Maybe you’ve actually firmly resolved to drops some pounds with the coming of the New Year, or maybe (like myself) you’re simply regretting the 10 billion calories you consumed over the last months of 2012 and you’re determined to get back to a more humane, less gluttonous, dietary routine. Either way, it’s never a bad idea to consider developing healthier eating habits. Now, I adore fat-filled foods such as fried chicken, burgers, or mac & cheese as much as any other food fanatic. I love donuts as much as I love my own children (slight
exaggeration). But I try to be relatively health-conscious in my dietary choices throughout the majority of my week and I know that finding a nutritious meal when dining out can be a challenge. But some establishments are doing things right, providing excellent options for anyone looking for a healthy yet palatable meal.
I’ve searched all over Little Rock for house-baked, stone-ground whole wheat bread, and I'm convinced the best is found at Old Mill Bread
. Here, whole wheat flours are milled daily, you won't find any additives or preservatives, and no bagged mixes are ever used. Many of their healthiest breads have no added fats, oils, or sugars. Their honey whole wheat is gently sweetened only with pure clove honey. Our family goes through a loaf of the stuff in about two days. Their whole wheat bread is also sold as bags of dinner rolls, which make an excellent, filling snack when you need a quick morsel in a pinch. Their Sesame Sunflower is also beautifully done and incorporates sunflower seeds, flax, and sesame into their whole-wheat loaves. For a sweeter treat, you might opt for their Cranberry Orange, which incorporates tangy cranberries and orange zest into their whole-wheat mixture. For lunch, you might consider their healthier sandwich options such as roasted turkey with cranberry mustard or the grilled chicken breast with fire-roasted red and green peppers. There are few sensations as intoxicating as walking into Old Mill after they have recently removed a few fresh loaves from the oven.
Most likely, healthy eating is not the first thing that comes to mind when you step foot in The Flying Fish
. But despite the restaurant’s deep-fried, artery clogging image you can actually select a number of more heart-friendly dishes. Order your seafood grilled and you'll only lose some flavor but potentially save yourself a hefty serving of fat and oil. Go with their grilled salmon filet, which comes to you light pink, soft, and still full of flavor. The grilled red snapper is similarly a fabulous fish that comes out flaky and moist, never needing to touch the deep fryer. These can be paired with grilled vegetables and beans for a complete meal that won't leave you feeling like Mike Tyson just used your tummy as a punching bag.
Perhaps it's their proximity to the Arkansas Heart Hospital, but the folks behind the menu at Milford Track
are working hard to bring you meals that are nutritious but never leave you longing for flavor, and they are doing a spectacular job. Daily house-made pastas may be accompanied by tender grilled vegetables and grilled chicken. They dress their pastas lightly in sauce, nothing is swimming in butter and cheese. Even some of their richer sauces (alfredo, parmesan) are offered in low fat varieties. Furthermore, their sandwich options will likely appeal to anyone looking to shed a few pounds...try the "Earl of Sandwich" with sliced, low-fat turkey, hummus, grilled sweet peppers, and cucumbers on multi-grain bread or the "Garden Sandwich" with grilled vegetables, vinaigrette, purple onion, Bib lettuce, and tomato. Salads are no slouch either. Go with the strawberry spinach salad with lemon grilled chicken or praline pear salad with walnuts, organic spring mix, tomatoes, a sprinkle of feta, and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette. For the uber-healthy, just choose the original garden salad with lettuce, tomato, carrots, squash, zucchini, and peppers...a remarkable bargain at only $3.
If you owned a restaurant, and you wanted to get people’s attention with your menu, simply brag about the fact that all your sandwiches, burgers, and bread products are sourced from Boulevard Bread
. Seems to be working for most of the joints around town I’ve witnessed doing so. While Boulevard may be a torture chamber for adherents to the Adkins diet, you can still find many items that agree with even the greatest carbophobes. The Greek Sampler is one of the finest, healthier options you’ll find here. Marinated feta, tomatoes, spinach, lemon, pepperoncini, dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), peppadews (a mild, sweet pepper), and hummus make up the magical combination of items available in this lighter lunch pack. Their Asian chicken salad is also a satisfying lunch option that’s easy on the tongue and on the hips. They use skinless chicken breast to cut the calories, and incorporate this into a mixture of field greens, sour grapefruit, zesty orange, almonds and a ginger-sesame dressing. The most difficult part about sticking to a diet while adventuring to Boulevard is convincing yourself not to walk out with ten pounds of cheese.
No one does salads quite like ZAZA
. Sure, the merits of this Height’s pizza joint have been proclaimed almost ad nauseum, but the fact remains, they make a fine salad and would probably be my first choice for filling up on leafy greens. Of course, the beauty of ZAZA is in your ability to create your own Titanic-sized bowl of salad, but going with one of their house creations is never a bad idea; they’re on the menu for a reason…they’re good, and people keep ordering them. Remember, of course, that loading your salad with 10 oz of Ranch dressing, bacon, cheese, avocado, and ribeye sorta negates all your good intentions, but many of their prepared salads are quite healthy and leave no one aching for a dollop of butter. I’m partial to “The Asian,” a heaping bowl of field greens, Romaine, snap peas, oranges, cilantro, green onion, and red cabbage with Asian ginger dressing. You can opt to substitute the breaded chicken tenders for the oven-roasted chicken if it makes you feel better about yourself, and if you really want to merit a pat on the back, pick out the fried, crispy wonton strips…or just eat ‘em, it was hard enough not ordering a pizza. The “Tandori chicken” salad is also a wonderful option, owing its depth of flavor to its Indian spiced roasted chicken with notes of chili and turmeric, sweet chunks of mango, crisp chick peas, and creamy yogurt-dill dressing. To achieve an overall lower caloric load, remember to ask for your salad to be lightly dressed. Your skinny jeans will be sure to thank you.
This list is by no means exhaustive. I know there are probably hundreds of fabulous lighter options for diners seeking to slim down or simply maintain their girlish/boyish figure. Let us know where to find some of your favorite dishes around town. Just remember, weight loss essentially comes down to one simple principle; burn more calories than you consume…and unfortunately, you don’t actually burn too many calories eating for hours at Larry’s Pizza buffet, no matter how many times you get up and down to grab a hot slice of cheeseburger pizza.
(For address and hours of the establishments listed above, please see the highlighted links)