Savor: Happy Healthy Dining

BY Michelle Billman

Eating healthy and dining out sound like two ideas that can’t coexist. But in the Port City with restaurants like Lovey’s Natural Foods & Café on Military Cutoff Road; Nikki’s Gourmet Sushi Bar located at Independence Mall Front Street and Military Cutoff Road; and Tidal Creek Co-op on Oleander Drive eating healthy while dining out is affordable convenient and tasty.

In fact diners at all three restaurants leave feeling refreshed from eating healthy organic foods. “They feel energized — not full and lethargic ” Lovey’s Natural Foods & Café owner Karen Stewart explains. “They feel like they’ve done something good for themselves because they ate a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and they didn’t eat a lot of processed fattening foods.” Heather Gregoire manager for Nikki’s Gourmet Sushi Bar adds “A really good customer of ours has been going to the gym on a regular basis and limiting his takeout diet to items like sushi steamed soybeans and seaweed salad. He’s lost about 50 pounds over the course of six months.”

The benefits of healthy eating are clear. But can food that’s good for you taste good too? “Organic foods are going to be the most delicious tasting ” Stewart explains. “They’re the cleanest food around and the healthiest food; the best food that money can buy. You pay a little more but it’s worth it in flavor and nutrition.” One of Stewart’s favorite healthy dishes at Lovey’s is the sunshine grinder a veggie burger on a whole wheat wrap served with lettuce tomatoes carrots sprouts vegetarian dressing cheese and chips. The burger is made from sunflower seed protein and can also be served on a whole wheat bun which Stewart describes as “light fluffy and delicious.” Other popular choices include chapati an Indian flat bread served with hummus or avocado and a variety of soups salads and organic dishes from the hot and cold bars.

Both Lovey’s and Tidal Creek Co-op offer popular hot and cold bars where customers pick and choose the items they want and pay by the pound. Jessica Ashcraft marketing and membership service manager for Tidal Creek Co-op says that two popular dishes are the curry chicken salad made with all-natural chicken that’s cooked and pulled off the bone in-house and dressed with spices cranberries and celery and the sweet potato salad side dish local to North Carolina. Another favorite is the amazon surfer smoothie made with apple pineapple raspberry banana and acai berries and containing several antioxidants. Smoothies at Tidal Creek Co-op can be custom-made with additions like greens protein and bee pollen. And if customers want to learn to make their own meals and snacks Ashcraft says they are happy to share recipes.

At Nikki’s Gregoire recommends trying the different types of sushi rolls served from tuna or salmon to hamachi or avocado all wrapped in cucumber instead of rice and topped with a spicy vinegar sauce. Another popular choice is the veggie wrap which comes with hummus homemade sesame sauce and a taboulleh wheat salad with sprouts carrots and lettuce. Along with healthy food choices like bobaganush (roasted eggplant) hummus soups edamame (steamed soybeans) and white and brown rice Nikki’s also offers black bean and tofu burgers as well as falafel. “If you have a large group you can come in here and our menu is flexible. We can accommodate the needs of everyone ” Gregoire says.

With a variety of healthy restaurants that offer affordable fulfilling and appetizing meals there really is no reason to avoid fresh healthy foods in the Cape Fear region.