Dine Out Right

6 healthy dishes to try in STL right now

 

There was a time when “eating out” was practically synonymous with ordering dishes cooked in saturated fats, flavored with excessive salt and lacking in any meaningful nutritional value—but the tables are turning in our local dining circles. The city is filled with creative chefs who care as much about the taste of their food as they do the source of their ingredients and the nutritional benefits they bring. Simply put, healthy can taste good—and these local restaurants are serving up “delicious” in more ways than one. Using our nutritionist-backed guide to healthy eats that includes five distinct nutritional categories, you can be confident that you’re ordering what’s best for your body. Still not convinced? We’ll throw in six delicious picks to get you started.

Healthy or Not?

Use this handy guide to find out. The more categories met, the healthier the dish. It’s that simple.

[#] Calorie Count
Whether your goal is to lose, gain or maintain weight, chances are you closely monitor these units of energy in the carbohydrates, proteins and fats you eat and drink. The key is to be mindful of getting the most nutrients per calorie toward whatever health goal you have.

[A] Antioxidants
When we breathe, move and metabolize food, our body produces free radicals, which sound cooler than they really are—nasty chemicals that damage your body’s cells and play a role in disease. Foods provide hundreds of antioxidants that can protect against free radicals. Some of the most familiar are vitamins like C, E and beta-carotene; minerals like selenium and manganese; and plant-based compounds called phytonutrients like lycopene and flavanols (found in dark chocolate, everyone’s favorite free radical-killer).

[N] Nutrients
To the average person, nutrients mean vitamins and minerals, but these are only two categories of essential substances our bodies can’t make by themselves; others include water, carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Ideally, foods should give you maximum nutrients for minimum calories. This is why whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins are strongly encouraged.

[P] Plant Foods
Shifting away from animal foods is a growing health trend. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics uses the term flexitarians to describe those who eat meat or animal products occasionally, but focus primarily on plant foods because of their rich fiber content, low calories and proven disease-fighting properties.

[STL] Whole, All-natural & Local ingredients
In produce, freshness equates to better levels of nutrients. This is also true for the amount of processing (less is better), as well as the distance food travels to reach your plate (local is better). However, from a strictly nutritional standpoint, most experts agree that organic and traditional produce are about the same. Still, most would also tell you there’s something to be said for avoiding dietary doses of pesticides and hormones.

Created with the help of Connie Diekman, M.Ed, RD, LD, FADA, Director of University Nutrition at Washington University.

 

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Brunch: Tomato-Basil Fritatta

Winslow’s Home, 7213 Delmar Blvd., University City, 314.725.7559
[#] [A] [N] [STL]

One of the upsides to the sweltering July heat is the ripening of local tomatoes, preferably served in a simple dish like the Winslow’s Home frittata. The Italian-style egg dish isn’t puffy like its French cousin, the omelet; rather, it’s a workhorse for the other ingredients, in this case, perfectly ripe tomatoes and sweet basil. Nutritionally, it’s a good source of calories from protein and fat (but not carbohydrates), as well as antioxidants like lycopene in the tomatoes. The restaurant takes great pride in its ties to Winslow’s Farm in Augusta, MO, but in practical terms, it’s too much to expect one small farm to fully supply a popular city restaurant. “The eggs are farm-fresh, but not from the farm,” says manager Angela Buckley-Martin. If the restaurant were to source all its ingredients in Augusta, “our chickens would be very tired,” she says with a laugh. The frittata changes seasonally (often weekly), depending on the ingredients at hand, but regardless of what’s in it, it’s a fan favorite. Buckley-Martin says it’s a healthful menu option, but that’s not the main selling point. “They’re ordering it because it’s that good.”

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Lunch: Mermaid Salad

PuraVegan, 307 Belt Ave., CWE, 314.932.5144
[#] [A] [N] [P] [STL]

Like the perfect power couple, some antioxidants need to be paired with fats in order to be absorbed most effectively. Beta-carotene in sweet potatoes is one example. Monica Stoutenborough, owner of PuraVegan, uses the healthful strategy in this popular dish by pairing sweet potatoes with raw sunflower seeds as the source of beneficial fat. The nutrient-dense, colorful dish also contains celery, cabbage, red peppers, onion and spinach, seasoned with curry, ginger and dill‰ÛÓgiving it just the right pop of delicious, complex flavor. The cafÌ©’s focus on raw vegan dishes might surprise the uninitiated, but Stoutenborough’s enthusiasm for education, rather than dietary militancy, is likely to win over quite a few of those who might otherwise hesitate on the doorstep.

