The Healthiest and Worst Dishes at Teaism

For once, there’s a vegetarian sandwich here that’s not the most nutritious menu option.
Registered dietitian Wendy Phillips says when ordering a Teaism bento box, choose the less-fatty condiment and nutritious sides, such as cucumber-ginger salad. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user Mr. T in DC.
Registered dietitian Wendy Phillips says when ordering a Teaism bento box, choose the less-fatty condiment and nutritious sides, such as cucumber-ginger salad. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user Mr. T in DC.

In case it wasn’t clear from the name, this small local
chain of teahouse restaurants
offers a curated menu of more than three dozen teas and is all
about the brew. The
health benefits of
tea

have been documented for centuries, but is Teaism’s
Asian-fusion menu a wholesome
complement?

“I think there are a lot of good options here, and the serving sizes seem reasonable,”
says registered dietitian
Wendy Phillips. “There’s a bit of risk of high sodium, but overall there’s a wide variety of vegetables,
and lots of Japanese cuisine is high in fiber and other nutrients.”

Read on for Phillips’s recommendations.

BENTO BOXES

Worst—Handroll bento: This lunch box comes with tea-cured salmon, miso mayonnaise,
nori, cabbage, and rice—none of which are terribly unhealthy. “I love salmon, and
there are two salmon choices [for a bento box],” says Phillips. “But with cured salmon
you lose the health benefits of the protein and omega-3 fatty acids while adding sodium.”
Plus the combo of often-salty miso and always-fatty mayo won’t do your waist any favors.

Best—Salmon bento: The salmon bento box swaps the miso mayo for teriyaki, and includes
edamame and rice with a cucumber-ginger salad. Not only are you getting the full benefits
of salmon, but you’re also getting a less-fatty condiment and equally nutritious sides.

SANDWICHES

Worst—Adzuki vegetarian: “All the sandwiches look really yummy, and they all have
veggies, so it really came down to the bread,” Phillips explains. The Adzuki puts
bean pâté, grilled vegetables, and feta on delicious but calorie-dense ciabatta (and
the turkey and Brie comes on a too-long ficelle).

Best—Vietnamese wrap: A well-built wrap will almost always be a better choice than
a well-built sandwich, simply because there’s less bread, but this wrap is organic
and whole wheat, too. With chicken, cucumber, lettuce, cilantro, and carrots, it offers
a satiating, low-calorie lunch. “Be sure to skip the spicy lime mayo—[the wrap] has
plenty of flavor already,” our expert recommends.

BONUS—OCHAZUKES & SMALL DISHES

Ochazuke is a simple Japanese meal made with rice in green tea soup and assorted toppings.
Teaism adds cilantro, radicchio, cabbage, and carrots, plus your choice of salmon,
pickled plum, or shrimp.

Phillips says, “In general, green tea is a good health choice, as is rice, so [ochazukes] are probably not a bad lunch choice. I’m not sure you’re getting enough toppings
to make a big difference between the bowls, but the pickled plum might be high in
sodium.”

If you’re looking to add on for a larger lunch,
Phillips says the best small dishes
are the brown basmati rice and the edamame. Brown rice is
better for you than white,
but in general, basmati brown rice has fuller flavor and
nutrients than some other
brown grains. And protein-rich
edamame

is a great addition to any meal.

“When I go to dinner with my dietitian friends we always start with that—it’s high
fiber and low sodium,” she says. “If you start with a high-fiber appetizer like edamame
it will give you a fuller feeling so you’ll eat less.”

You can find out more about Wendy Phillips’s work with the University of Virginia’s
Health System on Facebook.

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