Do your spring cleaning urges extend to your diet? Restaurants are dusting off satellite bars and patio chairs, ready to serve you a cold cocktail in the sunshine. Seasonal ice cream shops are once again scooping sundaes and spinning thick shakes. The siren songs of the Rocky Maine Coast and Cape Cod call with promises of fried clams and lobsters just drowning in drawn butter.
I hate to be the one to snap you out of that reverie, with deliciously warmer days ahead, but here are the hard facts: researchers at Tufts University found that 92% of 364 measured restaurant meals — from both large chain and local restaurants — exceeded recommended calorie requirements for a single meal. The study also found that American, Chinese and Italian eateries had the highest calorie counts, with a mean of 1,495 calories per meal. That's almost an entire days worth of calories for the average person. Ouch!
So how do you dine out now without worrying about battling the bulge later? We've found 5 local lunch spots with stellar, low-calorie dishes that'll help keep you on track:
The Trident Bowl at Trident Booksellers & Café on Newbury St.
A cozy respite from the bustle of Newbury St., this family-owned café and bookstore is the perfect place to curl up with your favorite novel and to nosh on fresh, healthy food, like the Trident Bowl. It's chock full of Brussels sprouts, microgreens and kale, mixed with sweet beets, yams and creamy chickpeas, all served over your choice of nutty grains like farro or quinoa. Add salmon for even more flavor, and a hefty dose of heart healthy omega 3’s.
Back Bay, 338 Newbury St., Boston, 617-267-8688, tridentbookscafe.com
The Three-Bean Burrito at Red Lentil in Watertown
This award-winning, casual vegetarian and vegan spot's menu features a variety of healthy dishes, including soups, salads, wraps, and other main courses from all over the world. A personal favorite is their burrito, filled with hearty three-bean chili topped with guacamole, fresh salsa and spicy pepper jack, all rolled into a whole-wheat wrap. It's massive and guaranteed to quell even the most aggressive hunger pangs. You can cut carbs and calories by requesting it without the rice, and gluten free wraps also available upon request.
600 Mount Auburn St., Watertown, 617-972-9188, theredlentil.com
The Two Roll Combo with Miso Soup at Mission Sushi & Wok in Roxbury Crossing
Mission Sushi & Wok is dedicated to fast service, and using the freshest ingredients possible, a perfect combination for keeping on track during the lunchtime rush. And their combo lunch option, which includes two sushi rolls and a choice of miso soup or a house salad, is satisfying, spend-thrifty, and a favorite among those in the Longwood medical area.
Skip the rolls with tempura and lots of sauces to avoid a caloric trap. Your best picks for sushi include those with avocado, cucumber, salmon, tuna, or a combination of all four. If you're feeling famished, start with an order of spicy or regular edamame. They're like (healthy) potato chips, packed with protein. You can’t pop just one of the tasty green pods.
1625 Tremont St., Roxbury Crossing, Boston, 617-739-8888, missionsushi.com
The Bangkok Thai bowl at Boloco (Various Locations)
Ok, Thai? At a burrito chain? It might sound a little strange but this dish checks all the right boxes. Thai style peanut sauce coats a crunchy Asian slaw with cooling cucumbers, fiber-filled brown rice and lean chicken. Add an additional serving of veggies, like carrots or broccoli, for a vitamin boost. Avoid drinking excess calories by sipping one of the many seltzers on offer.
Various Boston-area locations, boloco.com
The Topp Berry Salad at Topp Salad in Danvers
If you are just north of Boston, you must visit this locally owned and operated salad shop. The make-your-own options are endless and lot of fun! But my favorite is the Topp Berry salad with baby spinach, grilled chicken, strawberries, almonds, and blueberries, paired with a sweet Vidalia onion dressing. It’s full of lean protein and fiber, and the toasty crunch of almonds, paired with the sweetness of berries, will power you through a busy work day.
198 Endicott St., Danvers, 978.762.8677, toppsalad.com