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gertie
Photograph: Ali Garber Photograph: Ali Garber

The best healthy restaurants in NYC

Forget limp lettuce—these resolution-friendly menus at healthy restaurants cut the calories but keep the yum

By Christina Izzo and Time Out New York contributors
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We get it: Keeping New Year's resolutions can be tough. Hell, choosing so-called healthy plates over decadent dishes and snackable cheap eats is downright torture. But this year, we found the best vegan and vegetarian restaurants, health-conscious coffee shops and dinettes, and takeout and delivery favorites to keep your goals on track. So ditch the kale salad and chow down on better-for-you brunch or border-crossing bites instead. 

RECOMMENDED: See all of the best restaurants in NYC

Best healthy restaurants

Ethiopian restaurant
Photograph: Erica Gannett

1. Bunna Cafe

Restaurants Ethiopian East Williamsburg

From wandering vegan pop-up to Bushwick brick-and-mortar, this veg den from Ethopian expat Liyuw Ayalew serves diet-abiding combos of five ($14) or seven dishes ($18). Opt for duba wot (sweet pumpkin cubes plunked in spicy berbere), yatakilt alicha (turmeric-spiced cabbage and potatoes) and enguday tibs (meaty portobello mushrooms sautéed in garlic, rosemary and ginger), but ask for extra injera, the supple sourdough flatbread, to sop up all those luscious sauces. 

2. Souen

Restaurants Japanese Soho

Not strictly vegetarian or vegan, and definitely not raw, Souen offers natural, organic foods with no dairy, wheat, sugar, chemicals, preservatives or meat in a clean, bright and peaceful setting. The Asian-influenced menu is extensive: ginger-soy steamed fish, squash tofu and soba noodles in garbanzo broth. But don’t be distracted from the chalkboard specials, which reveal the freshest fish choices and other interesting twists on the basics. 

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ABCV
Photograph: Filip Wolak

3. ABCV

Restaurants Vegetarian Flatiron

Though the ABC brand has always been taken with hyperfresh produce—no doubt buoyed by the complex’s proximity to the Union Square Greenmarket—ABCV is Vongerichten’s first meat-free spot, and his first ABC project without Dan Kluger in the kitchen. (Kluger left the group in 2014 to open Loring Place.) Instead, chef de cuisine Neal Harden (formerly of the prominent raw-food restaurant Pure Food and Wine) oversees the burners and challenges vegetarian eating’s bland, Bikram-yogi connotations with bold flavors and global zest.

FILIP WOLAK

4. Ladybird

Restaurants Vegan East Village

At Ladybird, the room alone—a jewel box of white marble, emerald velvet and gleaming gold—can distract you from the fact that there’s no meat on your plate. But executive chef Daphne Cheng, who veganified the Mother of Pearl menu and is doing the same for DeRossi’s bar Cienfuegos, does considerable work in making vegan eating as easygoing as shareable tapas: Buffalo maitake buns, green-pea fritters, and tempura-fried broccoli with gochujang-tamari sauce. 

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Jajaja
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Carolina S.

5. Jajaja Plantas Mexicana

Restaurants Mexican Chinatown

This small, but colorful vegan Mexican spot at the meeting point for Two Bridges, the Lower East Side and Chinatown could easily be cast off as somewhere where gaggles of Instagram influencers hangout. But the food can back it up, with inventive plant-based spins on Mexican favorites. There's a "chorizo" burrito made with cauliflower rice, rainbow chard bowl with vegan cotija and crispy chayote fish taco made with a seafood-substitute. 

6. Loving Hut

Restaurants Vegan Williamsburg

Bring your vegan friend to Loving Hut, a plant-based restaurant in Williamsburg, and watch their brain explode over the many, many menu options. You could go the Asian route with dishes like alfalfa rice rolls with jicama, bean curds and assorted veggies ($5.75), curry udon noodle soup ($9), or General Tso’s tofu delight with baby broccoli ($14.75). You could also get a vegan burger topped with “facon” and vegan cheese ($11), or butternut squash risotto ($10). There’s even a whole section of the menu devoted to vegan mac and cheese with chipotle peppers, mushrooms, caramelized onions or creamed spinach. 

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Slow-cooked salmon with pistachio pesto
Photograph: Courtesy Franklin Becker/Rodale Books

7. Little Beet Table

Restaurants Contemporary American Flatiron

Franklin Becker’s follow-up to his health-minded midtown spot pulls all wheat from the docket, offering gluten-free but still-rich plates like slow-cooked salmon with creamy celery root ($26). Fellow oceanic eats include salmon poke ($14) and roasted shrimp salad ($20), while vegetables go from garden-variety to gussied-up: charred broccoli with Calabrian chili ($10) and aleppo-roasted sweet potatoes with lemon oil and parsley ($8). 

Seared tuna nicoise
Photograph: Liz Clayman

8. Dimes

Restaurants Californian Chinatown

The lineup at this SoCal-inspired café can change weekly, turning out colorful plates with equal parts Japanese, South American and Mediterranean influences. While produce shines in dishes like a black-rice bowl loaded with sweet potato and turmeric ponzu ($14), local meats via Pat LaFrieda include a braised chicken leg with kale pesto and pickled fresno ($18) and a pulled-pork bowl with roasted pineapple ($17).

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Photograph: Courtesy Atla

9. Atla

Restaurants Mexican Noho

The Noho hot spot is slick but not overly styled: Save for verdant accents and magical-realism decals by artist, Rachel Levit Ruiz, hidden around like a game of I Spy, it’s all minimalist charcoal. Similar to the decor, the kitchen doesn’t need to hide behind maximalist plating or techniques, with each dish featuring 10 or fewer elements. The cooking is simple but feels radical, showcasing a bounty of fresh Mexican and Central American ingredients prepared expertly and made healthyish.

10. Honeybrains

Restaurants Juice bars Noho

This counter-service spot is dedicated to brain food—literally, food that has been nutritionally and scientifically proven to boost the ol' noggin. That includes mindfully made stuff like salmon-labneh toast, chia overnight oats, and coffee-crusted steak bowls, as well as house-made juices, shots, and supplements. There's also a Brain Bar offering coffee and tea drinks bolstered with raw honey. 

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