Dining out in South Florida means anything goes. We have a melting pot of cuisine to choose from and all the gastropubs you could wish for. But while it's certainly not the epicenter of healthy eating as it is with cities like Los Angeles or Portland -- nor does it have the variety of Chicago and New York City -- what we do have offers a fairly good spread.
So what to do if you're craving a heaping dinner-sized salad, a medley of fresh veggies, diet-friendly sushi, or satisfying soup? There are -- luckily -- a number of options available in the area that still cater to the health-conscious eater.
Whether your idea of healthy is a plate of homemade hummus with a local brew, a raw kale salad with Brussels sprouts, or a seafood charcuterie plate, you'll find something that fits your diet (and budget) at any of these Broward or Palm Beach eateries.
10. Riverside Market
Even if beer isn't exactly on your diet menu (or anyone's diet menu, for that matter), the food you can find at this craft beer bar and casual eatery, Riverside Market, can be. The next time you want a light and easy meal -- and a brew to wash it down -- why not pair a gluten-free New Planet pale ale with the market's own house-made hummus platter? Flavors include garlic, roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomato, and a spicy jalapeño version. And although it's traditionally served with baked pita chips, you can opt for a healthy substitute of sliced carrots, celery, and cucumbers.
Adding to the quickly growing roster of health-conscious eateries in Broward and Palm Beach counties, Green Spot Kitchen serves a selection of gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, dairy-free (and meat) dishes to the locals. Their best customers: members of the local gym, families looking for a healthy meal, and hospital patients and staff at nearby Holy Cross hospital. Here, picks like free-range chicken and bison are used in soups and tacos; the achiote chicken chop is a huge hit; and the kale "bison-wich" -- an eight-ounce patty served between multigrain Ezekiel sprout bread. Vegan options include dishes like the vegetable ceviche tacos and artichoke fries. If you want the healthy kick to last longer than your lunch, the eatery also offers meal plans in all shapes and sizes to help you stay on track.
8. Del Frisco's Grille
When it comes to eating and drinking, it's usually the drinking that packs on the nutrient-void calories. But it doesn't have to be that way. This year, it's going to be a lot easier to find a tasty, high-quantity beverage without getting packing on the pounds. Look for restaurants like Del Frisco's Grille of Palm Beach, which offers two low-calorie specialty cocktails on its menu: the Skinny Cosmo and the Margarita 160. Pair either with the restaurant's kale and Brussels sprout salad, made complete with roasted Marcona almonds, dried cranberries, orange, and shaved Manchego with a Creole mustard vinaigrette.
Nothing says "healthy" quite like sushi. Not only is it tasty but it can also be -- depending on how you order it -- a low-calorie option in the shape of a mini square meal. You've got vinegar-infused steamed white rice (to slow digestion), raw fish (tons of omega-3-enriched protein), seaweed (green power superfood), and if you're going American-style, throw in some veggies like cucumber and avocado (not so bad, right?). Right now, the place to score the best rolls is at Chow, where you can find rolls that fit any dietary requirement. Cooked or raw, you'll be satisfied. Their sashimi tower is a good choice, a combination of raw salmon, cucumber, avocado, mango, and seaweed salad stacked high between crispy sheets of wonton.
South Florida is into juicing, shops popping up here and there touting the benefits of fresh-pressed vegetables and fruits. In Fort Lauderdale, Myapapaya Juicery + Kitchen has led the charge, offering the city's first cold-pressed juicery and kitchen. The owner, a former private chef, creates a number of juices as well as dishes that are vegan -- or gluten- and dairy-free. The menu also offers a variety of vegetarian, vegan, and all-natural sandwiches, salads, and soups. Try the pitaya bowl: blended pitaya (dragonfruit), banana, and almond butter topped with banana, pineapple, granola, coco-fig energy crumbles, plump goji berries, coconut ribbons, and bee pollen. If that's not enough to get you on a healthy kick, we don't know what is.
