Looking for a healthy restaurant to enjoy here in St. Louis? As a healthy restaurant with a focus on meal delivery and nutrition based in St. Louis, we think we know a thing or two about eating healthy. Scanning menus looking for that one healthy option (or two if you’re lucky) is no fun: dining out and healthy eating haven’t, traditionally, gone together hand in hand. Hop on Google and you’re presented with so many options and so many menus to browse through (some of them may be online, some not), and maybe a handful of Yelp reviews to check out.
When you’re hungry and you can’t control which restaurant you end up at, it can be all but impossible to say no or to entirely avoid that delicious dish on the menu with all your favorite, and off-limits, ingredients. As we look at St. Louis’s top five healthiest restaurants, we will also go over the basics of identifying what is healthy on a menu and what may be misleading.
#1. Finding a Healthy Restaurant in St. Louis: Quality of Ingredients Matter
As we’ve discussed in other blog posts here at Pure Plates, not all so-called healthy meals are, in reality, truly healthy. Restaurants and caterers have to earn a profit in order to thrive -- and in doing so, may cut corners on the quality of ingredients they use. This is common and doesn’t necessarily define a restaurant as ‘bad’ -- but when it comes to trying to find a ‘healthy restaurant’ this can be problematic.
A powerful way to decipher whether or not a restaurant is using quality ingredients is to ask about the type of oil they use to prepare meals. Cooking oils are ubiquitous, however, not all oils are equal. Canola oil, which is available at a far lower cost than olive oil and is very commonly used across all levels of dining out, is not a healthy choice.
Lulu’s Local Eatery, on Grand Ave in St. Louis, is a healthy restaurant that caters primarily to vegans and vegetarians -- or just folks who want to load up on healthy fiber. Why they make the list? This restaurant is committed to using locally grown and organic produce whenever possible -- and they even grow their own organic herbs on the patio.
#2. Finding a Healthy Restaurant in St. Louis: Sodium Matters
Ah salt: it can make or break the flavor of a meal. Ah salt, it can make or break the health-factor of a meal (insert sad emoji here). How much sodium you consume at a meal, in a day, and in a week impacts your health. For example, the American Heart Association recommends fewer than 2,300 mg of sodium per day: in 2014, the average sodium content across all menu items in major chain restaurants was 1,256 milligrams -- very telling about just how much sodium may be lurking in that pasta dish on the menu that’s tempting you.
So, what’s going on here? It’s not that restaurant chefs are conspiring against you to create unhealthy meals: it is that salt has long been a staple in food preparation across all levels -- from sodium in frozen meals to the sodium lurking in soy sauce at sushi restaurants to steakhouses.
Believe it or not, Subway offers sandwiches that are approved by the American Heart Association. Their veggie delite sandwich is the lowest-sodium sandwich the chain offers; the Rotisserie Chicken sandwich is also lower in sodium -- and there are numerous Subway restaurant locations in St. Louis.
#3 & 4: Finding a Healthy Restaurant in St. Louis: Protein & Fiber Choices Matter
When it comes to staying healthy and keeping weight off, protein and fiber matter. Too little fiber and too little protein means you’ll end up hungry later on -- and more likely to snack on less-than-ideal food choices. Choose the wrong kind of protein and you’ll end up consuming far more fat than your diet, or doctor, would agree with.
As a general rule of thumb for healthy proteins at restaurants, look for entrees that offer lean proteins such as poultry, seafood such as salmon -- and legumes like lentils and beans as a staple. Avoid entrees that are deep-fried and avoid entrees without a clear protein choice (fettuccine alfredo would be an example).
The benefits of fiber -- particularly ‘insoluble’ fiber -- in your meal planning efforts and diet can not be overstated. The data shows that fiber is beneficial not only when it comes to weight loss but also for weight maintenance and disease prevention. How to ensure you’re getting enough fiber when you’re at a restaurant? Choose meals with veggies, fruits, whole grains (such as brown rice or quinoa), and beans as key ingredients.
If you want to enjoy bread made with whole grains, Great Harvest Bread Company located just outside of St. Louis in Maplewood, is an excellent choice. Their ‘High Fiber Tuscan Herb Bread’ is popular and, like the name says, loaded with fiber. They offer a variety of fiber-packed breads -- and they can even take custom orders for reduced sodium breads.
5. Finding a Healthy Restaurant in St. Louis: Planning Ahead Matters
All of the above tips culminate in one final word to the wise: plan your meals ahead whenever you can. If you haven’t eaten all day and the only restaurant that is open sells pizza and that’s it....you’re limited in just how healthy you can make your meal. Of course, planning ahead isn’t always possible -- but if you find yourself going out to eat more than you’d prefer during busy work weeks, you may want to strategize a different way to ensure you’re making your meals (and calories) go as far for you as they possibly can.
Here at Pure Plates in St. Louis, we offer a full menu of fresh meals prepared under the watchful eyes of our nutritional team and chefs who are as passionate about your health as you are. We deliver our meals in BPA-free containers that are ready to be put in your refrigerator, heated up easily, and enjoyed (because, of course, our meals are as delicious as they are nutritious).
Bottomline? While there may not be one single restaurant in St. Louis that is ‘the healthiest’, walking in the door informed and knowing what to look for -- and what to avoid -- will do wonders for you when it comes to keeping your diet and your health goals on track.
Whenever you can, find ways to reduce eating out -- plan ahead, prep ahead, or try a meal delivery service such as Pure Plates for healthy meals in St. Louis that bring the restaurant experience to your door (and we offer a popular 30-day meal plan that makes it insanely easy to get started on meeting your diet and health goals).