Matchbox, with five locations in Washington, is a tasty and reasonably priced lunch option when you need to satisfy your pizza craving. And while there are a few major pitfalls on the menu, registered dietitian Alice Bender says it’s pretty easy to eat on the healthier side here.
“Overall, you can find healthy choices in each category and make a meal that is mostly plant-based—although it’s tough to find any whole grains,” says Bender, the nutrition communications manager at the American Institute for Cancer Research. “With a little thought, you can have a healthy lunch at Matchbox.”
Healthiest: Fire & Smoke
For those who like their meals with some spice, you’re in luck. Bender’s top pizza pick is the “very spicy” Fire & Smoke, thanks to its piles of vegetables. “Cancer-fighting garlic, the nutrient-rich reds, fresh basil, and just one kind of cheese should keep the calories reasonable,” she says.
A while back we featured ten of the healthiest food trucks in DC, with some of our favorites such as TaKorean and Hula Girl making the list. But that was almost a year ago, and since then we’ve deemed plenty more trucks worthy of the list.
For local fare . . .
The Shaw sandwich shop’s food truck relies solely on local businesses for ingredients. Sandwiches are made with baguettes from a local bakery and fixins from local farms. Since the food is so fresh, it runs out quickly, so be sure to get in line early.
Lunch can be tricky—you either eat too little and are starving by 2 PM, or you manage to chew yourself into an afternoon food coma. We’re here to help by rounding up five healthy meals in DC with no more than 500 calories. Many of them are protein- and fiber-heavy so you won’t be left wishing for more.
Sweetgreen’s May Salad = 460 calories
Sweetgreen’s seasonal salad is a berry lover’s dream, with its strawberries and cranberries atop a bed of spinach with feta, sunflower seeds, cucumber, mint, and Champagne vinaigrette. Note: Getting a slice of bread adds 125 calories to this meal. (The mainstay Spicy Sabzi salad is another low-cal option at just 455 calories.)
If you’re lucky enough to work or live near one, Whole Foods Market’s salad bar can be a tasty and healthy lunch option. In fact, plenty of fitness instructors deemed it their go-to meal for a quick lunch in last week’s Lunch Break.
But as with most salad spots that offer make-your-own options, it can be easy to go overboard at Whole Foods. To help us out, we asked vegan chef Rachel Morris to whip up three combinations from ingredients, ranging from total diet busters to ultra-nutritious meals. You can trust her picks, as Morris frequents Whole Foods in Foggy Bottom every month to put on vegetarian cooking demonstrations.
For the past two years our trusty nutrition experts have helped us scour local lunch spots’ menus, finding the healthiest and worst meals to order. We’ve learned which frighteningly fatty salads to stay away from and the healthiest sandwiches to order at our favorite sub shops.
We’re doing something a bit different for this week’s Lunch Break. We love finding out how local health experts eat for a day, so we reached out to local studio owners and Well+Being readers to find out their favorite places to order a quick and healthy meal for lunch in their respective neighborhoods. Read on for their tasty recommendations.
GEORGETOWN: Kafe Leopold, Sweetgreen, Peacock Cafe, Baked and Wired, and Unum
The yoga instructors at Georgetown Yoga have their favorite spots in Georgetown for every meal: breakfast at Kafe Leopold, lunch at Sweetgreen, fresh juice from Peacock Cafe, dessert from Baked and Wired, and a glass of wine (or two!) at Unum.
Vapiano, with six locations in the metro Washington region, prides itself on its European concept of serving made-to-order pizzas, pasta, panini, and salads. But while we dig the casual dining atmosphere, the extensive menu can be pretty overwhelming.
Registered dietitian Carlene Thomas took a gander at the menu and broke down the healthiest and worst pizzas, pastas, and panini to order next time you visit Vapiano. Read on for her suggestions.
“You may actually get a serving of vegetables from this pizza,” thanks to the tomato sauce, roasted veggies, and mushrooms, says Thomas. “The vegetables will provide a ton of sweetness and flavor from the roasting process, leaving your palate satisfied.”
Zero veggies and two types of fatty, salty meats? This pie will leave you feeling sluggish all afternoon, says Thomas.
It’s no wonder Jetties, with locations in Georgetown, downtown DC, Bethesda, and Macomb, is such a beloved institution. Dietitian Jennifer Reilly says it’s a “step above” most delis, thanks to its offering of multigrain bread and almost as many salads as sandwiches.
Still, its menu isn’t perfect. Reilly says most options are very deli-meat heavy, which means they’re high in sodium, too. Fortunately, she scoped out the menu and picked the healthiest item on the menu for us.
WORST: Tom Nevers
With three types of meat (turkey, ham, and bacon), plus mayo and three slices of sourdough, this sandwich doesn’t score many nutritional points. The extra slice of bread “adds more calories of simple fast-acting carbs and zero heart-healthy fiber,” says Reilly.
A few weeks ago we featured 100 Very Best Restaurants pick Cava Mezze in our Lunch Break series. But many of you wanted to know: What about its sister restaurant, Cava Mezze Grill?
Cava Mezze Grill, with locations in Tysons Corner, Bethesda Row, Columbia Heights, Tenleytown, and, most recently, the Mosaic in Merrifield, offers equally delicious Mediterranean food in the form of make-your-own pitas or bowls.
The good news: “It’s really easy to make a healthy dish” here, says Allison Marco, a registered dietitian at Georgetown University. The bad: “It’s easy to get excited about all the ingredients and go overboard.”
Marco navigated the menu so that next time you head to Cava Mezze Grill, you don’t make any diet-derailing mistakes.
The words “healthy” and “burger” don’t often go together, especially when said burger is topped with cheese and fried onion straws on a thick bun. But sometimes you just can’t resist a juicy beefwich. Lucky for all of us, local burger joints are beginning to recognize the need for healthy menu options. We rounded up some of nutrition experts’ top picks for burgers in Washington that you—and your waistline—can feel good about.
The Ahi Tuna Burger at BGR
If you’re watching your weight, try this option from BGR: sushi-grade tuna topped with grilled pineapple and pickled ginger. The tuna provides heart-healthy fats and a wealth of protein.
Sometimes, a restaurant’s premade meals just doesn’t cut it. That’s why we love that lunch spots such as Sweetgreen and Chop’t offer make-your-own salad options. The only problem? There are so many choices it’s easy to go overboard and create a monstrosity of a diet-busting salad.
We combed through the Lunch Break archives to find nutritionists’ past recommendations for what perfect salads they’d create at the following restaurants. Read on for their helpful advice.