A new establishment, QBar Burgers & Blues can help you keep your figure with more than healthy fare. The all-day jazz spot from the owner and chef of nearby Sage French Cafe is also the perfect place to dance the night away (calorie-torching exercise, anyone?) Pair that with the restaurant's own beet and goat cheese salad and you have yourself a winning -- and slimming -- combination. The dish is served with arugula, cherry tomatoes, and a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar for a simple, healthy, and satisfying meal.
4. Green Wave
These days, newfangled diets are everywhere. The go-to's are simple: vegetarian, vegan, and raw foodists. Today, this food philosophy continues to grow in popularity -- even here in South Florida. And thanks to Green Wave Café in Plantation, it shows us that even uncooked fare (when done right) can taste awesome. This organic kitchen and market serves vegetarian and vegan lunches by chef Lisa Valle, whose menu changes daily. Grab a seat at the wide orange tables or long countertop and order some lettuce-wrap tacos with walnut and sun-dried tomato pâté. Each plate costs around $15 and includes daily-made soup, the only non-raw item on the menu (the vegetarian bean is remarkably bold and, well, meaty). Even better: Valle and crew teach free classes on raw food at night, with a monthly schedule posted on the website. Sign up and see just how good raw ice cream can taste.
3. Fresh First
Fresh First is Fort Lauderdale's first place to earn the recognition of "Great Kitchen" by National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), and it caters to diets and lifestyles of all shapes and sizes. Owned by mother/daughter team Mary and Francesca Siragusa, the restaurant offers a wide variety of organic fare ranging from vegan and vegetarian to wild-caught fish to free-range chicken. Everything in the spot is gluten-, corn-, and peanut-free as well as non-GMO. The menu spans from meat-based dishes like the mushroom turkey burger with local mozzarella to raw zucchini puttanesca with sprouted garbanzo beans, sprouted lentils, cherry tomatoes, red pepper, kalamata olives, and scallions in a garlic lemon sauce to macaroni and cheese. Vegan chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
2. PB Catch
When it comes to Palm Beach, quality always comes first. The most important thing after that: the health factor. If it's not good for you -- and your waistline -- it may not be good enough to splurge on either. Luckily, you can do both at PB Catch, which offers executive chef Aaron Black's own take on charcuterie. In addition to all that fresh-caught fish, you can also find a specialty item served nowhere else in South Florida. Black has actually trademarked his own "seacuterie," which is inspired by the popular concept of charcuterie, but instead of cured meats, it is centered on the idea of presenting cured fish and sea delicacies together on a dish with garnishes and condiments. Right now, this island establishment bills itself as the first and only to offer a plate of raw fish inspired by the popular trend. A choice of three or six (or an extra five for $5 more) will cost you anywhere from $16 to $29.
See also: Ten Best Sandwiches in Broward County
Let's get serious. If you really want to eat healthy, the best way to do that is to work with the pros. In South Florida, that can mean only one thing: DeliverLean, a local company that has taken healthy meal delivery to the next level. (While this isn't technically a restaurant, it's delicious, healthy, ready-made food you don't have to cook yourself.) The company brings together experts in diet and nutrition, culinary arts, and customer service to offer affordable, healthy meals hand-delivered straight to clients' homes or offices for around $8 per day. Established in September 2011 by health-conscious foodies and savvy business professionals Scott Harris and Olga Kuzenkov, they duo built their business on the idea of helping people save both time and energy in their goal to get nutritious and delicious food. Today, standout menu items prepared by these five-star chefs include shrimp puttanesca with asparagus, gluten-free turkey lasagna with zucchini and squash, grilled chicken caesar salad, stuffed eggplant, and cherry chipotle-glazed chicken with cilantro polenta cakes and sautéed carrots. Each meal is packed with lean protein, fresh vegetables, and complex carbohydrates full of vitamins and nutrients, giving customers the energy needed to tackle a busy day. All menus are approved by licensed and registered dietitians who work onsite, and all menus are additive-free, sugar-free, dairy-free, and low-sodium, providing the best fuel for clients' bodies. Now, if you don't mind us saying so, that seems like the perfect way to get a healthy start to 2015.
Nicole Danna is a food blogger covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.
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