Austin's Best Restaurants for a Healthy Bite

By Alyza Moore

Photo: PicnikAustin.com

Photo: PicnikAustin.com

It can be hard to balance health with all the other things that require attention and energy in our day-to-day lives, and eating out often can quickly turn into an unhealthy habit. Austin, a city full of healthy options that cater to all dietary needs, is the exception to this rule. Some cities have a McDonald’s every few blocks, but Austin has replaced fast-food with health-conscious restaurants at nearly every corner. Below are a few of my absolute favorites!

PICNIK

Picnik (featured in the cover photo) has easily become my top-pick for a paleo-friendly stop in the city. Founded by female rockstar Naomi Seifter, Picnik started out as food trailer in a repurposed shipping container on top of a hill off South Lamar. Lucky for me, I live right around the corner from the trailer, so a yummy butter coffee and good conversation with the peeps behind the counter is never too far away. Picnik recently opened as a brick and mortar restaurant on Burnet, solidifying its place in Austin's food scene. I’m especially fond of Picnik's balanced view on healthy eating. The servers are well-versed on the benefits of the nutrients found in every item on the menu, and are eager to share their knowledge. The trailer also hosts a farmers market on the lawn every month, and offers events with local fitness studios in the surrounding area. Picnik isn’t just a restaurant, it’s a well of knowledge on how to use food to improve your quality of life. Even my hard-to-please brother fell in love with their mocha lattes and the many breakfast taco options -- which is saying a lot. (As a side note to my vegetarians and vegans, Picnik might not be your spot due to its paleo menu). Click here for more info.

BOULDIN CREEK CAFE

Photo: austinchronicle.com

Photo: austinchronicle.com

If you're looking for a place that fully embodies that Austin vibe, Bouldin Creek Cafe is the spot for you. You never know what art you’ll find on the wall, or what quirky garage sale item you’ll see hanging from the ceiling. It’s walking distance from my house, so I’ve become an expert on pretty much everything on their menu -- I think I ate the granola sunrise with vegan ambrosia nearly everyday for two months. It’s house-made granola and fresh fruit make it a hearty, yet not overly dense meal. The tofu broccoli salad with nutritional yeast is another solid option. This restaurant is entirely vegetarian (with vegan options for everything on the menu), but if you’re a carnivore, you’ll never notice the lack of meat since you'll be too busy savoring the deliciousness of your meal. For an authentic and healthy Austin experience, Bouldin is my go-to choice. Click here for more info.

TRUE FOOD KITCHEN

photo: tribeza.com

photo: tribeza.com

Yes, True Food Kitchen is a chain, but you’d never know it based off of the quality of food and local feel of the restaurant. It’s in the middle of the newly-renovated Seaholm Power Plant district, with a beautiful patio that overlooks a family friendly park. They offer one-hour parking validation, making it a no-stress venture into downtown Austin. True Food is the brainchild of Andrew Weil, who is known as the pioneer of holistic living, and it offers a well-rounded menu of comfort food with a healthy twist. Menu items range from pizzas to nutrient-dense salads and veggie bowls, with gluten free and vegan options for those with dietary restrictions. Speaking of dietary restrictions, the servers genuinely want to help you find the right meal for your picky belly, and there’s no judgment for any of your modification requests. My favorite dish is the Ancient Grains Bowl, which is the most popular item on the menu, but the edamame dumplings are a must-try. And don’t leave without trying the flourless chocolate cake! Click here for more info.

VINAIGRETTE

photo: atasteofkoko.com

photo: atasteofkoko.com

Vinaigrette is another chain that manages to pull off a local, hometown vibe. This bright and open restaurant is off of the famed South Congress Avenue, with a big patio that is dog-friendly, nestled under one of Austin's signature giant oak trees. The menu boasts an incredibly wide array of salads that are categorized into sweet and savory, perfect for satisfying any craving. If you’ve exhausted your salad quota for the week, there are also a few sandwich options that are just as delicious. The drinks are one of my favorite things on the menu -- the kale apple spritz is hard to pass up, and the cocktails are light and refreshing. Another reason Vinaigrette comes up high on my list of favorite eateries is because they source as much of their produce as possible from a farm in Bastrop, and they are a food-waste conscious company.  This is the perfect spot for a light and healthy lunch, before taking a jaunt through SoCo to see the sites. Click here for more info.


