DGS Delicatessen in Dupont Circle is a welcome reminder of DC’s mom-and-pop-style grocery stores. The deli pays homage to the many Jewish immigrants who owned and nurtured these community hubs and brought their home cooking to the masses.
Today delis have become an American staple, but can DGS’s artisanal offerings be a healthy lunchtime staple?
Registered dietitian Joni Rampolla says, “Their menu—and any Jewish deli menu—is usually a high-salt, high-fat menu. They tend to brine things, smoke things, pickle things, whether it’s a vegetable or a meat. If you’re on a heart healthy diet, it’s not the place to visit.”
Read on to find out how to try this new spot without blowing your healthy diet.
Worst—Corned beef Reuben: “Corned beef is one of the highest-fat meats they cook, and it’s soaked in a salt bath,” Rampolla explains. The meat contains five grams of fat (two saturated) per ounce of meat. The Emmentaler (also known as Swiss cheese) and Russian dressing pile on the cholesterol, as well.
Ah, the sandwich. The beauty of this lunchtime staple is that the possibilities are endless, and DC’s options run the gamut from the usual national chains to artisanal combinations of unusual ingredients.
We rounded up some of the healthiest sandwich options around town so you can order guilt-free. (With Thanksgiving around the corner, your waistline will appreciate it.)
• Cosí’s fire-roasted veggie: Opt for wheat bread to encase your roasted seasonal vegetables—red and yellow peppers, eggplant, zucchini, artichoke hearts, and more—and you’ll get the most nutritional bang for your buck. At just 350 calories, 291 milligrams of sodium, and 12 grams of protein, it’s modest enough that you can probably afford to splurge elsewhere in your diet.
Veteran chain Marvelous Market has served wholesome, made-from-scratch lunches, breads, and pastries at a quick-service pace for more than 20 years.
For the most part, the menu is what it seems. Registered dietitian Kay Loughrey says, “It looks very wholesome and tasty, but as with many places, it seems like the portion sizes are very large.”
Marvelous Market doesn’t offer nutrition information, so read on for Loughrey’s analysis.
• Worst—Marvelous club: This triple-decker sourdough sandwich offers smoked turkey, bacon, chipotle mayo, lettuce, tomato, Havarti, and way too many calories. “Bread is the number-two source of calories in the US,” our expert points out. “We are obese because our portions have been supersized and we are eating way too much bread.” Plus the bacon and Havarti are a saturated fat hazard. The South Street hoagie was a close runner-up.
The country’s top Mexican chain restaurants have all seen fit to call Washington home—and while that means more options for cilantro-laden goodness, it also means more opportunities to make poor meal choices. Check out our roundup of the healthiest eats at Baja Fresh, California Tortilla, Chipotle, Lime Fresh, and Qdoba, and stay on track no matter where you go.>
• Burrito bowl with steak or chicken, brown rice, black beans, fajita veggies, guacamole, and green salsa: Skipping the tortilla is one of the best shortcuts to healthy eats. This burrito bowl is a solid 510 calories, 17 grams of fat, and an impressive 22 grams of fiber. Just remember to go easy on the guac—although this type of fat is good for you, it’s still fat.
• Salad, with lettuce, chicken or steak, black beans, fajita vegetables, and green salsa on the side: Without the salsa, it’s a light 340 calories, 41 grams of protein, 13 grams of fiber, and 795 milligrams of sodium—an ounce of salsa adds 15 calories and 115 milligrams of sodium to your meal. Add a little guacamole if you’re concerned about staying full.
The African/Portuguese eats at Nano’s Peri-Peri are boldly flavored and filling. Nando’s serving style is a bit different: You order your chicken by size and level of heat, and it’s grilled to order, then paired with your choice of sides. You can also opt for a sandwich, wrap, pita, or even a salad if you want a lighter lunch.
Nando’s signature chicken is carefully chosen, trimmed of fat, marinated in peri-peri chili sauce, butterfly cut, and grilled over an open flame (plus it can be ordered skinless). But does all this attention to detail make for healthier food?
Registered dietitian Allison Marco says, “Overall they have some good options, and with the chicken they do a good job of trimming the fat. It’s basted, grilled, and maybe more healthily prepared than most fast food restaurants. But there should probably be more vegetables on the menu.”
Read on for her breakdown of the offerings.
SANDWICHES, WRAPS, AND PITAS
• Worst—Steak sandwich AND double chicken breast sandwich: The steak sandwich offers 659 calories (almost half from fat) and 33 grams of fat (11 saturated). “Eleven grams of saturated fat is almost as much as what’s recommended for a day,” Marco says. A double chicken breast sandwich doesn’t sound so threatening, but 1,660 milligrams of sodium is definitely a red flag.
Washington is still enjoying a long-term love affair with Cleveland Park’s 2 Amys, which opened in 2001. The restaurant has made both our 100 Best Restaurants and Cheap Eats lists for several years running. So it’s only right we had registered dietitian Diane Welland check out the menu to see if 2 Amys is as good for our bodies as it is for our taste buds.
