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They’re filled with seasonal ingredients, but which ones pack hidden calorie bombs? By Melissa Romero
Panera Bread's seasonal salad is a winner, thanks to its vitamin-heavy berries, greens, and protein-rich chicken. Photograph via Panera Bread's Facebook page.

Summer is a great time for the health-conscious crowd, thanks to the abundance of seasonal fruits and vegetables such as berries, peaches, and countless greens. At local lunch spots, you can find summer salads stocked with those refreshing ingredients. But while they may be tasty, some salads contain hidden calorie bombs. We did some sleuthing to find out the nutritional data of four seasonal salads at popular lunch spots. Read on to find out the worst, better, and best options to order this summer.

Worst: Cortez Cobb at Chop’t
Without dressing, this adobo chicken salad is already 610 calories—tack on another 130 when you opt for the Tapatio ranch dressing. There’s also 34 grams of fat and a whopping 500 milligrams of sodium. You’re better off with the chain’s other seasonal salad, the vegetarian Melrose. And remember, the optional tortilla bread adds another 300 calories to your meal. 

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Posted at 11:30 AM/ET, 07/01/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus: Healthier alternatives to order instead. By Melissa Romero
Don't fall into a nutritional trap at Starbucks. Image by Tupungato/Shutterstock.

Starting Tuesday, Starbucks will begin to feature calorie counts on all of its menus, to the simultaneous dismay of frappuccino fans and praise of anti-obesity advocates. Here are some of the coffee chain’s worst offenders*, plus lower-calorie alternatives to order.

Cinnamon Dolce Latte: 270 calories
With 2 percent milk, cinnamon syrup, and whipped cream on top, the espresso drink packs 11 grams of fat. If you order this drink, opting for nonfat milk and no whipped cream will cut 110 calories from this dessert in a cup.

Try instead: The 170-calorie Tazo chai tea latte with soymilk.

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Posted at 10:40 AM/ET, 06/24/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Don’t let a gluten sensitivity keep you from a tasty midday meal. By Melissa Romero
Plenty of popular lunch spots in DC, Maryland, and Virginia offer gluten-free menus, including Cava Mezze Grill. Photograph courtesy of Cava Mezze Grill's Facebook page.

These days it seems like we all know someone who is allergic to gluten. So what’s a considerate friend to do when it’s time for lunch? Good news: Plenty of restaurants offer gluten-free menus or will accommodate most allergies—all you have to do is ask! We did some of the work for you by rounding up some popular lunch spots that are gluten-free friendly. Have another recommendation? Let us know in the comments. 

Baja Fresh 
The DC Celiacs community says Baja Fresh has an extensive list of gluten-free options. Try the tacos with corn tortillas, chicken, and cheese. But stay away from the corn chips, as they’re fried in oil with breaded items.

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Posted at 11:05 AM/ET, 06/10/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
The pizza place offers lots of healthy options, along with a few hidden dangers to watch out for. By Melissa Romero
Matchbox, with five locations in DC, offers plenty of healthy lunch options, including their fire and smoke pizza. Photograph courtesy of Matchbox Restaurant's Facebook page.

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.”

PIZZA

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.

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Posted at 10:30 AM/ET, 05/20/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Healthy lunch options for the eco-conscious, gluten-free, and local-minded eater. By Melissa Romero
Sundevich's food truck relies solely on local businesses for their sandwiches' ingredients. Plenty of other food trucks are also local-minded and eco-friendly. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

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 . . .

Sundevich 
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.

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Posted at 10:05 AM/ET, 05/13/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Sandwiches, Mexican bowls, and salads that are low-calorie but will keep you satisfied through the afternoon. By Melissa Romero
To key to ordering a low-calorie lunch at Qdoba is to avoid the tortilla and opt for a Naked Burrito instead. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user Mr. T in DC.

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.) 

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Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 05/06/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
Rachel Morris, a Whole Foods vegan chef, whips up three options using the salad bar. By Melissa Romero
Navigating the salad bar at Whole Foods Market can be tricky. Vegan chef Rachel Morris says one tip is to avoid any creamy dressings. Photograph courtesy of Whole Foods Market Foggy Bottom's Facebook page.

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. 

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Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 04/29/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
From the best Mediterranean restaurant in Alexandria to a tasty tomato soup in Eastern Market. By Melissa Romero
Fitness instructors in Washington have plenty of favorite places in their neighborhoods to grab quick and healthy lunches. Sweetgreen's salads are a popular choice. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user tedeytan.

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. 

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Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 04/22/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
With such an extensive menu, it’s easy to go wrong at this casual Italian restaurant. By Melissa Romero
Vapiano offers plenty of customizable pizzas, pastas, and paninis. But so many options makes it easy to go wrong at this casual Italian restaurant. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user pr_ip.

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.

PIZZA

Healthiest: Verdure
“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.”

Worst: Americana
Zero veggies and two types of fatty, salty meats? This pie will leave you feeling sluggish all afternoon, says Thomas.

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Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 04/15/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()
One meat- and bread-heavy sandwich won’t do your waistline any favors. By Melissa Romero
Jetties, with four locations in Washington, is a “step above” most delis in terms of nutrition, says dietitian Jennifer Reilly. The Sconset sandwich is a veggie-friendly choice. Photograph courtesy of Jetties' Facebook page.

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.

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Posted at 10:30 AM/ET, 04/08/2013 | Permalink | Comments ()