It's the start of a new year and Chicagoans may be hitting the gym hard. And just because certain foods are good for the body doesn't mean they have to be devoid of flavor. The following restaurants are both healthy and delicious, so folks won’t have to limit themselves when dining out. New additions to the list include veggie-focused Clever Rabbit and The Little Beet Table, and South Side favorites B’Gabs Goodies and Majani.Read More
16 of the Best Healthy Restaurants in Chicago
Where to keep that wholesome diet going all year long
1. Left Coast
As the name suggests, this fast casual restaurant draws on the West Coast for inspiration. Juices, smoothies, and other drinks like kombucha on tap provide healthy nutrients, while the rest of the menu includes salads, grain bowls, and wraps.
2. Clever Rabbit
Fresh and seasonal vegetables steal the spotlight at this rustic-chic West Town spot. Instead of dressing produce in unhealthy butter and creams, the kitchen prepares dishes like roasted carrot dumplings with miso and lemongrass; cauliflower with Thai chili, cilantro, mint, and cucumber; and beets with cranberry, ancho chili, pistachio, goat cheese, and greens. There’s also a selection of non-alcoholic cocktails for guilt-free indulgence.
3. Doc B's Fresh Kitchen
Fresh and delicious meals are the name of the game here. The Wok Out Bowl is a go-to favorite, letting guests choose their protein, sauce, and base of rice, noodles, or quinoa. It’s finished with veggies and chopped cashews for a healthy fix that’ll satisfy all diets.
4. The Little Beet Table
The New York-based import focuses on creating gluten-free, vegetable-forward dishes. Diners won’t have to sacrifice flavor for calories as the menu features unique highlights like sunflower hummus, cauliflower and mushroom tacos, and roasted eggplant rigatoni.
5. RealGood Stuff Co.
Originally a smoothie chain, RealGood Stuff Co. recently added hot foods to its arsenal with the opening of a River North location. Guests can now complement their healthy drinks with customizable green and grain bowls from a hot bar. Ingredients include buffalo cauliflower, roasted Brussels sprouts, wild-caught salmon, tofu, and more.
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6. True Food Kitchen
River North welcomed the first Chicago location of this Phoenix-based chain in 2016. The menu, which is built on Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory principles, features an array of healthy and seasonal items that include juices, veggies, pizzas, sandwiches, and more. And while kale salads are ubiquitous these days, the version here stands out — Tuscan kale intermixed with Grana Padano cheese, breadcrumbs, garlic, and lemon.
Salads are a safe, if not predictable, choice for a healthy meal. This chain from Washingtown D.C., though, adds some excitement to the mix by offering an impressive spread of locally-sourced ingredients for guests to choose from. Instead of the usual boring Caesar, build a nutritious bowl packed with spicy sunflower seeds, hot chickpeas, roasted sweet potatoes, balsamic roasted squash, steelhead trout, and much more.
Lettuce Entertain You Enterprise’s all-day eatery is now up to four locations, which is great news for anyone watching their diet. Classic comforts get jazzed up, including a “neatloaf” of turkey, sweet potato, and greens. Granny didn’t make it like this but she probably didn’t care about waistlines, either.
9. LYFE Kitchen
Health-conscious eaters will be happy to know that most dishes at Lyfe Kitchen clock in at less than 600 calories. The menu accommodates gluten-free and vegan diners but those without restrictions should try the unfried chicken. Chef Art Smith’s renowned fried chicken has long been a city favorite and here, it’s given a fresh spin. Chicken breasts are breaded in panko and then baked, which results in crisp, juicy pieces that are as good as anything coming out of a fryer. It’s served on a bed of Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, dried cranberries, sweet corn purée, and Dijon vinaigrette.
Located inside Wells Street Market, this quick-service spot from hospitality vets Kasia Bednarz and Britni DeLeon doles out clean, wellness-focused fare. Start the morning off right with a breakfast egg bowl or stop by later in the day for customizable greens and grains bowls that boast wholesome ingredients like citrus-roasted beets, smoked paprika sweet potatoes, sesame eggplant, ground turkey, and more.
11. Chicago Raw
For those who want to eat healthier in 2019 or are just looking to detox after the holidays, this raw shop supplies everything to help the cleansing process. Go on a liquid diet and boost the immune system with all-natural smoothies containing greens, fruits, and vitals doses of vitamins and antioxidants. It’s a refreshing approach that sets the mind and body right for the cold weeks still to come.
The poke trend swept through the nation in 2016 and brought the Hawaiian specialty to all corners of the city. This California-based chain, with two Chicago locations, lets guests build healthy meals to their liking. Start with a salad base or bowl filled with kale noodles, brown rice, or quinoa. Then add ingredients such as tofu, ahi tuna, edamame, seaweed, avocado, pickled ginger, and more. The extensive toppings selection means there’s always something different to try.
13. Protein Bar & Kitchen
With several Protein Bar outposts scattered all around the downtown area, a fast and healthy option is never too far away. The Chicago-based chain is a popular destination for lunch, offering up quinoa bowls that are nourishing and less gut-busting than their Chipotle counterparts. Globally-inspired creations include the Mexicali (chicken, avocado, corn, black beans, cheddar, salsa, kale, avocado, spicy tomatillo lime sauce, chipotle Greek yogurt) and Spicy Korean (steak, cucumber, radish, spinach, pickled carrot, sweet and spicy sauuce).
14. Native Foods Cafe
Salads and rice bowls are reliable standbys for a healthy lifestyle, but every now and then that craving for a good old fashioned burger (or at the very least a faux one) hits. Native Foods Cafe’s carne asada burger is up to the task — a veggie patty topped with carne asada-style jackfruit, guacamole, potato chips, onions, jalapeños, lettuce, and green goddess dressing.
15. B'Gabs Goodies
Healthy specialties are a bit of a rarity on the South Side, which is why Gabrielle Darvassy opened this vegan oasis in 2014. Her inventive menu ranges from scrambled chickpeas and buckwheat pancakes to raw burgers packing dehydrated veggie and seed patties, and tacos filled with sunflower seed meat. Juices and smoothies are also a major component of the café, as are raw “goodies” like lemon squares and brownie bites.
16. Majani Restaurant
Over in South Shore, owners Tsadakeeyah and Nasya Emmanuel are serving soulful vegan cuisine. The African-influenced restaurant was born out of the couple’s catering experience and their recipes include a “crab cake” sandwich made with baked tofu, a lentil mushroom burger, and stir fried veggies.