The Internet collectively freaked out when Starbucks announced that it was adding kale smoothies to its menu. Technically the coffee giant rolled out three new smoothie flavors—sweet greens, strawberry, and mango carrot—and all come with the option of adding fresh kale. The company is testing out the smoothies in Washington, Oregon, Alaska, northern California, and parts of Idaho, so health nuts in the midwest and on the east coast will have to wait patiently for the leafy green to show up at their neighborhood Starbucks.
When it comes to adding trendy health foods to the menu, this isn't Starbucks' first rodeo. Earlier this year, the company announced it would begin offering coconut milk nationwide. Maybe it's an attempt to minimize the shock at the sky-high calorie counts or maybe they're just giving the people what they want (a new non-dairy option was the second most requested menu item of all time from customers). Either way, these new additions got us thinking: What other healthy food trends have fast food chains hopped on recently? It turns out there’s a long (and highly entertaining) list.
1. Taco Bell: Protein-Packed Burritos and Bowls
With menu items like the waffle taco and Cheesy Gordita Crunch (a hard shell taco inside a soft shell taco for those who can’t make the oh-so-difficult decision), Taco Bell was the last company we thought would jump on health food trends. But the Mexican fast food eatery managed to surprise us with the introduction of the Cantina Power Menu, which includes burritos and bowls that come with double the meat. It's basically the dream post-workout meal for bros looking to get swole.
2. Subway: Vegan Sandwiches
The sandwich shop is well-known for its low-cal sandwiches—we have Jared to thank for that. But customers who aren’t meat eaters were hard pressed to find anything appetizing on the menu. That is until Subway rolled out two vegan options in the health food mecca that is Los Angeles. The Black Bean Patty is a standard veggie burger and the Malibu Garden is a veggies and rice combo. There’s no word yet whether the sandwich chain will expand the vegan options nationwide.
3. McDonald’s: Matcha Oreo McFlurry
Fast food circles have been abuzz in recent weeks with rumors swirling that the Golden Arches might add kale to its menu. What the fast food giant would add the leafy green to is pure speculation right now—just please don’t harm our beloved Shamrock Shake. McDonald’s has already tried its hand at healthy fast food options (and yes, we’re using that term loosely) with the introduction of the Matcha Oreo McFlurry. If this dessert concoction doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because this McFlurry is only available in Japan.
4. Wendy’s: Artisanal Breads
Burgers are named for the things we sandwich between the two buns, but the bread can really make or break a meal. And no one knows that better in the fast food world than Wendy’s. Instead of forcing customers to deal with limp hamburger buns, Wendy’s has introduced burgers on fancy-sounding brioche, ciabatta, and pretzel buns.
5. Pizza Hut: Gluten-Free Pizza
With more and more Americans going gluten-free, it only makes sense that fast food chains would follow along. And thank goodness Pizza Hut started offering gluten-free pizza. (Because who doesn’t crave pizza?!) The chain also rolled out a new menu with new premium ingredients (spinach), sauces (creamy garlic parmesan), drizzles (honey Sriracha), and crust flavors (salted pretzel).
6. Panera Bread: Lentil Quinoa Bowl
7. Chipotle: Tofu Burritos
Vegan and vegetarian burrito lovers (and even carnivores looking to cut down on the amount of meat they eat) no longer have to be limited to the rice and bean variety. Last year Chipotle started rolling out Sofritas, featuring spicy tofu braised with chilis and a special blend of spices. And while some people cried foul that this new protein was a ploy to get vegetarians to pay more at the Mexican restaurant, most seem to be enjoying the menu addition. Many locations ran out of the tofu when the company ran a meatless Monday promotion for a free Sofritas burrito.