When you’re searching for nutritious meals you can grab at Champaign-Urbana restaurants, you have a number of healthy options (beyond just ordering a salad)
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Healthy eating is a term that gets thrown around in a lot of different ways and certainly is relative to each person’s own dietary preferences. At chambanamoms.com, we love sharing local food with you and we’re often asked on our Facebook page for recommendations on where to find healthy meals. For our purposes, we’re happy to bring you a list of restaurants offering dishes that, generally speaking, would strike most people as healthy meals. We also want this list to branch out beyond where to find the best salads in town, though salads are often a healthy choice.
As part of a healthy lifestyle (and a healthy relationship with food), many people will enjoy a meal while dining out that they wouldn’t normally make at home (pizza or burgers, anyone?) But when you’re looking for something that is not smothered in cheese sauce or loaded with sugar, we bring you the following list. This list will include references to meals that may cross over with our “where to eat vegetarian or vegan” list, but it is meant to cover a variety of diets for our purposes.
We also understand and recognize that many Champaign-Urbana restaurants offer a couple options on their menus that would fit the “eating healthy” category. And that you can customize a dish to suit your preferences nearly anywhere you go. So keep that in mind as you read through our picks for nutritiously delicious meals.
Sun Singer is known as one of the best places in C-U to have a glass of wine accompanied by a cheese plate and some fresh bread, but we never have a hard time finding a healthy option on their menu. Their specialty salads are truly amazing (and way better than any kind of salad we’d make at home). If you’re looking for something other than a salad, try the steak wrap (hold the cheese if you want), the black bean burger or chicken breast entree. Their roasted beets make a delicious side, too!
Part of the vision behind Lodgic when it came to the area was that deliciously simple food made with wholesome ingredients would be available in a quick-service atmosphere or traditional sit-down restaurant. And while they are in the Lodgic building, there’s absolutely no need to have a Lodgic membership to dine at either the cafe or restaurant, just like any other dining establishment in town. We love the juice bar at the cafe, as well as their Southwest Shrimp Bowl and Avocado Toast (part of their all-day breakfast). At Everyday Kitchen, try the Hummus of the Day as an appetizer or the Kale, Mushroom, Sausage Flatbread if you’re craving something more pizza-like.
Breakfast and lunch are a piece of cake (ok, not cake) when you walk into Harvest Market. Try something like the Vegetarian Breakfast Bowl or Skinny Stack for breakfast and the delicious Veggie Wrap for lunch. They boast quite the impressive salad bar, too, so we know that if you’re looking for healthy options, you’ll find them at Harvest Market.
We told you we weren’t going to focus on vegetarian/vegan specific options but due to their diverse menu of healthier options, we have to include Dancing Dog, Champaign-Urbana’s sole exclusively vegan restaurant in our area. Yes, they fry things (like the cauliflower pictured below). I think we can all agree that deep fried vegetables are at least somewhat healthier than other fried options you may find at mainstream restaurants. Fryer aside, you will want to try the Chef’s Classic Burger, which is made from quinoa, beet and chickpeas. Every single one of their starters is delicious, too.
With two locations in Champaign-Urbana (at Broadway Food Hall and The Fields in Champaign), King Kuma offers some awesome healthy options. Sushi in general offers plenty of healthy options, but the poke bowl concept offers a different twist on similar ingredients. The California Love or Hawaiiaan Heat creations are just bliss, but if those don’t sound like exactly what you’re looking for, you can create your own, too. Ordering is just like at the old Za’s in town was, with the paper forms when you walk in.
Don’t forget that Common Ground isn’t just a great place to purchase the grocery staples you need for cooking healthy meals at home, but that there’s a great cafe in there, too. You can never go wrong with one of their soups (they even post the menu online so you can see what’s available before you head in). They have an oatmeal bar, too!
Another Urbana gem that you may not think of when you want to grab some healthy food. They have a lot of Middle Eastern dishes on their cafe menu, so you can get your falafel or baba ghanouj while you’re there. If that’s not your favorite type of food, try their salads, available in three different sizes (depending on your appetite and if you plan to share). Our favorite is the Pad Thai salad.
This list would not be complete if we didn’t include a relatively new to C-U chain that popped up on North Prospect in 2018. CoreLife Eatery is entirely structured around the idea that healthy food should be accessible on the go. So you can stop in to grab a huge salad, one of their filling “power plates” or just get cartons of nutritious bone broth to consume at home. You order at the counter (a la Chipotle, another chain we have in town that offers healthy options) and customize your meal to your liking as it’s prepared in front of you. Try something new you’ve never prepared at home next time you’re at CoreLife and take your kids with you, too. Ours love the chicken noodle soup and choose what veggies they want to add to it themselves. Don’t forget to try some beet lemonade!
Finally, make sure you mark your calendars for Market at the Square (May-October) and the periodic Market IN the Square during the off season. While this is different than the rest of the stops on our list, you can load up on all the fresh produce, raw local honey and homemade baked items that your heart desires. Shopping locally and simply are two of our favorite things when it comes to eating healthy, so Market at the Square will have you covered to take your items home to prepare. We do in fact love all the food trucks there, but healthy options are few and far between. If we had to pick one that stands out, it would be Just Bee Acai and their delicious bowls.
As we mentioned above, nearly every restaurant will have at least an item or two on the menu that’s a healthier choice than the others. Here are some of our picks at our favorite dining establishments:
- Hank’s Table, Hummus and Roasted Cauliflower appetizer
- Billy Barooz, Black Bean Burger
- Seven Saints, Salmon Salad
- Farren’s, Black Bean Tacos
- Silvercreek, Portobello Steak (lunch)
- Kofusion, Bi Bim Bob (or several sushi options)
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