My Secret to Finding Healthy Restaurants Anywhere in the Country
by Kristin Hedstrom
Hans and I touched down in Las Vegas last week for a 22 hour trip. I wouldn’t say Vegas is my go-to destination, but when Hans said he had a business meeting we could both benefit from, you know I’m hopping on that plane, stat.
We touched down at noon and even though we’d packed apples and grapefruits for the flight, we arrived hungry hangry. Knowing we needed to be ready to power through a busy afternoon of meetings, it was up to me to find a quick, healthy lunch that was on the way to where we were going. Vegas isn’t exactly known for it’s fresh fruits and vegetables, but I was up for a challenge. How hard could this be?
If you know me or have followed me, you know I believe that healthy eating is a skill, not something most of us were taught growing up. Choosing healthy restaurants is a perfect example of a skill you can work on starting today, even if it’s just in your own city.
I honed this skill when I was training as an elite athlete. There was an 18-month stint where I drove across the country four times. Aside from getting really good at belting out songs as the miles wore on, I became an expert at finding nutritious, non-fast food in every city I drove through. It was an essential piece of my training regimen.
My secret? I’m basically a professional Yelper. If there’s a restaurant rec to be found, I’m already on my Yelp app figuring out where to go. Let’s just say it holds a permanent spot on the coveted home screen of my iPhone.
Next time you’re in a new city and want to fuel yourself well, here’s what to do:
Pull up your Yelp app.
Search “healthy vegetarian” in the area you’re in. This works for all meals, not just lunch. Do this even if you’re looking for meat options; most places have both, but if you search vegetarian, you’re going to get results that have cleaner restaurants.
Once you’ve skipped past the ads at the top of your results, look for restaurants that have over 100 reviews and at least a 4 star rating. This just makes sure that you’re finding legit restaurants with a consistent product.
In the Vegas case, this left me with three front-runners: a cute coffee shop with small eats, a mediterranean spot, and “The Modern Vegan.”
From there, look through the pictures at each place until you find the menu. You want to know what your options are when you arrive. When you do this, imagine exactly what you’re going to order. Have a specific dish in mind, not just a general idea about whether it’s a good or bad choice. Rule out anything you can’t find your specific order at.
In this case, I was looking for fresh veggies, clean ingredients, and plenty of plant-based options. I’m all about vegan life, but I ruled out The Modern Vegan pretty quickly. Every dish was a meat-lovers food with a vegan spin, from “Pulled Pork” Pretzel Buns to Louisiana Fried “Chicken.” Typically, these fake meats are high in salt and soy ingredients, neither of which have been shown to promote long-term health. The real veggies, grown from the ground, are always better.
The menus at the two other spots looked great: quinoa wraps, salads, and fancy avocado toasts. So then it’s on to the pictures. I scroll past the pics that the restaurant uploaded of their own food so I can get a sense of what it’s like from the customer’s perspective. Honestly? Both places looked great. They had hearty, fresh foods without a ton of cheese or dips or heavy dressings. Ultimately, I went for the mediterranean spot based on location. It was fab. Quick service, whole wheat wraps, total control over what was put in them, and good portions. Another Yelp win!
Try it next time you’re headed out to lunch with a girlfriend in your hometown or traveling the world with your fam. You’re going to feel so much more control knowing you can eat well, no matter where you are!
If you’re not feeling up to the task of conquering Yelp just yet, two of my go-to healthy chains are True Food Kitchen and Sweetgreen. Each of them have inspired menus filled with clean ingredients and are opening new locations every year. True Food Kitchen has over 40 locations nationwide, from California to Louisiana to Pennsylvania, and sweetgreen has over 100 locations
Now I want to hear from you: is there a restaurant in your city you think should be on the list? Leave me a comment on Instagram so we can share the goodness around.