The Healthiest and Worst Sandwiches and Salads at Juice Joint Café

The veggie-friendly lunch spot still has some pitfalls on its menu.

By: Jazelle Hunt

In an often-polarized city like the District, it’s rare to find anything that can call itself a crowd pleaser, but lunchtime hotspot Juice Joint Café in McPherson Square is exactly that. The Zagat-rated, all-natural eatery has become a cult classic for vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores alike.

And the distinction is well earned, according to registered dietitian Amy Goldsmith. “In general, this is one of the healthier restaurants to choose from. It has great variety of vegetables, lots of alternative protein sources for vegans, and great low-fat options.”

While none of the lunch offerings struck our expert as “bad,” some were better than others. Read on to find out your best bets.

HOT SANDWICHES & WRAPS

• Worst—Grilled chicken pesto: Although it comes on a multigrain bun with arugula and roasted red peppers, Goldsmith says the pesto can be problematic. “Pesto gives you lots of empty calories, and depending on the serving size it could potentially be your day’s worth of sodium.”

• Better—Turkey burger: The description says it’s the “healthy version of the American classic,” but Goldsmith says this ⅓-pound patty is bigger than she’d recommend.

• Best—Firecracker salmon wrap: Seared spicy Atlantic salmon, lettuce, tomato, and mango salsa make for a tasty, simple lunch. Goldsmith says, “It’s a well-rounded meal . . . [there’s] a mix of protein, fiber, fatty acids, and complex carbohydrates. Plus the mango salsa is low-cal, has lots of vitamin C, and gives great flavor without added calories—and it’s [all] low-sodium.”


COLD SANDWICHES & WRAPS

• Worst—When in Rome wrap: “I always avoid anything with Caesar dressing, eggless or not,” Goldsmith says. “It has lots of empty calories and sodium.” Let the record show that this is one of only two sandwiches/wraps that doesn’t contain a vegetable or fruit.

• Better-Fresh mozzarella and roasted veggie sandwich: What could be wrong with a sandwich that’s jam-packed with vegetables such as zucchini and red pepper? “Pay attention to the portion size of the [balsamic] dressing. If it’s more than a few tablespoons, that adds lots of sodium and calories,” our expert explains.

• Best—Holland’s Pocket: This whole-wheat pita stuffed with hummus, spinach, carrots, sprouts, and a sprinkling of lemon juice gets Goldsmith’s top vote. “It’s a great mix of fruit and vegetables, and it’s complemented by a good amount of fiber and protein from the hummus,” she says. “The benefit of pita is that it provides a small portion size than, say, a baguette.”


BONUS—SALADS

If you want a salad instead our expert says that most of the choices are wholesome, but these two salads are your best bets:

• Grilled salmon salad: “It’s relatively low-cal, and I like the lean protein, which adds bulk to any salad,” Goldsmith says, “Plus it’s a great source of fiber and vitamins C and D, which most people are deficient in.”

• Hummus platter: Always-nutritious hummus served with toasted pita and sliced veggies makes for a balanced, satiating lunch. Goldsmith explains, “Though sometimes hummus can be high-calorie depending on how much you eat, it’s a great source of fiber. The veggies, of course, will give you your vitamins and minerals.”

Connect with Amy Goldsmith via her blog, Kindred Nutrition.