The start of a new year is perfect timing for a revamp, whether it’s something significant, like pledging to eat better, or a minor - yet equally crucial - upgrade, like rethinking a hairstyle choice (the man bun isn’t for everyone, guys).
Before you resign yourself to a bland regimen of steamed vegetables and skinless chicken, take a good look at these 10 healthy dishes found at restaurants throughout the city, including better-for-you versions of fat-kid food favorites like pizza, tacos and tortas that make it easy to strike a bargain with a growling stomach and your common sense.
QUINOA-SWEET POTATO LOAF AT URBAN SOLACE
One look at this delightful vegetarian dish ringed with tart and tangy pomegranate glaze is enough to reveal it’s making an honest effort to be healthy without going crazy. Sure, it’s plant-based - and the combo of sweet potato, quinoa and garbanzo beans delivers a mega boost of beta-carotene along with vitamin C and D, protein, magnesium and fiber - but it’s also topped with a pat of compound butter and served with crispy onions and Yukon Gold Jojos (fried potato wedges), securing its place in the comfort-food camp.
3823 30th St., North Park
BREAKFAST RISOTTO AT RUSTIC ROOT
Super-sized doses of fiber and protein make this healthy dish, made with ancient grains and leafy greens, a smart choice to reset the system. Underneath two perfectly poached eggs, there’s farro, red quinoa, mushrooms and kale just waiting to be drenched with warm and runny yolk. Stab the eggs, swirl everything together and dig in on Rustic Root’s rooftop, where the view is as invigorating as what comes out of chef Antonio Friscia’s kitchen.
535 Fifth Ave., Gaslamp
BREAKFAST BURRITO AT SOL CAL CAFÉ
Filling and nutritious ingredients like savory ground veggie burger, black beans and mashed sweet potato make Sol Cal’s breakfast burrito function more like a breakfast and lunch burrito. Instead of heaps of cheese and gobs of crema, it’s made with low- fat but equally delicious vegan cheddar and chipotle mayo substitutes. The handheld meal is perfectly tasty in its own right. To elevate the crave-worthy morning nosh, smear on some of the cool and chunky guac served on the side.
Sol Cal Café
910 J St., East Village
POWER FRITTATA AT BOTTEGA AMERICANO
Often overshadowed by their more indulgent, hollandaise-sauce-drenched cousins (eggs Benedict), frittatas deserve a second look. The wholesome version served at Bottega Americano is made with a light and fluffy mound of baked egg whites prepared with five-herb pesto, mozzarella cheese and quinoa, and crowned with oven-roasted tomatoes and a side salad’s worth of arugula. For bonus points, go with fresh fruit instead of potatoes on the side... and then immediately cash in those points for a Nutella crispy bar or other sweet treat from the dessert display.
1195 Island Ave., East Village
FLEXIN’ SMOOTHIE AT VITALITY TAP
This thick and creamy smoothie satisfies like a milkshake, but - thanks to nutrient-rich ingredients
like sprouted almond milk, dates, banana, almond butter, chocolate protein, cacao and maca - it’s a much healthier way to go. The recommended boost, a dash of Madagascar vanilla, is palate-pleasing, but green coffee is a great pick for adding an energy spike to the protein-and-fiber fuel-up.
650 First Ave., Marina District 619.237.7625
5980 Village Way, Carmel valley 858.925.7030
WAGYU BEEF CARPACCIO AT CATANIA
Steak is undeniably delectable, but it’s difficult to argue the health benefits of inhaling a fatty slab of beef and all of the necessary sides (like a Caesar salad and sour-cream- drenched baked potato, for starters). Instead, get friendly with this striking plate from Catania, featuring three ounces of Wagyu top sirloin, sliced razor-thin and served with pickled shallots, shaved parmesan and leafy greens topped with a dash of creamy chili vinaigrette. It pings the same pleasure sensors as carving into a T-bone, only with a much lower caloric payload.
7863 Girard Ave., Ste. 301, La Jolla
BUILD YOUR OWN VEGETABLE-LOADED PIZZA AT URBAN PI
Pizza is rarely categorized as a health food, but pies topped with mountains of fresh vegetables are a different story. This fast-casual, design-your-own-pizza place offers 17 vegetable options including shaved Brussels sprouts, roasted broccolini and marinated artichokes. Since all pizzas are the same price regardless of how many toppings are heaped on top, there’s no reason to hold back. Add a sunny-side-up organic egg and pesto drizzle to make the meal come full-circle.
2673 Via De La Valle, Del Mar
YO SOY FUERTE (SPANISH FOR “I AM STRONG”) AT CAFÉ GRATITUDE
When craving a torta and looking to cut back on calories, this vegan victor is the winning choice. Its tempeh chorizo is nice and spicy; additions like cilantro pumpkin seed pesto, avocado and a trio of tasty sauces (chipotle cashew crema, salsa verde and roasted tomatillo) introduce contrasting temperatures and textures to keep things interesting. Instead of fries, the standard and definitely-not- good-for-you torta accompaniment, it’s served with Mexican coleslaw and spicy pickled vegetables.
1980 Kettner Blvd., Little Italy
COLIFLOR ASADA VEG TACO AT PUESTO
Carne asada tacos are delicious, but, when looking to trim back on fat and sodium, this vegan alternative is a worthy stand-in. The culinary collaboration by Puesto’s chef Luisteen Gonzales and San Diego singer-songwriter Tristan Prettyman stars charred cauliflower florets, avocado, pickled carrot and a generous dollop of chili-almond “crema” on a blue corn tortilla. Since a portion of sales from each taco supports the Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center in National City, eating well has never felt better.
789 W Harbor Dr., Ste. 155, Marina District 619.233.8880
1026 Wall St., La Jolla, 858.454.1260
VEGAN RAMEN AT TAJIMA
This four-location mini chain recently debuted a new vegan ramen, featuring a rich and satisfying vegetable broth (bolstered by a splash of soymilk) that’s lower in fat and sodium than the traditional pork broth. Toothsome additions like sweet corn, steamed asparagus, garlic- sesame oil and crispy cubes of fried tofu make it a deserving compromise.
3739 Sixth Ave., Ste. B, Hillcrest 619.269.5050
901 E St., East village 619.431.5820
4681 Convoy St., kearny Mesa 858.576.7244
4411 Mercury St., Ste.110, kearny Mesa 858.278.5367