Eating out is tough for those of us who would like to eat a more organic and/or minimally processed diet. And if you’re trying to eat out with kids and on a budget, it’s even tougher. My six-year-old loves fast food restaurants as much as any six-year-old, but I really believe it’s the playland and the toys in the kids meals that are the source of his affection. I’m not sure he even tastes the food since he eats it as fast as humanly possible so he can get to the toy in the kids meal and hit the playland. Too bad there aren’t any restaurants serving healthy meals that come with free action figures and a human habitrail. In a pinch we will choose Wendy’s if we’re on the road. At least there I can get a baked potato and the kids usually choose mandarin oranges over French fries (although I’m not sure which is worse – all the added sugar or the nasty grease). So I was excited to read an article recently in Kiwi magazine (A magazine for “Growing families the natural and organic way”, which I highly recommend too - http://www.kiwimagonline.com/) that showcased some restaurants that serve healthier, organic faire and are reasonably priced. Here’s what they said about three restaurants in our area:
Panera Bread (throughout the US and Canada)
This popular sandwich chain serves only antibiotic-free chicken in its salads, sandwiches, and soups. Panera recently reworked its kids’ menu to include organic juice, yogurt, and milk, as well as grilled cheese sandwiches made with organic cheese and a PB&J with natural peanut butter and whole-grain bread.
I had an opportunity to eat at Panera recently. I was meeting a friend and was sans-kids, so I didn’t get to sample the kid menu, but their salads were interesting and full of fruits and veggies beyond the usual lettuce. I do have to say though, that the luscious pastries in the showcase (right on kid eye level) were most likely not so organic or healthy. Still, it definitely beats fast food and really didn’t cost much more.
Chipotle (Throughout the US and Canada)
Chipotle is the country’s largest chain restaurant to embrace organic; it stuffs its burritos, tacos, and salads with chicken and beef raised without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics. All cheese and sour cream are free of the synthetic hormone rBGH, and 30% of Chipotle’s beans are organic. With more than 500 locations across the country, this Mexican eatery is now pursuing LEED (green building) certification for its partially wind-powered Gurnee, Illinois restaurant.
I’ve never eaten at Chipotle, but a teenager I know, who’s very much in the know, told me it’s the best. And that particular teenager wouldn’t be the least bit worried about whether the ingredients were organic or not.
Elevation Burger (Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia)
Featuring patties for all manner of burger lovers (meat eaters, vegetarians, and even vegans), Elevation uses organic, grass-fed, free-range beef and locally sourced ingredients whenever practical. After cooking its fries in heart-healthy olive oil, the restaurant donates its leftover grease for conversion into biodiesel. Elevation is currently pursuing LEED certification for each newly constructed restaurant. The chain also employs eco-friendly equipment, low or no-VOC paints and finishes, and energy-efficient lighting.
I’ve never even heard of Elevation Burger, but now I’m on the look out. It sounds like my kind of place. Below are some of the other restaurants listed by Kiwi magazine as embracing the benefits of organic foods and environmental responsibility. I think it’s important that those of us who support this kind of change should also support these restaurants. So next time you itching for a night away from your kitchen and the fight with the kids over who does the dishes – do something good for your family and good for our planet and patronize one of these restaurants.
Burger Lounge (Southern California)
Burgerville (Oregon, Washington, Vancouver)
O’Naturals (Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina)
Organic To Go (California, Washington, Washington DC)
Le Pain Quotidien (California, Connecticut, New York, Washington DC)
Pizza Fusion (Arizone, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington)
TerraBurger (Texas, with more locations opening soon)