5 surprising chains healthy eaters like

Healthy eaters only chow down at salad restaurants and smoothie joints, right?

Wrong, according to a new ranking from YouGov BrandIndex, a consumer perception research firm that polled 15,000 adults who say they consider healthy eating "important" or "very important."

While Subway and Panera Bread cracked the top 10 in general perception among healthy eaters, the other chains to make the list might be a surprise.

Taking the top slot was Subway at 47.9, followed by Berkshire Hathaway's Dairy Queen at 45.8 and then Panera at 45. (The number refers to percentage of respondents who had a more positive view of a restaurant than a negative one.)

Olive Garden’s Chicken Parmesan Breadstick Sandwich
Source: Olive Garden
Olive Garden’s Chicken Parmesan Breadstick Sandwich

Other not-so-expected chains on the list were Olive Garden at #5, Dunkin' Donuts at #8, Baskin-Robbins at #9 and IHOP at #10. These chains are not exactly known for their low-calorie fare, but some have been tweaking their menus to appeal to the health-conscious. (The survey asked for responses about 130 large restaurant chains).

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For example, Olive Garden has a "lighter Italian fare" list while Dunkin' Donuts plans to reduce its sodium levels across its menu and the sugar content in its drinks. Baskin-Robbins will also be testing some new reduced-sugar and calorie smoothies. Meanwhile, Dairy Queen has a line of light smoothies.

Ted Marzilli, CEO of YouGov BrandIndex, said he viewed the ice cream chains' making the list as a bit of a "disconnect" but thinks it is a reflection that even people who are advocates of a healthier lifestyle think it's fine "indulge occasionally."

It's important to note the list also is not a ranking of the healthiest menus or places to eat.

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"These brands can fit into a [broad] lifestyle of healthy eating even if they might not be most well known for their healthy options," said Marzilli.

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