In our Lunch Break series we’ve looked at national chains, local institutions, and scrappy startups alike. Although plenty of options have been explored, we’ve thus far neglected some of our area’s favorite eats: food trucks. According to Food Truck Fiesta, there are more than 100 food trucks serving the District alone, and many more aspiring lunch-mobiles on the horizon. With trucks offering everything from artisanal popsicles to Maine lobster, there are countless options for both nutrition and indulgence.
To help you eat well at these rolling restaurants, we’ll be slipping them into our weekly series one by one. In the meantime, we’ve enlisted the help of Rebecca Stogsdill, RD, LDN, to recommend ten of the healthiest food trucks in DC.
“Some may not see food trucks as healthy, but when they add sustainability initiatives, organic foods, and locally sourced ingredients, it opens the way for better business ventures,” she says. “It’s inspiring. These trucks are providing healthy options, especially for people at work who might not have another choice but to go to the fast food place around the corner.”
The food trucks below don’t just offer well-balanced meals; they are also committed to environmentally friendly methods, are involved in the community in a charitable way, or support local and organic eating. In no particular order:
Takorean’s from-scratch Korean barbecue tacos bring West Coast-style fusion to DC with great results. “They have lots of vegetarian and vegan options, which is nice because it’s often hard for people to find restaurants at lunchtime that help them get lots of vegetables on their plate,” Stogsdill says. Plus the eatery gives 1 percent of its gross sales to environmental or youth-based nonprofits.
This bright green truck serves made-to-order gourmet salads, sandwiches, and other lunchtime staples, and although you can’t go wrong with the fresh, balanced “salatas,” that’s not what caught our expert’s eye. “They have veggie chili!” Stogsdill exclaims. “I find that people don’t think of chili as a vegetarian dish, but there’s still a lot of protein with the beans, and it’s low fat.” She also points out the fat-free, naturally sweet vanilla-date shake and the egg-free, yogurt-based Caesar dressing, ingenious alternatives to not-so-healthy restaurant offerings.
Like its location, the menu at Chef Driven is ever-changing. But one thing you can count on is high-quality seasonal cuisine made by a seasoned chef. “I like that fact that they use local fish,” our expert says, referring to the eatery’s fish tacos. “Fish is a lean protein that most Americans don’t get enough of, and ‘local’ means ‘fresh’—hopefully not frozen.”
Cirque Cuisine calls itself an “organic extravaganza” and features a different international cuisine each week made with locally sourced ingredients. “That decreases the distance the ingredients have to travel, so they have higher nutrition content,” says Stogsdill. “Plus it supports the community, lowers the carbon footprint, and provides an opportunity to make people more aware of what’s available locally.”
Far East Taco Grille
This no-frills Asian-taco truck throws both Korean and Japanese food into the mix. Our specialist gives it props for using corn tortillas instead of flour, “which are lower in calories and usually have more whole grains.”
We love Sweetgreen and, by extension, its food truck. The truck serves premade Sweetgreen vegan or protein salads, as well as healthy breakfast food and the chain’s fat-free, all-natural frozen yogurt.
With all the whimsy that goes into this “traveling culinary carnival,” it’s a wonder there’s any novelty left over for the food itself. But the Ethiopian- and Indian-inspired meals are just as uncommon, and mostly healthy, too. Stogsdill says, “It’s unclear whether they are side dishes, but there are lots of veggies here.” Ethiopian bread, injera, is made with the whole grain teff, but our expert warns that you should still exercise portion control.
“Korengy has pictures of its plates [on the menu] and you can see the variety of color, which is exactly what you want to see for a healthy meal,” Stogsdill says of the strictly Korean food truck. “You want four or five colors, because that shows you’re getting a mix of different nutrients.”
Rolls on Rolls
At this window you’ll find kathi rolls, the street food of New Delhi and Calcutta. The hearty wraps are stuffed with your choice of filling and topped with cabbage and herb-spiced homemade chutneys. “This place has good reviews for its mostly vegetarian options,” our expert says. “The bread is a little thick, so the meals might be high-calorie with significant sodium, but it’s great nonetheless.”
Aloha, healthy Hawaiian eats. “They have firm tofu you can have in a salad, sandwich, or lunch plate, which is great,” Stogsdill says. “But I really like the Asian sides. Though ‘pickled’ means high sodium, the veggies bring variety and expose people to something new they might not normally see in a salad.”