The Best Healthy Fast-Casual Restaurants

Because healthy eating shouldn't mean a bowl of iceberg lettuce

The latest crop of healthy fast-casual restaurants is going beyond build-your-own salads—and working to turbocharge lunch to totally new heights. From better-for-you barbecue to nourishing stir-fries, these 10 craveable spots will help you straddle the intersection of #healthgoals and #lunchaldesko.

① Dr Smood

(Miami, FL, and New York, NY)

This dairy-free Danish health concept is nothing if not cheeky (Smood = smart + food). But don't worry, the food is rich where it counts—think avocado cream cheese and homemade nut "mylks." The nutritionist-guided menu displays Dr Smood's color-coded philosophy, which is organized into health focuses: immunity, energy, general health, beauty, detox and power.

② Ancolie

(New York, NY)

"Never feel guilty if you eat cake, as long as you balance it with something else." That's the abiding food philosophy for Ancolie founder Chloe Vichot. The tres French notion of moderation is omnipresent here, from the lentil-and-grain salads perfectly portioned in glass jars to, yes, even the bite-size pieces of chocolate cake.

③ Honeygrow

(Various locations including Philadelphia, PA)

Honeygrow's plant-based stir-fries pair egg white and whole-wheat noodles with all-natural, antibiotic and hormone-free proteins. Try combos like Sour Cherry BBQ and Sweet Soy Five Spice, or choose your own adventure with customizable options.

④ Two Forks

(New York, NY)

Finally, BBQ without the guilt—or the food coma. Two Forks pairs all-natural, slow-cooked meats like lamb or veggies like spaghetti squash with freshly made seasonal slaws, then smothers them in small-batch sauces like harissa Buffalo. 

⑤ Beefsteak

(Washington, D.C.)

Vegetables get the limelight at Beefsteak, celebrity chef José Andrés's first fast-casual concept, where the menu includes avocados, salt-cured salmon and poached eggs. The BEETsteak Burger was named Best Veggie Burger in the Washington City Paper's Best of D.C. 2016

⑥ Saloniki

(Boston, MA)

James Beard Award-winner Jody Adams brings a health-conscious mind-set to Greek street food with a menu of brown rice bowls and salads that are customizable with proteins like spicy lamb meatballs or honey-braised pork shoulder. Best of all, there's no extra sugar or oil added. 

⑦ Good Seed

(New York, NY)

Good Seed promises to give your picnics a much-needed makeover; replace that hunk of Brie and pile of crackers with organic herb-roasted chicken, grilled salmon, apple-zucchini quinoa salad and mango slaw. 

⑧ Buredo

(Washington, D.C.)

Buredo offers a healthy way to eat sushi on the go. Rolled fresh daily, these portable burrito-sized sushi rolls use high-quality fish and veggies, and pack a vibrant punch with pickled fennel, cabbage and red onion.  

⑨ Pondicheri

(Houston, TX, and New York, NY)

At Pondicheri, a James Beard finalist for Best New Restaurant in 2012, chef Anita Jaisinghani creates a flavorful Ayurvedic-based menu. Among its extensive offerings are vegetable-laced dosas, parathas, pani pooris and seafood-rich curries.  

⑩ Lemonade

(Various locations including Los Angeles, CA)

A healthy hipster buffet, Lemonade offers trendy faves like poke, craveable veggies like watermelon radish salads and, of course, lemonades—six seasonal flavors daily. Sampling and skipping the line are encouraged—it even says so on its website. 

Marisel Salazar is a contributing writer for Tasting Table, who comes to NYC by way of Panama, Hawaii and Japan. Follow her on Instagram at @breadbutternyc and Twitter at @MariselSalazar.