The Wild Unknown Tarot

by Ferny Barceló

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The Wild Unknown began simply as an outlet for creator Kim Kran's personal artwork. She designed her first tarot card deck in 2013, and the beautiful and otherworldly illustrations of the deck quickly caught the eye of many mainstream outlets. I first came across her Animal Spirit deck when a good friend of mine brought hers along to a yoga festival we were both attending, and she gave me my first reading on the furry carpet of our little cabin. I was immediately in love with not just the beauty of the deck itself, but with the different meanings associated with each animal. As I looked to get my hands on a deck of my own, I also discovered her original Tarot deck, and got myself the whole kit and caboodle: both decks, along with a spirit cloth and detailed guidebooks. Needless to say, something was pulling me towards them -- I was so ready to dive into this sacred ritual! Kim makes her decks accessible to anyone, providing guidebooks with everything the reader will need to know to help interpret their cards' meanings. She encourages those who get her cards to familiarize themselves with the whole deck, looking at each card and their meanings first, and really infusing them with your personal energy. Basically, this is a way the cards become uniquely YOURS. The guidebooks provide many different ways of reading the cards -- from past, present, and future readings, to detailed spreads like the Celtic Cross, which deeply investigate an issue at hand.

The Wild Unknown cards have become a staple at gatherings with my friends (expect your girlfriends to want a reading of their own!) and also as part of my meditation or morning ritual. Sometimes, they come in handy when I'm needing inspiration or guidance in a specific area in my life, or when I simply need some extra clarity. The more I use the cards, the more I feel a connection to them and the readings they provide. As a strong believer in a higher Source, but also in a person's free will, I like to think of these cards as arrows pointing you towards what your heart may already know, but your head may have trouble accepting. Oftentimes, the answers to my questions are already there; these cards provide the extra nudge I need to see the right path.

Learn more about the Wild Unknown (and potentially get some cards of your own!) here.


Homemade Vegetarian Ramen

by Jonathan & Giselle Gillis

As a huge fan of Asian and Asian-fusion dishes, noodles have a special place in my heart. Whether in a warm broth or doused in a spicy sauce, a good noodle dish is a no-fail, awesome dinner idea in my book. So, when my best friend told me she had an amazing ramen recipe, I knew I had to feature it! My friend Giselle and her husband Jon try to avoid eating meat as much as possible, and she also has a pretty severe gluten allergy (she was diagnosed with celiac disease a few years ago), so they like to prepare a lot of their meals at home and completely from scratch. They both life super active lifestyles, so clean and healthy meals are essential to keep them fueled up and feeling strong. This recipe is one of their favorite creations, combining their two favorite meal components: fresh ingredients and delicious flavor. Read on for directions on how to make your own for a cozy dinner in, or double-up on the recipe and create a unique meal idea for your next dinner party. 

Vegetarian House Ramen

Make your savory vegetarian ramen with "kitchen sink" type ingredients (feel free to add/substitute items as you wish). Multiple burners on your stove will be required, so pay close attention to your task organization!

Ingredients / Serves 2:

1 box vegetable broth (low sodium, 1 quart size)

-1 cup of water

-2 tablespoons Miso Paste (Gluten Free)

-1/3 cup Soy or Tamari Sauce

-1 teaspoon sesame oil

-4 tablespoons vegetable oil

-1 tablespoon garlic chili sauce (or less if preferred)

-1/2 white onion, thinly sliced

-2 garlic cloves, chopped

-5 small shiitake mushrooms

-3 heads Baby Bok-Choi, roughly chopped. Discard ends

-2 stalks of green onions, sliced thin

-half a block of Tofu (the rest can be saved for another recipe), cut into small 1” squares about 1⁄4” thick

-2 eggs (hard boiled)

-2 servings Ramen (Rice Ramen by Lotus Foods, can be found at Costco)

-salt / pepper to taste

Boil 2 eggs, and set to the side in a cold bath to make peeling easier. Combine the vegetable broth and water in a medium pot. Bring to a boil and add miso paste and tamari/soy sauce stirring frequently with a wire whisk until there are no solids. Bring to low heat and cover.

In a medium frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper, stirring frequently, until softened and lightly browned in spots (about 3-5 minutes). Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring, two minutes more. Add this mixture to a small serving bowl to be used for arrangement later. Using the same pan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, plus 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and pan fry sliced tofu squares (about 2 minutes per side). Tofu is delicate so use a soft sided utensil to flip or turn over each slice.

