The Healthiest and Worst Dishes at Teaism

For once, there’s a vegetarian sandwich here that’s not the most nutritious menu option.

By: Jazelle Hunt

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.