By Chelsea Gloeckner OnMilwaukee contributor Published Dec 19, 2018 at 4:00 PM

When you consistently have work lunches or are constantly eating out, it can be very challenging to eat healthfully.  

You want a lunch that makes you feel good, gives you energy and fills you up, but you don’t want to be weighed down by food that causes weight gain and health issues down the road.

We've already discussed how to build a better lunch at the Milwaukee Public Market and in East Town, passing along tips and tricks for ordering a healthy lunch on the go or when taking coworkers and clients out for a meal. Now it's off to the Lower East Side, another awesome area in Milwaukee to explore vegan, vegetarian and ethnic cuisines. 

When building a better lunch, look for a balance of lean protein, healthy fats (avocado, olives, nuts and seeds) and lots of seasonal veggies. This balance will keep you satisfied and give you the nutrients you need for a healthy day.

1. Comet Cafe
1947 N. Farwell Ave.

It can be difficult to find brunch spots that have several vegan options, but Comet Cafe has numerous menu items that are plant-based and on the healthier side.  Brunch is even served until 3 p.m., so you have time to get your fix.

Try the Frankie Scramble (tofu, blistered peppers, mushrooms, collard greens, veggie sausage and hash browns) for a protein and veggie-packed breakfast. The avocado toast is not just any avocado toast, either; they top it with cucumbers and sesame yogurt. Order a fruit bowl on the side for a complete and balanced meal.

2. Simple Cafe
2124 N. Farwell Ave.

Don’t you love when breakfast is served all day? Simple Cafe serves up breakfast tacos (tofu chorizo, eggs, cilantro, salsa verde and shaved radish on corn tortillas) that is sure to fill you up.  

If you do order a lunch item (served after 11 a.m.), try the roasted squash grain bowl (roasted squash, seasonal veggies, bulgar, quinoa, cranberries and mixed greens) for a nice balance of protein, vegetables and ancient grains.

3. Beans and Barley
1901 E. North Ave.

Beans and Barley has numerous healthy vegetarian dishes that are sure to please!  Fajitas are an excellent way to load up on vegetables – plus you can add tofu to your stir fry for extra protein. Ask for corn tortillas if you are gluten-free.  

Another veggie-centered entrée is the vegetable stir fry, where you can choose either the spicy ginger sauce or curry coconut sauce. Which would you choose?

4. Celesta
1978 N. Farwell Ave.

Celesta serves house-made vegan cuisine with the mission of serving vegans and non-vegans alike.  

The niçoise salad (lettuce, haricot vert, tomatoes, potatoes, kalamata olives and chickpea salad) is packed with healthy fats and protein to keep you full and satisfied.  

It’s hard to find vegetarian or vegan ramen, but Celesta makes their ramen with sunflower seed broth, noodles, house made five-spice tofu, bok choy, tomato, corn and pickled shiitake. Wow!

5. Rice N Roll
1952 N. Farwell Ave.

Sushi bars and Thai restaurants offer numerous options for nutritious, plant-based meals. The key is to avoid the fried options (tempura, fried rice, rangoons and potstickers) and stick to options described as "fresh" and "steamed." 

At Rice N Roll, you can request sushi to be made with brown rice, which has more protein and fiber, and won’t turn to pure sugar in your system.  

Look for sushi with avocado, vegetables and seafood items without the mayo or cream cheese. The vegetable roll, spicy salmon roll or futo roll (featuring tamago – which is egg – cucumber, avocado, asparagus and carrot) made with brown rice are excellent lunch choices that will power you up for post-meal work!

Chelsea Gloeckner OnMilwaukee contributor

Chelsea Gloeckner, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and the founder of VICTAE, a nutrition coaching business helping athletes and professionals reach their dreams and goals through practical and proper fueling.

In her life and here content, Chelsea combines her love of nutrition, science, and food to provide a fresh perspective on how to live a full and vibrant life.