Beware “Healthy” Restaurants & Marketplaces

I love going out to eat! Trying new places and revisiting favorites are so fun and fabulous – especially because I cook SO much at home. It is so nice to be served and not have to shop, prep, and clean.

Of course I’m always attracted to the latest and greatest ‘healthy’ restaurant/marketplace in town – and these days SO many brand themselves as healthy and nourishing choices.

But what is the definition of healthy? A 700-calorie serving of hummus? A sugary, vegan brownie? A gluten-free doughnut?

Don’t be fooled by a ‘healthy market’ or restaurant and assume that everything there is good for you.

Make sure to ask questions and decide for yourself if it meets your standards.

Not long ago I was standing in line at a popular marketplace (who in fact has the word healthy in their name) in a trendy area of Phoenix and asked the cashier, ‘so what makes your restaurant healthy? Is it that your food is organic or that you don’t cook your food in hydrogenated oils?’ The girl shrugged her shoulders and told me she wasn’t sure.

We were standing at the baked goods counter, with a wide variety of cookies, candies, and other decadent treats. Sugary smoothies are on the menu and breakfast and the accompanying potatoes are cooked in cheap hydrogenated oil.

I ordered a plant-based peanut butter banana espresso protein shake and about fell over when the girl pulled out a jumbo size jar of junky peanut butter and plopped a good 1/4 cup in the blender. Holy more hydrogenated oils, sugar, and empty calories too!

Yes, there were for sure healthy superfoods on their shelves. And also there was a LOT that wasn’t.

I feel the same way about a popular local ‘healthy’ mediterranean restaurant chain. I want it to be so healthy so bad! Ha! It’s so good!

And yes it can be a better option than others, but is the food organic? The meat pastured? Why SO much oil?

Their hummus platter has 990 calories according to their website—with a whopping 147g of carbs and 2070mg of sodium. I don’t understand why.

Enjoy the hummus platter with chicken and you’re up to 1,500 calories. Also how and why?

Even the wood-fired salmon dinner has 940 calories.

I am less worried about calories if I’m eating superfoods (although I still don’t want to blow a million calories in one sitting!). 

But, is the salmon wild-caught, the vegetables organic, the oil not hydrogenated? 

I don’t think so. Or else they’d say so. 

The same goes for the hot food bar at Whole Foods, the bulk food bin loaded with candy at Sprouts, and all the packaged goods in between.

You too, Trader Joe’s.

 I dare you to read the ingredient label of most trail mixes at any of these stores and still feel good about it.

Once I ordered a pre-cooked flank steak from the Whole Foods prepared foods area. I knew it wasn’t grass-fed (because it didn’t say so), but I wasn’t expecting the paragraph of unwelcome ingredients that were printed on the sticker. 

Also, why are so many of their vegetables dripping in canola oil?

What constitutes a healthy choice for me? Ingredients I recognize. No cheap oils (I’d rather have French fries if I’m going indulge in a cheap, unhealthy food). I opt for organic and gluten-free when possible.

I still go these establishments, but I order my eggs poached or scrambled in real butter, create my own salad dressing of lemon juice and balsamic vinegar, am picky about what I choose from the Whole Foods hot foods bar, and ask for restaurant food steamed.

What is great about the ‘healthy’ restaurant and market movement is that there are absolutely more nutritious choices available. They are also more willing to accommodate requests and there is an effort to provide more nutritious, local, and gluten-free options. 

In short, define what’s healthy for you. Read ingredient labels, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and be sure to request simple modifications like steamed vegetables, real butter, etc.

 Most restaurants are happy to do it and don’t feed bad asking! You’re worth it.

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