New Year's celebrations are behind us, leaving only the resolutions to eat better and get fit. Don't worry, we're here to help. This week – Healthy Living Week, brought to you by The Milwaukee Y – we will focus on articles and information about exercise, eating right and staying healthy in a variety of ways.
It's estimated that the average consumer spends 48 percent of his or her food budget at restaurants. In fact, according to the National Restaurant Association, the average adult buys a meal or snack from a restaurant 5.8 times per week. That’s quite a bit, adding up to nearly a third of the meals consumed in a week.
But since bodies eventually grow weary of heavy, fried foods and cream-soaked entrees (and eating those options frequently is sure to catch up with your waistline), it pays to vary the type of food you order when you dine out. While you can find healthy dishes at just about any restaurant in town simply by applying a keen eye to the menu (and potentially making a substitution or two), here are eight spots where it’s easy to find fare that’s lighter, healthier and still completely delicious.
Bonus points if you tell us about your favorite healthy dishes at area restaurants in the TalkBack section.
1. Baba Ghanouj
Middle Eastern can be a good choice for healthier fare, especially if you stick with grilled meats or vegetable-based options. Baba Ghanouj, 1888 N. Humboldt Ave., offers a small but delicious menu of salads, sandwiches and entrees that are great for lunch or dinner. The well seasoned chicken tawook ($12.99) features grilled marinated chicken breast with tomatoes and onions, served with salad, rice, tahini sauce and pita bread. Or opt for a tabouli salad ($5.49) with a side of hummus or baba ghanouj ($6.50).
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
"Beans," 1901 E. North Ave., has been an East side staple for years for both the vegetarian crowd and anyone who wants a dose of healthier scratch-made dishes. The large menu has plenty from which to choose, including smoothies, salads, sandwiches and lightened up entrees. The chili is always a great choice; it’s vegetarian, but oh-so-flavorful, and it will only set you back $4 for a bowl. For $10 you can get a filling stir fry with crisp-cooked fresh vegetables and your choice of spicy, ginger or Thai style curry sauce. The dish is served over brown rice or Wah King noodles and topped with sesame seeds. Need a bit of meat? Add skinless chicken breast for $4.
Hours: Sunday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Start your day off with a cayenne avocado chocolate smoothie at the Beerline Cafe, 2076 N. Commerce St., and you won’t feel at all like you’re counting calories or depriving yourself. For a healthy lunch, try the Asian spring roll cromelette (a thin omelette made in a panini press) featuring peanut sauced Napa cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots, cukes, and jalapenos ($6.45).
And Beerline doesn’t need to be a breakfast/lunch only spot. You can easily grab a bite for happy hour. Try the avocado hummus dip ($3.95) with a glass of tap wine for starters. For dinner, try one of the savory crepes like the acorn ($7.95) are hearty and comforting with squash puree, portobello mushroom and toasted pecans.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday.
There’s plenty to choose from at Colour Palate, a nice downtown lunch option located at 789 N. Water St. Opt for salads or wraps – either ordered off the menu or completely customized. Ingredients include a variety of grilled-to-order meats, vegetables (including choices like brussels sprouts, fennel and fire roasted sweet potatoes), grains, greens, cheese and dressings. And pricing is fair. Grab a customized petite salad or wrap with a side of soup for just $9.50.
Hours: Monday through Friday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Grabbing lunch at this quaint Walker’s Point cafe at 839 W. National Ave. couldn’t be easier, or healthier. Opt for the grilled portobello mushroom sandwich ($9) with provolone, red onion, spinach and avocado on a toasted kaiser with Dijon mayo. Or get one of your servings of heart healthy fish in with their lemon caper tuna steak salad ($10) featuring sesame crusted tuna steak, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, red onion and goat cheese on mixed greens with lemon caper dressing. Need a warm up? Opt for the soup of the day ($4/$6).
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
What started out as a smoothie haven is now a full fledged cafe with locations on the East side, in Bay View and downtown inside the Milwaukee Athletic Club. It’s also a spot where you can grab a healthy meal seven days a week. Grab a smoothie for breakfast on the go. Or head over for a delicious lunch. I’d recommend the stuffed avocado or pepper halves filled with chicken, black beans, corn salsa and Cheddar ($12.50; includes a smoothie and side).
Hours: Monday through Friday 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
7. Rice n Roll
Sushi is generally a pretty safe bet when you’re counting calories (provided you avoid the tempura and fried items). At Rice n Roll, 1952 N. Farwell Ave., you can get yours with brown rice for an upcharge of $1.25. Add a mineral- vitamin c- and protein-packed seaweed salad for $4.25. Or keep it simple and fresh, while getting your daily does of Omega 3, by ordering salmon with a side of vegetables for 13.95. Need healthy in the comfort of your own home? Opt for delivery or carry out.
Hours: Monday 4:30 to 10 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4:30 to 10:30 p.m.; Sunday from 12:30 to 9:30 p.m.
8. Simple Cafe
The brilliance of Simple Cafe, 2124 N. Farwell Ave., is that some dishes are … well, just simply delicious. You can easily get your fill with Simple Cafe’s blackened chicken avocado sandwich ($9.95), which comes with avocado, grilled red onions, fontina, mixed greens and cilantro lime aioli on a toasted ciabatta bun. Meanwhile, the turkey burger ($9.75) pulls flavor from cranberry chutney along with fontina, onions and greens. Grab a cup of butternut squash soup ($3.95/4.95) for a warming vegetable based option.
Hours: Monday through Friday 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.