give up”

  • I’ve heard really great things about this stuff, thank you so much for sharing! I’d love more than anything to get a little more experience with this stuff. I’ve been thinking some more about barley powder. My friend thinks I should give it a try, maybe I should.

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