Lunch Break: Healthiest and Worst Meals at Cava Mezze

Recently named one of our 100 Very Best Restaurants, this spot offers a number of healthy options.

Cava Mezze, with locations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, is one of Washingtonian's 100 Very Best Restaurants. Nutritionist Jared Rice says its easy to eat a balanced and healthy lunch at this gluten-free restaurant. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user snowpea&bokchoi.

Cava Mezze, with locations in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, is known for adding a touch of modern flair to its fresh Greek-inspired dishes. Here at The Washingtonian, we love their moderately priced dishes so much we recently named Cava Mezze one of the 100 Very Best Restaurants of 2013. It also scored major points for offering a pretty lengthy gluten-free menu. 

We asked nutritionist Jared Rice to check out the lunch menu and pick out the healthiest and worst items. Read on for what he chose.

Worst: Cava Gyro Sandwich
The first item on the menu doesn’t scream healthy, Rice says of the sandwich stuffed with gyro meat, French fries, and pickled onions. “The combination of processed meat and fried potatoes makes this sandwich high sodium and a hyper-inflammatory mess.”

Better: Chicken Souvlaki Sandwich
This sandwich comes with grilled chicken, arugula, tomatoes, and pickled onions. “Assuming this is white-meat chicken, I’d say this is the better option,” says Rice. “If it’s dark meat, then the lamb or pork tenderloin could be comparable.” Rice recommends swapping out the tzatziki sauce for hummus to clean it up even more.

Best: Rocket Salad With Chicken or Shrimp
Going for leafy greens will help you avoid that afternoon slump you’ll likely feel if you order something in a pita or brioche bun, Rice says. “Your lunch is more balanced and will leave you feeling clean, satisfied, and ready to get back to work.”

The Expert’s Picks
For a balanced lunch, Rice picked three items off the gluten-free menu:

White Bean Ragout: The stewed tomatoes offer cancer-fighting carotenoids, while the beans provide “nutrient-dense, high-protein, and high-fiber starch to fill you up and balance blood sugar.”

Broccolini: If you’re tired of standard broccoli, this is a nice substitute as a non-starchy vegetable, says Rice.

Rockfish Stifado: “The fish is our main protein source here,” Rice says. Along with roasted pearl onions, sunchoke purée, and aged vinegar, the rockfish provides healthy fats, fiber, and complex carbohydrates.