11 Healthy (and Healthy-ish) Dishes We’re Craving in the New Year

Eating better doesn't have to taste virtuous.

Fresh (and gluten-free) corn tortillas stuffed with seasonal vegetables at Chaia in Georgetown. Photograph courtesy of Chaia.

The most popular—and dreaded—New Year’s Eve resolution is back: eat healthier. The good news: that doesn’t mean you have to give up flavor or a fun meal out. Here are some of the waistline-friendly dishes we’re already craving this year.

Tacos stuffed with smoky greens at Chaia

3207 Grace St., NW

Georgetown’s new vegetarian taco shop boasts a small menu, but you won’t go wrong with any of the freshly-griddled corn tortillas (gluten-free!) stuffed with seasonal veggies. We’re longtime fans of the mushroom-salsa roja, but don’t miss a newer favorite: smoky collard greens, tomatillo salsa, queso fresco, and pickled radishes.

Kale salad with pomegranate at G by Mike Isabella

2201 14th St., NW

Where can you find the best kale salad in Washington? Dinnertime at G. Sure, kale salads can be boring because they’re everywhere (and full of kale), but Mike Isabella’s version is downright addictive—filled with crunchy, bright bursts from fresh pomegranate seeds, and tossed in a tangy yoghurt-tahini dressing that reminds us of our favorite creamy salads (minus the wedge-induced shame).

Thip Khao’s sour soup is pure Laotian comfort fare. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Sour soup at Thip Khao

3462 14th St., NW

Chef Seng Luangrath’s fiery Laotian fare runs healthy– think fragrant steamed fish and herb-packed salads. Our winter craving: the tamarind-infused sour soup, both bracing and comforting, filled with shimeji mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and lemon basil.

Eden Bowl from Beefsteak

Multiple locations

José Andrés’s vegetable-centric, fast-casual concept bests the average salad bar any day. The bowls are more satisfying and creative, and aspire to be just as diet-conscious. Try the Eden with an optional serving of house-smoked salmon or avocado for healthy fat.

Paleos should try the wood-grilled steaks at Rural Society (pictured). Photograph by Scott Suchman.

South American-style steaks

Some of the best steakhouses baste, poach, and/or top their meat with butter for oomph. Paleos should try the South American asado at two of our favorite red meat joints, Del Campo and Rural Society, for a healthier alternative. The cuts absorb flavor from the wood-burning grill, and can be paired with olive oil and herb-based chimichurri sauce instead of buttery béarnaise.

Beet tartare with dates at Water & Wall

3811 Fairfax Drive, Arlington

Sure, vegetarian carpaccios and pâtés can be lame compared to the meaty originals, but chef Tim Ma’s beet tartare rises above the rest. Thank the dressing—a punchy orange-soy vinaigrette—plus crunchy bits of apple, pistachio, and finely-chopped dates that add a touch of sweetness.

Golden cubes of lemongrass-scented spicy tofu at Rice Paper. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Spicy lemongrass tofu at Rice Paper

6775 Wilson Blvd., Falls Church

Sure, there’re plenty of carnivorous treats at this stellar Eden Center restaurant, but we can’t help but order this crispy tofu that’s generously spiced with chilies and fresh lemongrass.

“Greens + Grains” bowl from Cava Grill

Multiple locations

For those times you’re only feeling half-loyal to your Atkins diet: a mix of super-greens and your choice of grains (including virtuous brown rice or lentils). The customizable Mediterranean bowls can then be topped with spicy harissa, grilled chicken, and an abundance of veggie toppings.

Skip the buttery steaks and splurge on crab at Joe’s. Photograph by Scott Suchman

Raw bar!

All those weekday salads have to end in some kind of weekend splurge, right? Pristinely fresh seafood never comes cheap, but the raw bar—and especially shellfish plateaus—are the ultimate diet-friendly indulgence. Some of the city’s best: Le Diplomate, Kapnos Taverna, Fiola Mare, and Joe’s Seafood Prime Steak & Stone Crab.

The vegan menu at Equinox

818 Connecticut Ave., NW

Kudos to chef Todd Gray for devoting half the dinner menu to “plant-based selections” that are inventive and often delicious. Equally smart: making most dishes available in half-portions so omnivores can sample mushroom pot au feu or porcini-chestnut veloute without wholly converting to a meatless meal.

Fish as art at Sushi Capitol (plus it tastes just as good as it looks). Photograph by Scott Suchman

Sushi and sashimi from Sushi Capitol

325 Pennyslvania Ave., SE

Chef Minoru Ogawa sources top-quality fish from some of the finest suppliers in the country, and the evidence appears on the plate. Each jewel-like slice of fish appears as if it was styled for a photo shoot—and tastes even better.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.