Now, more than ever before, you can ask a friend or loved one what they want when going out to eat and it is likely they will respond with "Something healthy."

Could this shift to healthier eating merely be a fad? Or is this focus on healthy (mostly plant-based) food options really here to stay?

In a piece for the New Yorker, Michael Specter notes that "Millions of diners, fueled by concerns about their health and the state of the environment" have actually begun to "shun the ubiquitous chains that have long shaped the American culinary character." Perhaps it's no surprise then that McDonald's is so concerned about this trend that it has recently been testing its own meatless McVegan burger in Europe.

As American consumers have become increasingly concerned about the long-term, negative effects of eating animal-based, highly processed, industrially produced food, a number of new healthy fast-food chains are growing in popularity. Here are 3 unique McDonald's alternatives:

Veggie Grill - Go vegan!

Forget cow protein when it comes to burgers -- have you ever tried pea? Vegan chain Veggie Grill is the choice for consumers who hope to switch to a more plant-based diet. The entire menus is free of meat, dairy, eggs and other animal products, and therefore also free of antibiotics and hormones. CEO Steve Heeley understands that "Today's consumer is more mindful and aware that eating a diet made up primarily of veggies, fruits, grains, and nuts is better for you." Veggie Grill currently has 28 locations, but has plans to expand to nearly 50 by 2020.

The Kitchenette - A $5 meal?

As Elon Musk tackles the future journey to Mars, his younger brother Kimbal is tackling food here on earth. In 2016, Kimbal Musk launched The Kitchenette, found at Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, Tennessee. Located inside this 4,500-acre urban park and conservancy, the Kitchenette serves soups, sandwiches, and salads, most of which cost $4.95. Musk's larger chain of restaurants, called the Kitchen, works to keep ingredients local, and more Kitchenette locations are reported to be in the works. When it comes to having a finger on the pulse of the future, I wouldn't count any Musk out.

Eatsa - The future is now

Just in case you're not looking to interact with any human workers, Eatsa will have you place your order on an iPad or on your smartphone, then pick up your freshly prepared meal from a personalized, automated cubby. There are no waitstaff, no servers, and you pay using a virtual cashier. Eatsa specializes in customizable quinoa bowls that cost around $7, though you'll find decidedly non-veggie eggs and cheese for breakfast. There are just two restaurants right now, both in San Francisco (the chain had to close 5 locations last year due to expanding too quickly), so maybe McDonald's isn't sweating these guys just yet.

Published on: Mar 20, 2018