Who wants to contemplate obesity, diabetes and heart disease while partaking in a fast food meal? Probably not many people. That’s why I was surprised to see the signage at a new “fast casual” restaurant called Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill. I recently ate lunch at this new Boulder, Colorado, eatery with my family; and everywhere I looked, I was greeted with research-backed facts about diabetes and heart disease prevention and weight loss.
Had I been in a typical fast food restaurant, such signage probably would have led to some serious indigestion. But Garbanzo is no typical fast food joint. The Denver-based chain’s menu is comprised of mostly vegetarian fare (including salads, red cabbage, hummus and pickled eggplant) and lots of whole grain options. Calorie counts are included for each menu item, making it easier to choose the healthiest meal possible.
All of the food is Mediterranean, and the company’s marketing touts the proven health benefits of eating a Mediterranean diet—which emphasizes healthy fats such as olive oil and fresh fruits and vegetables. The sign at our table (see picture) cited research showing that a Mediterranean diet can lessen one’s heart disease risk by 70 percent. Another highlighted a British Medical Journal studying demonstrating that people who stuck to a Mediterranean diet were 83 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who did not.
Garbanzo’s marketing also flaunts the fact that its ability to deliver fresh, healthy Mediterranean food was born out of consumer demand. Of all the “facts” I learned while dining at Garbanzo, this was perhaps the most insightful and inspiring for me. Restaurants like Garbanzo Mediterranean Grill would find it hard pressed to compete in the ever-growing sea of fast food restaurants if consumers weren’t clamoring for healthier-yet-still-convenient food offerings. Healthy Boulder and Denver are natural markets for restaurants like Garbanzo, but the chain is growing and recently moved in to Colorado Springs.
Of course, Garbanzo is far from the only fast food restaurant to tap into this growing consumer movement. Chipotle, Naked Pizza, ZPizza, Panera Bread, Mod Market (another Boulder eatery) and even McDonald’s (with its new fruit-spiked oatmeal) are among those restaurants attempting to lure in customers with healthier and much more transparent food offerings. As a full-time working mother of two young boys, I do sometimes need to go the cheap and easy route when it comes to lunch or dinner. Fortunately, restaurants like Garbanzo make such occasions healthier for my family and less guilt-provoking for me.