Let’s face it – it can be hard to find healthy choices when eating out. The good news is that as more and more people are becoming aware of the effect that nutrition has on overall wellness, so many great restaurants are opening that have a larger emphasis on health without compromising flavor.
As a registered dietitian, I love to find restaurants that focus on the nutritional quality of foods while still being deliciously irresistible! One of my favorite things to see on a menu is balanced items that are packed with micronutrients (aka vitamins and minerals) and in other words are full of a wide variety of vegetables and fruit as well as lean proteins.
Some cities definitely have more options for health-conscious restaurants than others, but there are also many great healthy restaurant chains with locations around the country that you can choose from. Did you also know that restaurants with 20 or more locations are required by law to provide nutrition information on each of their menu options? So feel free to go to restaurants’ websites if you have any questions regarding the specific nutrient contents or allergen information for any of the foods you may be ordering.
Keep reading to learn more about some of my favorite health-conscious restaurant chains around the US!
If I had to pick my favorite of these healthy restaurant chains, it would have to be True Food Kitchen. The menu offers a wide variety of nutrient dense appetizers, meals, and side dishes sourced with seasonal ingredients that you are guaranteed to love!
My go-to is the Teriyaki Quinoa Bowl which has broccoli, rainbow carrots, Bok choy, green peas, snap peas, mushrooms, brown rice, avocado, and toasted sesame seeds (I also usually add the Steelhead trout for some extra protein), but you really can’t go wrong with anything here. The Edamame Dumplings are also to die for and an absolute must-have as a starter (you can thank me later)! For those of you who want to recreate some of your favorite True Foods dishes at home, they even have a cookbook!
I also love the overall aesthetic of True Food Kitchen. Every location is very light and airy with minimalistic, natural décor featuring plants and wooden tables, floors, and walls that ties in flawlessly with the veggie-focused menu.
True Food Kitchen has several locations across 17 states.
I honestly like to try something different on the menu every time I go to Flower Child (mostly because everything sounds so delicious), but the Butternut Squash and Pear salad is definitely one of my favorites! It contains brussels sprouts, arugula, kale, candied pecans, salted ricotta, cranberry, puffed wild rice, and a sherry dressing. You can also add chicken, salmon, steak, shrimp, or tofu to any salad or bowl for some extra protein.
The menu contains a large amount of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free options to help meet your specific dietary needs.
Every location I have been to also has several brightly colored, Instagram and Snapchat-worthy murals, so get ready to take some selfies while you are there!
Located in 10 states across the US as well as the District of Columbia.
I highly recommend the Cedar Plank Roasted Salmon that comes with French green beans, marble potatoes, and a delicious dill-mustard sauce! While some of their most popular dishes are available year-round, several items on the menu rotate throughout the year depending on what foods are in season to ensure that they are using the freshest ingredients possible. Seasons 52 is also very accommodating to dietary restrictions and will even provide a special menu that lists out items for gluten-sensitive, vegetarian, vegan, and lactose/dairy sensitive upon request. One thing I also love about this restaurant is that the desserts are served in small glasses (about 1-2 times the size of a shot glass) to help with portion control.
Compared to the other restaurant chains featured in this article, Season’s 52 has a much more sophisticated vibe and almost has the feel of a steakhouse but slightly more casual. You can definitely get by wearing jeans and a nice t-shirt, but you could also go here if you are wanting to dress up a little bit too.
Seasons 52 is in 21 states across the US.
This is one of my favorite places to go for quick and easy, convenient, healthy food. All of Snap Kitchen’s food is pre-cooked and simply needs to be heated up in the microwave or oven before you can dig in and enjoy! Everything is also gluten free and clearly labeled as vegetarian/vegan, seafood, poultry, or red meat based to make it easy to find meals that fit your dietary needs. They even have a registered dietitian on their team that works with the chefs to prepare recipes with the utmost nutritional value! Another great thing about Snap Kitchen is that you can sign up for customizable meal plans that you can pick up in-store or have delivered right to your home. This is a great option for people who are crunched for time and want to have healthy meals without taking the time to prepare them.
I actually worked at one of the Snap Kitchen retail locations back when I was in college studying nutrition, which is why I can say with confidence that they really are doing a great job at helping make healthy, delicious meals easy and accessible. I highly recommend the Almond Crusted Salmon with Roasted Carrots and Zucchini, but the Bison Quinoa Bowl is probably the most popular item on the menu.
Snap Kitchen has store-front locations throughout the Austin, Dallas, and Houston regions and is also available at several Whole Foods grocery stores in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Arizona. They can also ship to many states in the US if you order online or through the app.
Zoey’s Kitchen is a great Mediterranean-style restaurant chain with a large menu full of delicious items. Did you know that the Mediterranean Diet is actually considered the healthiest dietary pattern to follow? I always have a hard time deciding what to get at Zoe’s Kitchen because everything sounds so great, but some of my favorite items are the Harissa Salmon Pita and the Power Grain Bowl. The Mediterranean Lentil Soup is also a great comfort-food option.
This restaurant is a great option if you are wanting a casual dining-out option with tasty, nutritious meals. Zoe’s Kitchen also offers a catering option that is great for small or large groups!
Zoe’s Kitchen has over 250 locations across the United States.
CAVA is a Mediterranean restaurant chain that allows you to build your own salad, bowl, or wrap using a wide range of ingredients. You first select your base, then choose if you want any dips or spreads, and select your choice of protein, toppings, and dressings. My favorite thing to get here is a bowl with black lentils, roasted eggplant, hummus, roasted vegetables, shredded romaine lettuce, pickled onions, and crumbled feta. You can even find some of their pre-made dips, sauces, and spreads at various retail stores such as Whole Foods, Central Market, and more.
Another reason I love supporting CAVA is that they have partnered with several non-profit organizations to help provide access to healthy food and educate people about nutrition and gardening to various communities across the country. Go to their website to learn more about these organizations and the amazing things they are doing.
CAVA is located in 16 states across the country.
Chipotle is one of my main go-to places when I am needing something fast and easy. Like CAVA, chipotle is also a build-your-own meal style restaurant but with a Mexican flare. I have been getting the bowl with sofritas (tofu), black beans, fajita veggies, guacamole, romaine lettuce, and cheese for years, and my order never varies because it is just so good! Keep in mind that the chips may be delicious, but going overboard can double your calorie intake for the meal while offering very little nutritional value in exchange. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have them… Just remember that moderation is key.
Chipotle has multiple locations in 49 states in the US plus a few locations in Canada and the UK.
About the Author – Annie Cavalier, MS, RDN, LD
Annie Cavalier is a clinical registered dietitian who works at one of the largest hospitals in Dallas, Texas. She attended the University of Texas at Austin for her bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics and received her master’s degree in nutrition from Texas Woman’s University. A foodie at heart, Annie believes that healthy food does not have to be bland or boring, and instead focuses on foods that are full of flavor as well as nutrients.
Annie runs her own nutrition and lifestyle website, My Healthful Life, which she plans to grow into a private practice. In addition to writing articles for her own website, Annie has also written for the National Breast Cancer Foundation, the University of Texas Department of Kinesiology’s Fitness Institute of Texas, Southern Dallas Magazine, and more.
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