Healthy Restaurant Options

Following is a guest post by Kelsey Duke.  She offers some practical advise for eating out and still eating healthy — not always easy!  As she lives in the DC area, she highlights some DC restaurants.  Here in the Seacoast of New Hampshire, some of my favorites are Blue Moon Evolution and Good Karma Cafe both in Exeter, NH.  What are some health conscious restaurants in your area?

Eating Healthy when Dining Out

Eating at restaurants is an acquired skill. As a publicist for restaurants, I eat out often, which as you can imagine can derail even the most dedicated healthy eater (former vegan here) and cause some serious stress. But there is hope! Common sense says to avoid the fried foods, look for salads and greens, and don’t touch the complementary bread or tortilla chips. But beyond that, restaurants are consciously changing menus to please the more aware consumer.  This past year in food, kale, quinoa and sprouted grains popped up on menus everywhere. Here’s a few other trends that provide hope for the future:

quincenera saladCalorie counts

Recently, some parts of the country have started requiring restaurants to list calorie counts next to menu items. Amongst average diners the general consensus is still, “I don’t want to know.” However, whether they mean to our not, people are choosing healthier options. Dallas Tex-Mex favorite Mi Cocina recently opened a restaurant in Chevy Chase, MD, where they were required by law, for the first time to list calories on menus. “It’s amazing, our biggest sellers in that location are the quinceñera salad (pictured at left)  and the vegetable tamales, which is different from the best selling items in Dallas stores,” says Heather Hancock, Director of Sales and Marketing for Mi Cocina.

Smaller portions:

Here in DC, small portions are a big trend. Don’t expect to save money on these but you may save some room in your stomach. Famed restaurateur vegetable tamalesJosé Andrés has several restaurants serving Spanish or Mexican style tapas (worlds of difference between the two). Dim Sum is also becoming ever more popular, a style of Cantonese food prepared as bite-sized or individual portions and traditionally served on small plates or in small steamer baskets (pictured right).

Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free options:

With food allergies on the rise (warning sign anyone? Maybe the FDA can explain this but they probably will not tell the public, but I digress), restaurants have started to provide several options for picky diners, on and sometimes off the menu. In Washington DC’s renowned restaurant and wine bar, Ripple, Executive Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley says of her menu, which changes daily, “I am always sure to keep healthy gluten-free dishes on the menu. I try to do a gluten-free fish option and a meat option as well.”

The other day I went to a restaurant that serves beer, bourbon, and barbeque exclusively, and to my surprise and absolute delight, they had vegan wings, vegan ribs, and BBQ tofu tacos on the menu! Though several veg-friendly restaurants have popped up in the area (my favorite in DC has to be Busboys & Poets), if you can’t find one near you, stick to non-American cuisines like Indian, Chinese, and Vietnamese, which always have several vegetarian options.  America should catch up soon, maybe owhen the government isn’t as full of Monsanto emplyees… and there I go again.

I’d love to hear some of some of your favorite restaurants that offer healthy (maybe even vegetarian and vegan) options!


  1. Gary O. says:

    The comments of the original blogger and her guests are fascinating. I find the writings to be insightful, easy-to-understand, and very informative. I have to admit that it is VERY hard to resist good bread. You know what I mean…the crusty on the outside/gooey on the inside bread globbed with Land-O-Lakes rich creamery butter inside! But, in the name of good health, I will do my best to no longer eat as much of this fantastic bread as I can. (FYI, I do feel a certain loyalty to the bakers of the world…as that was my first paying job as a kid). Keep up the great writing!

    • Well if you can find that delicious crispy and gooey bread baked from whole grains, and maybe just a little butter from grass fed cows you will be onto something!

  2. Having so many intolerances myself, I really appreciate the changes being made. Unfortunately my intolerances are not the garden variety, such as gluten or dairy, but its a step in the right direction.

  3. Yes, many thanks to Ripple for having gluten free options. Good article, also.

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