“The menu is pretty good, it has lots of interesting choices and toppings,” she says. “I’m glad to see greenery like arugula and rapini. They don’t load on toppings the way we usually do; they take an Italian approach, which keeps calories low.”
Read on for her breakdown of the straightforward menu.
• Worst—Norcia and stuffed pizzes: Welland’s main complaint with this pizza is the salami, which comes in slices. “Salami is a high-fat, high-calorie, and high-sodium meat, so it’s not good that it comes in whole slices. Plus there are two types of cheese, which adds lots of saturated fat and calories.” The tomato and grilled peppers can’t save this. And you should generally stay away from the stuffed pizze—just one slice of the Ripieno extra delivers more cheese and processed meats than you should eat at once.
One of the perks of being a Washingtonian is the luxury of lunch choices—you can find something to sate almost any craving. If the clock is creeping toward lunchtime and you’re not quite sure what you want, we’ve compiled a handy little guide to healthy lunches nearby that might help you make your decision. Check out a few of our past picks below.
• Sweetgreen’s Curry Gold: This well-rounded option offers healthy fats from almonds, a good amount of carbs for fuel, and satiating fiber. This option is just 395 calories, 12 grams of fat (only 1.5 saturated), 650 milligrams, and 27 grams of protein. It also features nutrient-rich beets and cranberries.
• Chop’t’s Palm Beach: In addition to lean protein from shrimp, the salad packs exceptional “choppings” such as hearts of palm and avocado. And with 12 grams of fiber, it can carry you all the way to dinner.
The Chicago-based Protein Bar is a quick-service health-food restaurant with a focus on high-protein meals to fuel busy city folk. It uses organic, humanely raised ingredients and offers vegan and vegetarian options that are rich in nutrients—and taste good to boot.
This summer, the eatery brought its mission of “providing active, on-the-go people with healthy, flavorful choices while having a positive impact” to the District (and one coming soon to Ballston).
We asked registered dietitian Desiree Stapley to verify whether the menu would have a positive impact on our well-being.
“Overall, the restaurant has lovely and unusual ingredients like chickpeas, olives, and quinoa,” she says, adding that quinoa is one of her favorite foods. But she did have a few reservations upon examining the menu closely. Check out her guidelines below.
• Worst—Buffalo bar-rito: Although high in protein, a decent source of fiber, and probably very tasty, this lunch will cost you 559 calories, 25 grams of fat (9 saturated), and a whopping 1,774 milligrams of sodium. “Of all the bar-ritos, this one has the most saturated fat,” Stapley explains, adding that the sodium level is way over the limit for those with high blood pressure or sodium-related concerns.
Naked Pizza is a rare breed: an international yet small chain that cooks like a local shop. Its menu is stripped of chemicals and harmful additives, the sauces contain no added sugar, and the mozzarella is made from skim milk. The crust is a fiber-rich prebiotic mixture of ten seeds and grains, and is fortified with additional probiotics to foster digestive health—plus it contains no sugar or butter and can be ordered gluten-free.
“The dough is healthier, the cheese is skim mozzarella so it helps lower fat naturally, and there’s lots of topping options for a nice variety,” says registered dietitian Amy Mentrikoski. “I’m interested to see how it tastes—a lot of pizza places don’t offer these things.”
Naked doesn’t have locations in the District (yet), but its four Maryland and Northern Virginia locations (soon to be five with one opening in Ballston this week) have become a popular place to grab a slice. Check out our expert’s picks to help you make the most of Naked’s menu.
• Farmvil: This carnivore-pleaser offers pepperoni, sausage, hamburger, ham, and not a single vegetable—and the smallest size has nearly 1,000 calories. “It’s very high sodium and high fat, especially saturated fat, because it includes a lot of cured meats,” Mentrikoski explains. “It’s definitely more sodium and fat than one should consume in one day.”
Washington offers a sea of sandwiches shops, so it’s an easy option for your midday meal. But NYC transplant Devon & Blakely, which has four locations in the District, distinguishes itself from the pack by focusing on super-convenient delivery service. More important, the chain offers wholesome ingredients for straightforward, simple sandwiches, which earns it props from this week’s registered dietitian Kendra Glassman.
“I think there are a lot of healthy options, and it’s easy for people to customize,” Glassman says. “I want to eat here!”
While the chain doesn’t post nutrition facts, Glassman was able to provide insight on some of Devon & Blakely’s many items. Read on for her rundown.
• Worst—Pressed Cuban: “‘Cuban sandwich’ is usually a keyword for ‘high calorie, high fat,’” Glassman says. “And the ham, Swiss, and pickles are all high in sodium, which is a concern for a lot of people.”
• Better—Roasted turkey: With Brie, cranberry chutney, arugula, and sweet onion on a pumpernickel baguette, this is a tasty, decent option. Improve it by asking for less Brie (which adds calories from fat) and keeping the sugary chutney on the side.