We’re one month in to New Year’s goals and, if you’re like me, the struggle to keep up with a healthy diet and maintain balance is getting to be all too real. Sometimes life just doesn’t allow time for meal prep (especially when a Sunday is spent prepping Super Bowl snacks) in order to have a healthy lunch everyday at work. Instead of letting your goals slide with lunches that leave you feeling weighed down, try one of the following places in downtown Chicago for a healthy, and more importantly, delicious meal.
3 Greens is my favorite place to grab lunch to go in the city. I know it isn’t normal to get excited about a salad bar, but their salad bar is on a whole different level than your cafeteria’s soggy cucumbers. From curry chicken, grilled sweet potatoes and turkey meatballs to the more classic carrot sticks and chick peas, this salad bar has unlimited combinations to get your veggies and protein in. Another benefit – you pay by weight, so you can control how much you pay based on your hunger that day. And, just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, if you go with a friend who isn’t as easily jazzed about a salad bar as I am, 3 Greens also has Small Cheval burgers available. 3 Greens is in River North just beside East Bank Club, at 354 W Hubbard Street.
If you haven’t had poke, you need to try poke. With ingredients that are so fresh you feel like you’re by the seaside, this dish will make you wonder if you’re still in Chicago. The menu is simple, light and satisfying. I’m a repeat offender of the Aloha bowl, but if you like mixing things up you can create your own to have endless flavor options. Aloha Poke in the Loop is located at 131 N Clinton Street.
With eight locations in River North and the Loop, Protein Bar is a perfect go-to when you need a lunch to keep you full throughout the day. Many of their menu items pack at least 30 grams of protein, so they truly live up to their name. Though I usually order their bowls, The Protein Bar offers salads, wraps, soups that are all hearty and filling without feeling too indulgent. Their offerings are also good if you’re someone who is a little more traditional in their flavor choices, but want solid nutritional value. If you like buffalo wings you can try the Classic Buffalo with chicken tossed in buffalo sauce, blue cheese, carrots and celery; or, the healthy club has bacon and avocado. Healthy comes in many different ways!
Sweetgreen came to Chicago just a few months ago and is already a go-to lunch spot for many. With a seasonal menu that has generous portion sizes and robust flavor, their offerings are so much more exciting than a plain turkey sandwich (though I do love a turkey sandwich). A current favorite of mine is the Curry Chickpea bowl, but I haven’t had anything I didn’t love. Sweetgreen also offers refreshing teas and fresca beverages that have less sugar than pop and are just (I’d argue more!) satisfying. Don’t have a lot of time? Order online to have a quick and easy pick-up and make the experience even more satisfying. Find Sweetgreen at 623 N State Street.
For those of you that enjoy a sandwich for lunch, but want something more than ham, cheese and white bread, this is your spot. Jason’s Deli offers a variety of sandwiches with multi-grain bread, soups and well-balanced salads. Sometimes there is nothing like going back to your roots of classic lunch combinations and Jason’s Deli does more than fill those needs. Also, if you’re feeling like splurging a little bit, their cookies are amazing. Find Jason’s Deli at 195 N Dearborn Street.
Located at 21 E Adams Street, Brightwok has a bowl-based menu and the chefs behind it pride themselves on the unique sauces they’ve created to accent each dish. You can either build your own or select from one of their signature bowls. Brightwok keeps it simple, allowing you to create the exact flavor combination that suits your fancy. It’s also a completely dairy free, gluten-free and peanut-free menu. All menu items are vegan with the option to add chicken, steak or eggs to your bowl.
Be Leaf Salad is at 29 N Wacker Drive. Known for the decadent list of signature and seasonal salads, this lunch spot also has wraps, soups and grain bowls. You’ll have fun selecting from the menu just by reading the punny names of all the dishes. From the “Bean Rice Knowing Ya” bowl to the “It’s the Lentil Things” Salad, it’s hard to go wrong.
Native Foods is a go-to vegan option located at 218 S Clark Street, but you can also find this chain in Lakeview and Wicker Park. It touts itself as the “premier fast-casual vegan restaurant” with a 100 percent plant-based menu. You’ll find a wide breadth of options, like the Native Southwestern “Burger” or BBQ “Chicken” Salad. You can also customize your order to be nut-free or soy-free.
Score breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert any time of day at either Loop location of Goddess and the Baker, 33 S Wabash Avenue or 225 N LaSalle Drive. Yes, this place is known for its delicious sweets, but you can also snag a fresh salad to go off the lunch and dinner menu. You’ve got a wide array of options to select from, too – a vietnamese salad, southwestern salad or a salad trio are just a few selections to keep your lunch-hour healthy.
The Michigan Ave location of Le Pain Quotidien is just across from Millennium Park, at 20 N Michigan Avenue. Each menu item is listed with the calorie count right underneath the price. If you happen to be in the Loop and in search for a healthy breakfast option that isn’t as filling as pancakes with heaps of hashbrowns on the side, but a little more thoughtfully prepared than your regular bacon, egg and cheese biscuit, the breakfast menu here is to die for. Two words: avocado toast. Looking for lunch instead? They’ve got a full menu with vegan options. Also for lunch: avocado toast.
Healthy doesn’t have to be boring! Go outside your comfort zone and try a place with unique flavors and offerings. And if you ever need someone to visit 3 Greens Market with, I’m your girl!