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Snack: Acai Bomb Smoothie

OR Smoothie & Caf̩, 6654 Clayton Road, Richmond Heights, 314.647.8881 and 3 N. Euclid Ave., CWE, 314.367.8883
[#] [A] [N] [STL]

Before co-owner Mai Truong opened her original smoothie spot 10 years ago, she watched the way other places blended theirs and decided hers would be healthier. Indeed, OR smoothies are almost an art form, with all organic ingredients, purified water for the ice cubes and careful sterilization of the blender after each use (without regular detergents that could leave a residue). Sure, they cost a bit more and take a little more time to prepare, but it’s that very attention to detail that’ll make you feel you got your money’s worth. Truong’s favorite is the #22 A̤ai Bomb, both for its lovely color and the complementing flavors of strawberry, a̤ai berry and pineapple. High in antioxidants and vitamins, the power smoothie also contains amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Although it’s not her bestseller‰ÛÓthe #12 Miracle Green takes that honor‰ÛÓTruong believes it’s the best-tasting work of art coming out of her blenders.

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Dinner: Sweet Potato •À_Pasta•À_

PuraVegan, 307 Belt Ave., CWE, 314.932.5144
[#] [A] [N] [P] [STL]

Like the perfect power couple, some antioxidants need to be paired with fats in order to be absorbed most effectively. Beta-carotene in sweet potatoes is one example. Monica Stoutenborough, owner of PuraVegan, uses the healthful strategy in this popular dish by pairing sweet potatoes with raw sunflower seeds as the source of beneficial fat. The nutrient-dense, colorful dish also contains celery, cabbage, red peppers, onion and spinach, seasoned with curry, ginger and dill‰ÛÓgiving it just the right pop of delicious, complex flavor. The cafÌ©’s focus on raw vegan dishes might surprise the uninitiated, but Stoutenborough’s enthusiasm for education, rather than dietary militancy, is likely to win over quite a few of those who might otherwise hesitate on the doorstep.

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Dinner: Sous Vide Salmon

Harvest, 1059 S. Big Bend Blvd., Richmond Heights, 314.645.3522
[#] [A] [N] [STL]

Harvest’s spa menu proves that cooking technique and choice of protein can make all the difference when it comes to healthy animal foods. Chef and proprietor Nick Miller prepares his Loch du Art Scottish Salmon by sealing it into an air-tight pouch and cooking it slowly to retain moisture and flavor. The cooking method eliminates the need for saturated fats or oils and retains the salmon’s naturally beneficial fat, a variety called omega-3 that helps lower blood cholesterol levels. But, the health benefits of this dish don’t stop with the protein‰ÛÓthe whole grains come in the form of surprisingly pillowy gnocchi made with rye flour. Another surprise is the use of beets, usually thought of as a fall root vegetable. Not this year. To his delight, Miller received his first shipment of tender baby beets from a local farmer in May. Beets are a double winner on the antioxidant front, containing beta-carotene plus phytonutrients that give them their deep color. Celery root and shallots round out the dish’s veggie trifecta that’s melt-in-yourmouth good.

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Dessert: Mixed Berry Sorbet

Serendipity, 8130 Big Bend Blvd., Webster Groves, 314.962.2700
[A] [N] [P] [STL]

Among the dozens of decisions prompted by the display case at Serendipity is the question of calories from sugar versus calories from fat. This sorbet has the sugar, but it’s pure cane sugar, making the sorbet a good choice for those looking to avoid fats or those seeking an entirely plant-based product‰ÛÓright down to the stabilizers that keep the blend of whole raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries looking so luscious. (Often, commercial sorbet stabilizers contain both whey and gelatin.) Because Serendipity’s sorbets are seasonal, the mixed berry isn’t always in production. “When it’s in the case, it goes really fast,” owner Beckie Jacobs says. Local restaurants that carry it also report it’s a brisk seller. Jacobs suspects this has less to do with the health benefits than another key factor‰ÛÓyumminess. And really, who can argue with that?

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Photo credit: Jennifer Silverberg

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