While it’s already a struggle for most people to maintain a balanced diet—particularly in the dead of winter, when your body craves high-calorie comfort foods!—if you live or work on the Upper East Side you aren’t privy to half as many health-centric restaurants as other parts of the city, like SoHo or the East Village. The below list should help make your quest for wholesome meals a little bit easier. From nutritious soups and salads to fresh whole grains, clean entrees and sensible desserts, this top ten list has you covered. The below list of eateries include organic, gluten and vegan options, with most of the food being non-GMO, locally sourced, cooked with high quality oils (if cooked at all), nutrient-dense and delicious. Enjoy!
Hu Kitchen, 1526 Third Avenue between 86th & 87th Streets
Hu Kitchen— the organic oasis serving food with absolutely no cane sugar, soy lecithin, gluten, emulsifiers and GMOs—finally had its much-anticipated opening on the Upper East Side last month. The organic and paleo eatery is a virtual heaven on Earth for lovers of unprocessed, veggie-rich dishes, making healthy eating a no-brainer. The cafeteria-style set up spans over 7,000 square feet across three levels, with plenty of space to dine in (or take out) for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Hu’s most unique offering may be the mashbar, which includes an Organic Berry Concoction with vanilla chia pudding, seasonal berries and cashew cream—a wonderful, guilt-free dessert. But buyer beware: Go once and you may find yourself with random cravings for their Delicata Squash—stuffed with parsnips, carrots, onions, coconut milk, yams, leeks, organic kale, cashews, parsley and spices. Hu also sells their own brand of chocolate, sweetened only with unrefined organic coconut sugar, and their Almond Butter and Puffed Quinoa Chocolate Bar is simply divine. Don’t forget to pick up some of Hu’s snacks, like the Organic Sweet Kale Crunch Kale Chips, Paleo Crackers or Carrot Cake Granola before leaving.
Candle 79, 154 East 79th Street between between Lexington & Third Avenues
Candle 79 has been heralded as the ultimate vegan restaurant in New York City, but its appeal extends beyond the plant-based population, attracting any and all who simply want healthy, palatable food. Even omnivores can count Candle 79 among their go-to brunch spots on the Upper East Side. Their prix-fixe menu, featuring such favorites as “Nuevos Rancheros,” a spicy tempeh-potato hash, goes for $32—with the option substitute green juice in place of the included cocktail. The offerings are vegetable-dense with plenty of gluten-free selections. The eclectic meals, all made from organic produce, range from a “Moroccan Spiced Chickpea Cake” served with vegetables and a red pepper-coconut curry sauce and apricot-ginger chutney to “Live Zucchini Enchiladas” made of cashew cheese, crunchy sprouts and cashew sour cream. The eco-bar also offers entirely organic wine, spirits and beers.
Candle Café, 1307 3rd Avenue and 75th Street
Candle Café, Candle 79’s laidback sister restaurant, offers an array of exquisite vegan dishes in a cozy setting. The “Magical Miso Soup” is nothing short of it’s namesake, being hands-down one of the best miso soups in the city with a creamy texture and complex, flavorful profile. Candle Café’s lunch menu boasts a wide range of vegetable juices, smoothies and salads—like their “Living Sprout Salad” with field greens, carrots, raisins, sesame seeds, sprouts and carrot-ginger dressing. For dinner, try the Ginger-Miso Stir Fry with sesame-crusted tofu, seasonal vegetables, brown rice, ginger-miso sauce and arame coulis. There is no sacrificing taste for nutrition when it comes to any item on Candle Café’s all-organic menu.
The East Pole, 133 East 65th Street between Lexington & Park Avenues
The East Pole—housed in a brownstone at 65th Street, near Park Avenue—is home to the only Macro Plate on the Upper East Side. For those of you who aren’t familiar, a macro plate is a vegetable entrée comprised of roasted Kabocha Squash, steamed kale and beans. With a menu focused on local, seasonal and organic produce with sustainably-sourced proteins, their Seared Diver Scallops, Chicken Kiev with Charred Broccoli and Atlantic Striped Bass with Jerusalem Artichokes are deliciously healthy picks. Standout appetizers include the Market Lettuces Salad with avocado, radish and sesame vinaigrette and their Heirloom Carrot and Hijiki Salad with Avocado. For brunch, an East Pole favorite is their Avocado Toast topped with soft boiled eggs made with homemade hot sauce.
Le Pain Quotidien, Multiple Locations
Le Pain Quotidien is quite possibly the best chain restaurant serving healthy and organic breakfast, lunch and dinner. Like any good menu should, theirs changes with the seasons, and currently features a Warm Winter Grain Bowl with kale, butternut squash, brussels sprouts, spiced pecans and goat cheese. LPQ staples include an amazing selection of homemade breads, including the recently-added gluten free Organic Super Seed bread made with a blend of organic buckwheat, oat and corn flour, and made even more nutritious with chia, sunflower, sesame and flax seeds. The chain also offers nondairy milk, plenty of hot and cold beverages, tartines (a popular favorite being the Avocado Toast), soups, salads, desserts (including an organic Carrot Cake) and a variety of pastries. Other nutritious options you won’t want to miss include the Organic Banana Crunola, Organic Coconut & Chia Seed Pudding, Kale Cesar Salad and Six-Vegetable Tart which is artichoke, vegetables and tofu on a gluten-free buckwheat crust, served a with season green salad. And for those of you who count calories, they’ve already done that for you.
