IRVINE, Calif. – Taco Bell Corp. is beefing up its better-for-you options with the launch of the Power Protein Menu, debuting July 25 in Dayton, Ohio, locations with plans to expand nationally next year.

Aligning with the Mexican fast-food chain’s previously announced commitment to meet specific nutrition goals by 2020, the new offerings contain more than 20 grams of protein and less than 450 calories.

The Power Protein Burrito features a double portion of chicken or steak with romaine lettuce, roasted corn and pepper salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole and reduced-fat sour cream, wrapped in a flour tortilla. The Power Protein Bowl contains a double portion of chicken or steak with slow-cooked black beans, roasted corn and pepper salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole and reduced-fat sour cream on a bed of romaine lettuce.
The chain also is testing zero-calorie, non-carbonated beverage options, including SoBe Lifewater and Brisk peach-flavored iced green tea.

The Yum! Brands restaurant chain in April announced its 2020 goal to have 20 percent of its combo meals meet one-third of the federal government’s dietary guidelines for daily intake values of fat, calories and sodium. That translates to approximately 667 calories, 26 grams of fat, and 767 mg of sodium per meal, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Other quick-service restaurants this year have rolled out items positioned as better-for-you alternatives, including Wendy’s grilled chicken flatbreads and McDonald’s egg-white breakfast sandwich.

Taco Bell’s protein-focused menu echoes a movement in food service and retail to highlight the nutrient’s role in a healthy diet. Nearly six out of 10 Americans consider the protein content when buying packaged food or beverages, according to a 2012 survey from the International Food Information Council. Consumers are increasingly understanding protein’s benefits, with 88 percent recognizing that protein helps build muscle, 60 percent agreeing it creates a feeling of fullness, and 60 percent indicating a diet high in protein may support weight loss.

This year’s high-protein menu introductions include Einstein Bros. Bagels and Noah’s New York Bagels’ power protein bagel, made with seeds and containing 14 grams of protein, and Panera Bread Co.’s hidden menu with six high-protein items, including an egg bowl with steak, an egg white bowl with roasted turkey, a chicken and hummus bowl, and steak lettuce wraps. Each item’s name includes the word “power,” carving a connection between protein and performance.