Bring water to a boil in a separate pot. Add noodles and cook according to package directions. Drain, rinse, and cool. Be careful not to overcook the noodles and ensure you drain the ramen completely. Bring the broth mixture back to a simmer (not boiling) and add garlic chili sauce. Arrange your bowls with quartered portions of the sliced bok-choy, ramen noodles, tofu, mushrooms, and a sliced hard-boiled egg. Ladle broth over the noodles in each bowl, just shy of the level of the noodles. Garnish with green onions, salt and pepper to taste.


Vital Proteins Marine Collagen

by Ferny Barceló

Photo creD: withfoodandlove.com/

Photo creD: withfoodandlove.com/

When it comes to vitamins, supplements, and anything that is promised to make me healthier, I am a try-everything-once girl. Sadly, most of the stuff I try doesn't stay in my daily routine. Blame it on laziness, or simply not seeing results fast enough, it's rare when a supplement becomes a personal staple of mine. I need to see results quickly -- and good ones at that -- for something to become a mainstay. This is why collagen won my heart. The results were significant enough for me to keep it around, and a big plus was how simple it was to incorporate into my morning routine. In this case, drinking coffee. All it takes is one or two scoops a day into my daily cup of joe, and I was good to go.

But let's get real: collagen talk is everywhere nowadays. I've seen a ton of different brands pop up in just the last couple of months, so choosing the one that's right for you can be a little overwhelming. And if you're as Type-A as I am about my supplements, you're probably researching endlessly to see which brand is the best for you. So, let's talk about why I chose Vital Proteins Marine Collagen. This bright blue tub caught my eye on one of my favorite blogger's websites, and what really drew my attention was all of the amazing health benefits it promised: anti-ageing, fuller skin, healthier hair, nails, and improved joint health being just a few. I was intrigued, but held off because it sounded to good to be true. Then a really good girlfriend of mine told me she had bought some by the same brand (by coincidence) and she was beyond obsessed. She was going through tubs like crazy, and told me I HAD to try it. So, I bit the bullet and paid the close to $50 for a tub of the good stuff. And before you say anything, YES THE PRICE TAG IS A LITTLE CRAY. But the tub is huge -- I've been using one scoop daily for about three months now, and it's not even halfway done. 

Anywho, Vital Proteins also has a bovine version (which is the one my friend used) and I think whichever you go with is just personal preference. From what she's told me, hers has given her results that were just as great. Obviously, for my vegetarian friends, the marine would be your go-to. I personally chose the marine version because I've been reading about how much adrenaline is in meat products, and how this can negatively affect a woman's fertility. And as a childless girl in her thirties who wants babies one day, I'm pretty much doing all I can do to keep that system in tip-top shape, so I'm trying to avoid meat from larger animals (the idea being the larger the animal, the more adrenaline it releases when it's slaughtered. But that shall be another post.) One more important thing: it smells and tastes like NOTHING. Literally, no smell or aftertaste. Just give it a good stir, and it dissolves completely in hot liquids and doesn't change the taste of your drink at all. I say this because there are some Amazon reviewers who claim it smells like fish. I literally dunked my nose into the tub the moment I got it -- nothing. These people are bananas, and you should have zero fear of fishy smell.

On to results: after using one scoop in my coffee pretty much every day for almost three months now, I have to say I can see a big-time improvement in the fullness and quality of my skin. I have a very strict skin regimen (yet another post I promise to write soon) which has luckily given me pretty great results. BUT, my skin lady (who doesn't give unsolicited compliments very often) told me my skin had looked the best it ever had since I'd been seeing her, in my most recent visit. COLLAGEN? COINCIDENCE? Who knows. But I highly doubt this was just my skin getting brighter and fuller on its own. What else? Hair grew like weeds, and so did my nails. Another thing I noticed was that usually after I get gel nail polish, my nails are like paper after it's removed. This is the first time, post gel removal, that my nails didn't break, chip, or fold clean over when I touched them. Bottom line? Consider me hooked and a believer. Also, the super easy means of integrating it into my routine helped me stay consistent. Who doesn't have time to add a scoop of collagen to their coffee/tea/smoothie? Ease is a huge pro in my life, and this baby checked that box for sure. 

Final thoughts? It did what it promised, it was super easy to take, and I loved the results. Click here to order your own, and you can thank me later when you're glowing.