The Juice Shop, 956 3rd Avenue between 57th & 58th Streets
The Juice Shop’s name can be deceptive, as they offer far more than just juice. Not only do they have fresh, unpasteurized juice, juice shots, smoothies and cleanse packages, but also a selection of salads, granola and oatmeal, acai bowls and kale bowls. The Juice Shop’s Veggie Pad Thai Bowl (steamed kale, quinoa or brown rice, carrots, broccoli, edamame, snow peas, red cabbage, scallions, spicy almond pad Thai dressing and an option of adding a protein) or Thai Chicken Salad with Spicy Peanut Dressing (chicken breast, extra virgin olive oil, baby arugula, spinach, mango, red bell peppers, cucumbers, red cabbage, mint, cilantro, peanuts, scallions and spicy peanut dressing) are filling and nutritious options for a smart go-to lunch or dinner.
Bareburger, Multiple Locations
Bareburger is the only organic hamburger chain in New York, so they are forgiven for not delivering. Why you go to Bareburger when hamburgers aren’t healthy? All bareburger meats are free-range, pasture raised and antibiotic, gluten and hormone-free. They have a selection of patty options aside from just beef, including three different vegan choices as well as bison, wild boar, turkey and chicken. You can also choose your own bun, with options including sprouted, gluten free tapioca rice bread, or simply wrapped in a collard green. You also don’t need feel too badly about indulging in their fries, which are cooked in 100% non-GMO canola oil. If you don’t like burgers, opt for one of their salads instead. Like Le Pain, the calorie count is done for you.
Calista Superfoods, 1217 Lexington Avenue between 82nd & 83rd Streets
Calista Superfoods has a menu jam-packed with lean proteins, whole grains, complex carbohydrates and vegetables, making it the perfect place from which to order out. They have wraps, salads, burgers, breakfast wraps, smoothies, soups and entrees. Popular dinner options include the Quinoa Turkey Meatloaf (lean ground turkey, baby spinach, carrots, red bell peppers and quinoa, served with marinara sauce sans breadcrumbs) and their Chicken Parmesan (marinated chicken breast, fresh basil, served with marinara sauce and low-fat parmesan cheese—again without breadcrumbs or too much cheese). Calista Superfoods entrees come with a choice of two sides, as well as the option to create your own entrée, wrap or salad. Calorie counts can be found on their website.
Juice Generation, Multiple Locations
Juice Generation has multiple locations on the Upper East Side, and although they offer only freshly made juices, acai bowls, shots, boosts, raw food and bakery items, this list simply could not leave them out. Their Joyful Almond or Peanut Butter Split smoothies or Almond Butter Acai Bowl will pretty much quell any craving one may have for ice cream—yes, they are actually that good. If you haven’t gotten on the bandwagon yet, you are missing out big-time. For those of you who don’t know what an Acai Bowl is, think of your favorite smoothie. Now multiply the goodness level about three maybe four times. And do you know how good for you it is? Blended acai berry—a superfood replete with antioxidants—banana and almond milk is topped with fruit, gluten-free hemp granola and, if you opt for it, almond butter or cacao nibs. Juice Generation’s Kale Salad is massaged with avocado (yes, you read that correctly) and dressed with carrots, raisins, sunflower seeds, lemon and olive oil. As for those muffin, scone and donut cravings? They’ve got your problem solved—the healthified way.
Juice Press, Multiple Locations
Saving the best for last, Juice Press has New York wrapped around its little finger—and if Juice Press was were to ever shut its doors, hearts across the city would break in two. It isn’t just that everything tastes and smells amazing—the chain also has a load of personality. Juice Press is funny, healthy, bold, delightful and easy. How much better does it get? Known for educating their consumers in a witty yet brutally honest kind of way, their juice menu includes “Love at First Sight,” and a smoothie called “Trophy Wife.” Juice Press boasts an all-organic selection of raw juices, smoothies, soups, salads, acai bowls, desserts, and hands-down the healthiest and most delicious soup you will find in the city. Their breakfast options, such as the chia seed pudding or raw oatmeal, even include a healthy bagel, called a Schmear—made with sprouted bread, marinated kale, cucumber, rosemary cashew cream cheese and dressing. A juice shop with bagels? Well, this is New York City, and Juice Press just gets it. Oh, and they deliver.
Kristy Rao is a Certified Health and Nutrition Coach and native New Yorker. She works with clients nationwide to create holistic, personalized plans to achieve weight loss and natural beauty. Follow her on Twitter @KristyRao and on Instagram @KRHealth