New Site Ranks Restaurants for Healthiness

Grellin ranks US chain restaurants based on nutrient content and how many fruits and vegetables they serve

Finding healthy food when you go out to eat just got a little easier. A new website determines how healthy restaurants are.

The new website, called Grellin, gives popular restaurants — from Au Bon Pain to Zaxby’s — a score based on the number of healthy options they have. That score is called a “Grellin grade.”

“Restaurants often claim they are ‘healthy’ by adding one or two wholesome items on a menu filled with unhealthy food,” said Lenny Lesser, MD, the lead researcher behind the new project, in a press release. “The new Grellin Grade tells consumers what percent of the restaurant’s menu is actually healthy.”

Grellin — a name derived from “ghrelin,” also known as the hunger hormone — began as a large study of foods from US chain restaurants in 2013 by the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in California. The website, which was launched Nov. 19, has about 100 chains broken down by item and health ranking now, but the creators say they’re going to keep expanding it.

In case you were wondering, the restaurant chains with the highest score are Au Bon Pain and Rubio’s — the chains both got a 57 out of 100, where 0 is unhealthiest and 100 is healthiest. Two smoothie chains tied for least healthy with a score of 0: Smoothie King and Tropical Smoothie Cafe.

There’s more to it than a simple ranking, though. The site assigns each restaurant’s menu items a score by category, too. For instance, In-N-Out Burger — with an overall score of 39 — got a score of 54 for its burgers. Click on the individual category, and you’ll see a list of which menu items are healthy or unhealthy. In-N-Out serves seven “healthy” burgers, according to Grellin.

The researchers behind Grellin rank restaurants based on how well they meet established nutrition guidelines. They look at calorie, sodium and fat content, as well as how many fruits and vegetables are on the menu.

Dr. Lesser said he hopes the site might affect how healthy restaurants try to be.

“We hope that restaurants will compete for customers on their healthiness of their menu, rather than just the price,” he said. “If a chain restaurant’s score is low, it begs the question: how can they provide healthier choices to their customers?”