Is Cava Healthy? A Registered Dietitian Answers

Is Cava Healthy? A Registered Dietitian Answers


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Cava is one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in the US. The meals are fast-casual and are branded as healthy, similar to Chipotle.

But is Cava actually healthy or is the company just great at marketing? Are there any questionable additive ingredients used? What do medical professionals think about the healthiness or unhealthiness of Cava? And how do real Cava customers rate the taste?

In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more as we analyze the ingredients in some of Cava’s most popular meals based on medical studies to give our take on whether the brand is healthy or not. We’ll build a sample Cava meal that we believe is the healthiest option.

We’ll also feature some videos of medical experts discussing Cava, and share real customer reviews that touch on the taste.

Ingredient Analysis

Cava bowls image

Cava primarily sells bowls, and as shown in the image above from the brand’s website, these bowls are rich in fruits and vegetables.

High intake of fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer, according to a medical review published in the British Journal of Nutrition. A diet rich in fruits and veggies is also clinically shown to reduce inflammation.

The ingredients in Cava’s Lemon Chicken are shown below:

Cava Lemon Chicken ingredients

As would be expected from the image, all of the ingredients are whole foods.

Our only complaint is that the meat and cheese may be sourced from conventionally-raised animals.

As we discussed in our Bistro MD reviews article, animal products from pastured animals are clinically shown to be richer in nutrients and have a more optimal omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid ratio.

However, this is a relatively minor concern. This meal is extremely nutrient-dense and we consider it to be vastly healthier than the average American meal.

Our only other concern is that the brand fails to publish the full ingredient breakdown on their website. Broadly-described ingredients like “Ceasar dressing” may have ingredients that consumers are allergic to (like wheat or soy) so we believe it would be better for consumers if the brand clearly published every single ingredient in their meals.

Overall, we consider Cava to be healthy. But what’s the healthiest meal plan at Cava? We’ll discuss that in the next section.

What’s the Healthiest Meal at Cava?

If we were to put together a healthy meal plan at Cava based on the options that are currently on the brand’s website, we’d go with Market Spice for the main course, roasted eggplant as a side and jasmine tea to drink.

Market Spice is a plant-based bowl that contains broccoli (which is clinically shown to reduce cancer risk) and romaine lettuce (which is clinically shown to support healthy blood sugar levels), along with other whole plants.

This bowl is meat-free, so it avoids the potential sourcing issues we discussed in the previous section.

Roasted eggplant has “significant nutritive benefits” according to a medical review published in the Food Chemistry journal, and should taste great with the added parsley, onion and garlic.

Jasmine tea is the only calorie-free tea currently sold by Cava. Since it’s unclear to us whether the other teas are sweetened only with fruit or with added sugar as well, we think this is the healthiest choice.

Jasmine tea was shown in a 2022 animal study to have stress-relieving effects.

Medical Experts Discuss Cava

A dietitian who goes by “THE ATX DIETITIAN” on TikTok discusses her healthy sample meal plan at Cava:

@nourished_by_anne @CAVA is an awesome healthy lunch option on the go. this is a way to order for balance and optimal nutrition. 🔥 #healthylunchideasforwork #lowcalorie #easylunches #healthyrecipes #fitnessmotivation #atxdietitian #nourishedbyanne #austintexas ♬ Smiles & Sunsets - ultmt. & Hz.

A dietitian named Hannah shares her go-to Cava picks:

@eatwellwithhannah Reply to @annie.kessner #greenscreen @CAVA is my fav #StJudeDadPhotos #whatiwouldeatif #dietitian #healthyoptions #healthyeating ♬ original sound - Hannah | Dietitian

Is Cava Healthier Than Chipotle?

Chipotle is another famous fast-casual brand with a focus on whole foods and health, so many consumers are curious about whether Cava or Chipotle is a healthier option.

We reviewed the entire menu of both companies, and we consider Cava to be slightly healthier than Chipotle due to the sides and drinks.

As mentioned in the ingredient analysis section, Cava offers whole food sides like roasted eggplant with garlic and harissa (chili powder paste with parsley and tomatoes). Chipotle does offer guacamole as a side, but most of their sides are less nutritious such as flour tortillas and chips.

Cava has a zero-calorie tea as a drink option as well as Spindrift drinks (which are just carbonated water and fruit juice).

Chipotle’s drinks other than water all appear to contain added sugar at the time of publishing this article.

For the most part, what you decide to order at either restaurant will determine the healthiness, but we do give the slight edge to Cava.

But how do real people rate the taste of Cava meals? We’ll discuss that in the next section.

Real People Try Cava

A YouTube creator named “CHRISSY DICARA” tried Emma Chamberlain’s Cava bowl for the first time in an unsponsored video:

A YouTube creator named Kylie Madisen has a video trying Cava for the first time that includes the in-restaurant experience:

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

We consider Cava to be healthy. The company sells plant-based, whole food meals that are nutritionally rich and seem to be entirely free of unhealthy additive ingredients.

Our only minor complaint about Cava is that the brand fails to disclose on their website whether their animal products like meat and cheese are sourced from conventionally-raised or pastured animals. We believe the latter to be healthier.

Cava is a healthier option than Chipotle overall given its sides and drinks, but either are healthier than the typical American meal.

In this article we shared our top pick for the healthiest meal combo one can order at Cava based on the current menu, and real customer taste tests.