Healthy Foods Have Moved Beyond Their Image of Tasteless Fare

Grab on-the-go wraps smoothies, juices and snacks at Grabbagreen

With all the holiday parties, hectic errands and celebrations of the past few months, now is the time for a fresh start, both in planning New Year’s resolutions and the pants-don’t-fit-anymore sense. But even the best-laid meal plans and most thoughtfully-stocked refrigerators don’t easily stand up to hectic schedules. All hail local brands who help ease the crazy with realistic, healthy options.

Grabbagreen is a booming, Arizona-based fast-casual restaurant that opened a Maple Grove location—its second Minnesota store—in May. Its entrees, green- and grain-based bowls and fresh juices are preservative-free, mostly organic and made from exclusively whole foods—so there isn’t a single unhealthy option on the menu.

“We weren’t chef-inspired, we were really mom-inspired,” says CEO and co-founder Keely Newman, who used to struggle to find on-the-go options consistent with the healthy foods she was feeding her kids at home. “People think that healthy food tastes like cardboard, or at least has the potential to. That’s not the case here. Everything was kid-tested,” she says.

The chain does very little marketing, catering first to the growing segment of society seeking out organic, whole foods as their default. The second target market? People who don’t eat that way, yet. The menu features regional flavors in delicious combinations that prove that populations misjudgment, showing them eating healthy isn’t only delicious and convenient, but can also keep guests fuller, longer, explains Newman. From lean, hormone-free proteins to good fats—think avocados, olive and grapeseed oils—and fresh produce, the “food as medicine” approach is front and center. Fresh mango chili sauce is served instead of pepper, and liquid amino acids in place of salt. “They have a salt feel, but it’s so good to put on anything,” Newman says. So far the approach has worked, with new locations springing up coast to coast, including more slated for the greater Twin Cities metro next year.

“Everyone in Minnesota is on the search for healthy options for their on-the-go lifestyles,” says Maple Grove franchisee Garson Aarness. “Grabbagreen offers [a] new world of fast-casual food; an upbeat and guilt-free restaurant setting and healthy meals on the go. You simply can’t make an unhealthy choice at Grabbagreen.”

Grab the Taste at Home
To get the Grabbagreen flavor at home, try making a DIY version of the brand’s crowd favorite Southwest Bowl.

- avocado
- black beans
- grilled chicken
- cilantro
- corn
- fresh tomato
- cheddar Jack cheese
- quinoa
- light dressing (at Grabbagreen, it’s yogurt agave barbecue sauce)

The recipe can be adapted to any palate with brown rice, other whole grains, or fresh greens swapped in for the quinoa and produce added or swapped according to what’s available.

Pho Real

Health and great taste go hand in hand in Asian cultures, and Vietnamese cuisine celebrates fresh flavors in a big way. MT Noodles in Brooklyn Park offers up a bevy of health-conscious, flavorful options for eating well, even from a take-out container. “We are very excited to offer healthy food selections that are delicious,” says owner Michael Bui.

The restaurant has Vietnamese favorites like flavorful pho and traditional Vietnamese dishes not found at other restaurants in the area. Try the DIY spring roll entrees, where flavorful protein, pickled daikon and carrots, and vermicelli can be wrapped up in rice paper along with fresh herbs and greens. Nem Nuong is a grilled pork sausage version, and Bo La Lot includes seasoned beef grilled in betel leaf. Bun Cha Ha Noi has seasoned grilled pork patties, thin-sliced pork plus a special broth, peanuts and green onions, while Bun Dau Mam Tom with tofu adds a flavorful shrimp paste to the mix.

Shop to It

Sometimes the idea of planning a meal—waiting at the hockey rink, on the way out the door or otherwise—is daunting. Lauren Kebschull, senior marketing specialist for Whole Foods Market, suggests a few convenience brands that’ll curb hunger in those hectic and hurried times.

To walk swiftly past the workplace vending machine with confidence, Kebschull suggests dried fruit instead of candy. “Not only will you avoid refined sugars you’ll also get a kick of dietary fiber and other key nutrients. My go-to favorites are dried mango and Turkish apricots. I love them because there is no sugar added—just fruit,” she says. 365 Everyday Value dried mango $7.99 (8 oz.) or 365 Everyday Value Organic Turkish Apricots $4.99 (8 oz.)

“Trail mix and nuts are great snacks with staying power to get you to the next meal,” Kebschull says. “They’re loaded with nutrients and tend to keep you satisfied and full longer. Just avoid mixes with added salt.” 365 Everyday Value trail mixes — $5.99–$9.99 (16 oz.)

Popcorn is lower in calories than chips or other salty snacks, but still provides the toothsome crunch we’re all looking for. Try 365 Everyday Value Organic, which has reduced fat and sodium and comes in handy, single-serving packs. $4.99 per 6-pack, 45 calories.

“My favorite on-the-go breakfast is a tart apple with peanut butter. I always keep a few Justin’s single-serve peanut butters on hand,” says Kebschull. Starting at $.99 and 190 calories each.

Sparkling water is an easy, delicious alternative to sugary drinks. Whole Foods carries a line in their store brand, providing a better value than other household seltzer names. 365 Everyday Value $3.99 for a 12-pack in grapefruit, lemon, pure, lime or orange.