In 2014, United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service found that dining out has increased by 20 percent since 1970. With so many new restaurants in Nashville, we find ourselves contributing to this growing trend and wanting to dive into every new dish, dessert and drink in town. Thankfully, eating out does not mean you have to forgo your heathy eating habits (or leave the restaurant wanting more). Yes, we can still down a taco – or 15 tacos — but thankfully the options for healthy dishes that won’t weigh you down are plentiful, as well.
We polled a few health-conscious people from around town and asked their favorite restaurants to visit when they are watching what they eat, and what to order when they go. Here’s what they said.
Susannah Herring of AVO Nashville and Hot Yoga Plus
Where to go: AVO Nashville
What to order: Avocado margarita
With a plant-driven menu, AVO Nashville has an abundance of dining and drinking options that won’t weigh you down. “I’m obviously biased because I own AVO,” says Susannah, “but all of the dishes there are fantastic, healthy options.” She points us in the direction of the bar, which is the only 100 percent vegan bar in Tennessee, for the avocado margarita. “It’s creamy and indulgent but with the good kind of fat and alcohol — a perfect combo in my book!” she says.
McKel Hill of Nutrition Stripped, Laura Lea Goldberg of LL Balanced & Vui Hunt of Juice Bar and Vui’s Vietnamese Kitchen
Where to go: Vui’s Vietnamese Kitchen
What to order: Xa Lach salad, the lemongrass chicken salad & the rice bowl
Vui’s Vietnamese Kitchen is new to Nashville’s dining scene and brings another option for fresh, clean eating to Berry Hill. McKel Hill of Nutrition Stripped can be found at Vui’s enjoying fresh young coconut, bone broth and the Xa Lach salad. Laura Lea Goldberg of LL Balanced also is a fan of the bone broth, as well as the the lemongrass chicken salad, while Vui’s owner Vui Hunt is currently loving the rice bowl with grilled shrimp and Vietnamese iced coffee. Nothing is fried; everything is 100 percent MSG free and many things are vegetarian.
Hunter Hall of Fleet Feet Sports
Where to go: Chill Spot
What to order: Persian wrap
Hunter Hall and the Fleet Feet Sports team love the wraps from Chill Spot in Brentwood. The eatery is right across from their Brentwood store and, according to Hunter, their wraps are awesome! “I particularly like the Persian wrap, which is rice, organic chicken and spicy Persian sauce,” he shares.
Karen Meng of Orangetheory Fitness
Where to go: Thistle Stop Cafe
What to order: Harvest quinoa salad
Karen Meng, owner of Orangetheory Fitness in West Nashville, loves Thistle Stop Cafe, a great local spot in West Nashville.”Their menu has several healthy options packed full of flavor,” she says. One favored dish is the harvest quinoa salad, which combines butternut squash, cranberries, red onion, quinoa, kale and pumpkin seeds — all tossed in their house-made vinaigrette and served cold.
McKel Hill of Nutrition Stripped
Where to go: The Wild Cow Vegetarian Restaurant
What to order: Market veggie salad
The Wild Cow’s market veggie salad features all of our favorites: broccoli, carrots, cucumber, beets, sprouts, avocado, tomato, toasted almonds and sunflower seeds. McKel likes her market veggie salad with buffalo tempeh, honey mustard dressing on the side and extra avocado!
Nikki Manscill of Sumits Yoga
Where to go: Etch
What to order: Roasted cauliflower
Nikki Manscill of Sumits Yoga is not one to watch what she eats (although she does stay away from processed food); however, she does watch how much she eats. When she is looking for a treat without over doing it, she heads to Etch for a glass of wine, their roasted cauliflower and a side of crispy potatoes. “I like to eat well, so I try to do that with smaller portions,” she tells us. “It is hard to do in a town with as many wonderful restaurants as Nashville. As for cocktails, I drink the gamut but stay away from the sweetness by asking the bartenders to leave off sweet mixes.”
Kady Decker of Pure Barre
Where to go: Saint Anejo
What to order: Goat cheese and spinach salad
One healthy option that Kady Decker of Pure Barre loves is the goat cheese and spinach salad at Saint Anejo. Skip the chile con queso and order this salad, which features smoked grapes, jalapeño-lime vinaigrette, puffed amaranth and slivered candied almonds. You can top the salad with grilled chicken, steak, salmon, shrimp or tuna (Kady typically opts for the tuna).
Anissa Pollard of Marathon Pilates
Where to go: The Perch
What to order: Spanish egg scramble
Anissa Pollard, owner and instructor at Marathon Pilates, is a lover of The Perch. Her go-to order is the Spanish egg scramble with simple greens on the side!
Stephanie Waring of juice. Nashville, McKel Hill of Nutrition Stripped & Laura Lea Goldberg of LL Balanced
Where to go: Sunflower Cafe
What to order: Báhn Mi-style veggie burger or the arugula bistro-style veggie burger
Stephanie Waring of juice. Nashville, McKel Hill of Nutrition Stripped and Laura Lea Goldberg of LL Balanced are all fans of the veggie burgers at Sunflower Cafe. Stephanie usually opts for the traditional sunflower-style burger (sundried tomato spread, red onions, field greens, tomato and garlic aioli), while Mckel orders her veggie burger Bánh Mi style, with no bun and on lettuce with sesame kale, bean and corn salad, and Bánh slaw. Laura Lea goes for the arugula bistro-style veggie burger and, like McKel, orders hers on a bed of greens without the bun.
McKel Hill of Nutrition Stripped
Where to go: Samurai Sushi
What to order: California hand rolls
Sushi can be a great option for healthy eating. With high-protein fish that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids — such as salmon and tuna, and fresh vegetables — an order of sushi can pack tons of nutritional benefits. At Samurai Sushi, McKel Hill bypasses the deep-fried rolls for California hand rolls, yellowtail nigiri, miso soup and seaweed salad.
Vui Hunt of Juice Bar and Vui’s Vietnamese Kitchen & Hunter Hall of Fleet Feet Sports
Where to go: Juice Bar
What to order: “Orange You Glad” or “Fresh Greens”
It comes as no surprise that Vui Hunt recommends the fresh-pressed juices from Juice Bar as a healthy treat. Her favorite is Fresh Greens (celery, kale, spinach, cucumber, parsley and lemon). She also loves the nutritional and wellness benefits of taking a 2-ounce shot of fresh ginger every day. Hunter Hall of Fleet Feet Sports also loves the juices and smoothies from Juice Bar. “I don’t think there’s anything better after a hot run than an Orange You Glad juice,” he says.
Laura Lee Gilliland of Iron Tribe Fitness
Where to go: Martin’s Bar-B-Q
What to order: The baked chicken plate
Barbecue doesn’t have to be the heavy meal we often imagine. Laura Lee Gilliland of Iron Tribe Fitness keeps things light with the baked chicken plate with no bread and sides, such as the broccoli salad and green beans as opposed to more traditional BBQ sides like mac & cheese and hushpuppies.
Laura Lea Goldberg of LL Balanced
Where to go: Merchant’s
What to order: The strawberry salad
We like to think that it is due to Laura Lea Goldberg’s influence (yes, she is married to Max Goldberg) that Strategic Hospitality’s restaurants always offer something on the healthier side — think the quinoa chopped salad at The Band Box or the kale Caesar and the avocado toast at Pinewood Social. These days, Laura Lea is heading to Merchant’s to enjoy their healthy strawberry salad with blackened salmon, candied pecans, red onion and goat cheese with strawberry vinaigrette.
We can’t wait to try each of these healthy meals! Thanks to our experts who shared their favorites!