Ah, January. That time of year when it's easy to make a fresh start. Raise your hand if you recently tossed out all the half-eaten bags of chips and cookies in the pantry to make room for the healthy stuff you plan to eat from now on. Guilty as charged over here.
Making healthy eating choices is relatively simple when you've had time to plan out your meals, but as we all know, the planning is the hard part. If you forget to bring your lunch to work one day, it can mean the death of your diet. It's hard to resist the siren call of the local take-out joint. Fortunately, there are actually some great options around to keep on hand as your emergency contacts.
On Main Street in Westport, tucked in next to Starbucks, Freshii opened a few months ago. The cafe has five main food categories to choose from: salads and wraps, bowls, soups, burritos and breakfast, as well as smoothies and juices.
"Everything is made fresh to order, so it's all customizable," owner Jon Blob said. ("I couldn't make that up," said Blob, referring to his name. Turns out there's a word for that -- an anti-aptronym, a name that does not suit the owner's occupation).
In any case, the theory behind Freshii is that it's healthy, energizing food for people on the go. Some of the most popular dishes include the Teriyaki Twist (brown rice, broccoli, carrots, edamame, cucumber, green onions, sesame seeds, crispy wontons and teriyaki sauce, $5.59); Buddha's Satay (rice noodles, soy nuts, carrots, broccoli, bean sprouts, green onions and peanut sauce, $6.49), Spicy Lemongrass Soup ($4.59), and the Baja Burrito (quinoa, avocado, red onions, cilantro, green onions, cabbage, salsa and pico de gallo, $6.19).
The juices and smoothies don't have added sugar and they only use fresh fruits, nothing frozen, according to Blob. He plans on expanding the juice menu, as well as offering outdoor patio seating in the spring at the Post Road entrance. An added bonus: Freshii offers curbside pick-up, so you don't have to stress about finding a parking spot.
In Fairfield, the tag line for Muscle Maker Grill is "Great Food with Your Health in Mind." Here you can find salads, sandwiches, wraps, pasta and entrees, with most choices coming in under 500 calories.
The name and the decor are very masculine, almost as if there should be a gym connected next door. The menu, however, is very diverse and includes things like Mardi Gras Cajun Grilled Chicken Salad (Cajun-seasoned, grilled chicken breast on a bed of Romaine with turkey bacon, tomatoes, onions, low-carb salsetta dressing and croutons, $9.29), Penne and Reduced Fat Vodka Sauce with Chicken ($9.99), and Teriyaki Grilled Chicken Stir-Fry (grilled chicken, portabella mushrooms, onions, peppers, carrots and sesame seeds in a Teriyaki sauce over brown rice, $9.99). Muscle Maker Grill also offers smoothies and protein shakes.
Also located in Fairfield, Catch a Healthy Habit is a long-standing resource for those who want to take healthy eating to the next level. Everything on the menu is free of gluten, soy and dairy, and everything is made in-house.
"Once January comes, people find it's time to get back on track and get balanced," said Glen Colello, who co-owns Catch a Healthy Habit with Lisa Storch. "Every January, I can bet my house we'll get 20 people signed up to do our monthly juice cleanse."
The cleanse consists of five days of juices, smoothies and soups, and one chia seed pudding (which, one could only imagine, must seem like the utmost in decadence after nothing but liquid).
If a juice cleanse isn't your thing, the regular menu offers items like a Nori Wrap (Nori, fig marmalade, cashew "cheese," beets, sprouts, avocado, crispy onions, spinach, dipping sauce and salt and vinegar zucchini chips, $11), or the Catch a Healthy Habit Burger (nut, seed and veggie burger, onion bread, lettuce, ranch and barbecue sauce, pickles, horseradish and carrots, $10.50).
"Our niche has really become lunch time," Colello said.
In addition, Storch said, they've become popular for offering hard-to-find retail items, like cacao butter, spirulina, chlorella, green stevia powder and turmeric extract.
Another healthy option, in both Fairfield and Westport, is the buffet section at Whole Foods. You can make a huge salad with all your favorite vegetables and get a bowl of soup to go with it. Or grab some sushi rolls, a Panini or some fresh fruit.
The only challenge will be to avoid the gelato on the way out.