By Kristy Wilson
Just like most things certain terms are all relative to each individual. What might be labeled as “dangerous” to one person might be another person’s hobby. What might be “expensive” to one person might not make the next person flinch. I have found that this is often true when it comes to food as well.
While there is a bit more of a guideline for healthy foods because of what science tells us is nutrient-dense, and what research and doctors recommend as the best foods for us to consume, we all still have those people in our lives that think anything with the word salad (i.e. Macaroni Salad, Ambrosia Salad, or the latest one I saw Broccoli Bacon Ranch Pasta Salad) in it is healthy. In fact, I remember a number of years ago when McDonald’s came out with their salad shakers. After a period of time McDonald’s underwent some criticism because while trying to create “healthier” options it was determined that once people added all of the condiments (dressing, croutons, bacon bits, etc.) onto the salad that the calorie and fat count was close to that of a Big Mac.
In the past year or so my husband and I have tried to legitimately eat more healthy by eating higher protein foods, good fats, many more veggies (we already consumed quite a few), some fruits, a few whole grains, and fairly limited dairy. For the most part our food consumption includes clean ingredients (clean by my standards are little to no processing, few ingredients, and ingredients that I can easily pronounce). We don’t stick to our “rules” all the time, but at least 85 percent of the time I would say we follow these guidelines. Now as someone who likes to cook we don’t eat out much, however, when we do I try and follow those same guidelines for the most part when we go out. As a result, we typically go to certain places to eat so that we can stick to our guidelines.
The following are the places that we typically go in order to eat healthy. You will find examples of the things that we might typically eat. This list is not intended to offend any restaurant/store owners that are not included. These are just our go-to’s. As with most places you might eat there are always healthier option if you ask your waiter to customize things a bit for you (i.e. steamed veggies without butter, butter and sour cream on the side of the bake potato, etc.), but these are the places that have healthy items that require little to no customizing.
- Art Mart: Offering a variety of fresh salads, fruit cups, whole grain breads and much more all made on site. This is a great place to go for lunch or to stop and grab a healthy snack. If you have little ones you can allow them to take a stroll around the toy area and play a bit before stopping for lunch. Be warned though, this may not be the place for you if you have little will power because there are also amazing baked goods, chocolates, cakes, cupcakes, etc.
- Breakfast places: Yep, I know that this is kind of a generic one, but most breakfast places offer a veggie omelet with egg whites and whole wheat toast or muffin. Some even offer a side of fresh fruit. Le Peep, Original House of Pancakes, Perkins, and Atlanta Bread are just a few of the places in town to try for this healthier option.
- Chili’s: Fresh Mex Bowls and their Lighter Choices menu are newer options that have been added to their more standard menu. For even healthier options with these menu items you could opt to leave out the rice, ask for no tortilla strips on top, and request the dairy items like sour cream and cheese be put on the side. However, all-in-all they are fairly healthy.
- Chipotle: There are a couple of options that I go for here depending on my activity level for the day (I typically will eat a bit of carbs such as brown rice if I have done some cardio activity for the day). Their salads and burrito bowls are both customizable. By sticking to proteins (meats and beans), good fats (guacamole), veggies and no dressings one can get a filling, nutrient-dense meal while keeping the calories fairly low. Chipotle also offers soyfrito filling made from soy protein as a meat substitute. If you are really trying to keep close track of your food their website allows you to build your meal for an estimated calorie intake.
- Escobar’s: This is a place that we will go if we want to splurge a bit. Not everything is the healthiest (“roasted corn-tomato rice” and “mashed potatoes” are two of their sides), but the ingredients are fresh. So, even if I splurge a bit I don’t feel as guilty because the ingredients are still fairly clean. Be careful about the breads though. They bake fresh breads and muffins that are served as an appetizer of sorts. They are delicious, but will throw you off the healthy train in a hurry!
- Flat Top Grill and 301 Mongolia: These are places where you can eat as healthy as you want. You build your own stir fry bowl. On no carb days for me I have asked for no rice and chose to add an egg to my bowl for a little extra protein. These are a great place to load up on veggies. Just be careful about how much and what kind of sauce you add to your bowl. The sauces can definitely change the healthy factor.
- Green Jade: “Special Diet Menu” steamed meats and vegetables with sauce on the side and option of brown rice. You might find that these options are a bit less flavorful than the other menu items, but if you are trying hard to stick to your diet and don’t feel like cooking or your family wants Chinese food these options allow you to partake and not feel guilty.
- Old Time Meat and Deli: If you are a meat or fish eater this is one of the few places in town that you can get some of the freshest options. They also have organic options. Again, a warning: Steer clear of the yummy twice-baked potatoes!
- Panera: While there are still some of the old-menu salads present such as the Fuji Apple Chicken Salad, Panera has more recently added some options. Included in the mix is a Power Kale Caesar Salad with Chicken. Even if you are new to the healthy eating world you have almost guaranteed heard about kale. You might not like it, but it is being revered as one of the healthiest and most nutritious leafy greens around. If kale isn’t up your alley try out one of their other salad options (ingredients and calorie counts are listed on their website).
- The Ribeye: The salad bar here offers many options. This is another one of those places that could be a diet death-trap if you select the wrong foods, but to someone who has been eating healthy for a while or who has done their research on clean eating this could allow you to eat with family while still affording you some good options. There are a lot of the previously mentioned creamy salads here. While tasty remember, just because they are on a “salad” bar does not make them healthy.
- Strawberry Fields and Common Ground Food Co-Op: Both of these places are kind of one-stop shops for all health related eating. One can find everything from fresh to frozen foods, baked goods, bulk foods, and supplements. Shopping at these establishments is not always the cheapest; however you might find that the payout over a lifetime of good health might be worth the investment. I like that these two places allow you to purchase pre-made meals (soups, salad bar, frozen meals) to serve on grocery shopping days while your stocking your refrigerator and meal planning for the rest of the week.
- Sushi establishments: There are many options in town (KoFusion, Yellowfin, Sakanaya, Sushi Rock, and Sushi Kame to name a few) to get sushi and sashimi. Obviously ordering rolls with deep fried elements will not be as healthy as ordering them without. However, I always find that when I eat sushi I have an “eyes bigger than my stomach” experience and order way too much because of its filling nature. What I like about sushi establishments is the potential to easily portion control. Ordering one roll and eating it while pondering what your next one will be is fairly common. Thus, a big plate of food is not brought out and sat down in front of you.
- Urbana’s Market at the Square: While most of the other suggestions have been for particular restaurants or types of foods to eat in restaurants this one is a bit different. I like going to the market because of the ability to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, and other food items from local farmers/producers. I like that I can ask questions about the things that I am interested in and get their opinions on how to cook things and use them in different recipes.
What are the places that you like to go to for healthy eats that didn’t make the list?