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Red Beet Bourguignon at Woodward Table
Red Beet Bourguignon at Woodward Table
Woodward Table

Healthy Restaurant Dishes That Won’t Make You Hate Life

Dining light never tasted so right

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Red Beet Bourguignon at Woodward Table
| Woodward Table

Resolving to "eat healthier" can often feel like some sort of cruel punishment, especially when so many green choices put such a somber emphasis on health. A few days of superfood shakes and raw vegetable salads is enough to drive anyone to shamefully devour a Big Mac under the cover of darkness.

The path to better nutrition doesn't have to be paved with starkly seasoned dishes that scream deprivation. There are plenty of ways to find flavor and indulgence without relying on excess calories or fat. In fact, there are some dishes in restaurants that won't necessitate a 60-minute date with the treadmill immediately after consuming them.

Chefs around D.C. — including pioneers such as Todd Gray of Equinox and recent arrival Jeremiah Langhorne of the Dabney — are giving vegetables their due, using a lighter hand when it comes to added fat, and relying on leaner, more nutritious sources of protein. That's great news for diners looking to shed a few pounds or give the old arteries a much needed break.

Here are nearly two dozen places to indulge in adventurous, guilt-free (ish) dining right now.

—Lani Furbank

Have another tip for healthy dining? Share in the comments below.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Beefsteak

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The beet sandwich at José Andrés’ veggie-centric eatery only comes around when the season is right. This year, the star of the Beetsteak Burger will rotate between gold or red beets ($4.99). The nutritious root is lightly pickled and topped with lettuce, tomato, pickled red onion, sprouts, and romaine on an olive oil brioche bun.

Chef Harper McClure swaps beets for beef in his white beet carpaccio ($13). Paper-thin slices of beet are brightened by hibiscus, bull’s blood beet granita, preserved lemon, and arugula.

Central Michel Richard

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Though the presentation is the same, the Thai Quinoa Salad with Pickled Daikon at Central is sure to be more satisfying than a meal-prep jarred salad eaten at the office ($14). The mason jar is filled with quinoa, pickled daikon, arugula, and a coconut-peanut dressing.

China Chilcano

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Good quality raw fish doesn’t need much help in order to impress. The classic ceviche at China Chilcano features red snapper dressed with simple accoutrements: leche de tigre, sweet potato, red onion, cancha, and cilantro ($14).

Choolaah Indian BBQ

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This Ohio-based, fast-casual Indian concept recently arrived in town, bringing with it tandoor-cooked proteins, naan, and biryanis, along with a selection of accompanying daals and masalas. Their street snacks menu includes pav bhaji, a hearty vegetable curry from Mumbai served on a toasted bun ($6.99). The curry is packed cauliflower, peas, potatoes, peppers, onion, ginger, garlic, lemon, and cilantro.

The Dabney

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Chef Jeremiah Langhorne always gives vegetables the love they deserve, and the lowly carrot is no exception. His ember-roasted carrots are enhanced by whipped ricotta, sumac, fried garlic, and spicebush ($14).

Equinox

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Salmon is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, so it makes for a guilt-free beef substitute in a burger. Equinox’s Fennel Spiced Salmon Burger comes with mustard aioli on grilled brioche ($20). Even the side gets a nutritional boost courtesy of sweet potato chips.

Fare Well

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Dairy-free burrata seems like an impossible feat, but not when it’s in the hands of vegan magician Doron Petersan. The burrata at Fare Well is made with cashews and almonds, and gussied up with arugula pesto, balsamic marinated tomatoes, arugula, capers, and a toasted baguette ($16).

Firefly

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Nutrient-filled acorn squash gets the sweet treatment at Firefly ($20). It’s served with steel-cut oatmeal pilaf, collard greens, Fuji apple, maple syrup, and pine nut gremolata.

Garrison

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Garrison gives beef tartare an upgrade by swapping in a leaner, more salubrious protein: bison. The Virginia Bison Tartare is served with brioche and a quail egg ($17).

honeygrow

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Health-conscious diners can even enjoy dessert, if the treat isn’t laden with excess sugar. Fast-casual Honeygrow offers honeybars, which are kind of like fruit sundaes ($5.45). Start with a choice of three fresh fruits (think: strawberries, blueberries, pineapples, apples, and bananas), garnish with honey or maple syrup, and complete with two toppings (coconut shavings, dark chocolate chips, granola, or plain yogurt).

Logan Tavern

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Logan Tavern also relies on bison meat to give its burger some added health benefits. The bison burger is topped with arugula, caramelized onions, and cherry tomatoes on a brioche bun ($17.50). Get sautéed greens on the side instead of fries for even more brownie points.

Maketto

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Maketto turns hearty winter vegetables into a delicate and bright salad ($12). The dish features white-miso tofu hummus, salt-roasted root vegetables, and winter greens lightly seasoned with yuzu and olive oil, garnished with toasted rice powder.

NoPa Kitchen + Bar

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Nopa lets nature’s noodle stand in for high-carb pasta. The crispy chicken roulade comes with spaghetti squash, purple barley, guanciale, and sage jus ($26).

Restaurant Eve

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Get a hefty dose of omega-3s from four types of seafood folded into the Basque-style stew at Restaurant Eve ($29). The winter warmer features Chesapeake Bay prawns, rockfish, clams, and mussels, as well as linguiça sausage, potatoes, fennel, parsley, garlic, rosemary, and saffron.

Room 11

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Room 11’s Harissa Chicken packs a punch of protein and nutrients ($17). The boneless chicken thigh is served with chickpea masala, coconut milk, baby broccoli, and eggplant.

The Royal

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Grilled avocado may not sound like much, but the simplicity is the key to its success ($11). The Royal’s dish relies on the creamy flavor of the avocado, which is even more satisfying once it gets a little char from the grill. The heart-healthy fruit sits on top of red quinoa and lentils with house vinaigrette.

Shouk’s menu has no shortage of healthful-but-satisfying meal options; right now, the new mushroom mujadara is where it’s at ($9.75). The mushroom blend includes buttons and portobellos for a bold umami flavor without red meat.

Water & Wall

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Another leaner, nutrient-rich alternative to beef is venison. Water and Wall serves up venison loin with celery root, horseradish, caramelized endive, and calvados bordelaise ($15).

Wildwood Kitchen by Robert Wiedmaier

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People swear by the Mediterranean diet because the low fat, high nutrient, and moderate protein levels improve heart health. Wildwood Kitchen embraces the same, but flavor doesn’t take a backseat. The grilled lamb loin comes with a rich, black garlic tahini, carrots, freekeh (the supergrain), and burnt honey gastrique ($33).

Woodward Table

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Just change one letter and it’s a whole new dish: the Roasted Red Beet Bourguignon at Woodward Table features the red root instead of red meat ($22.50). Their take on the French stew includes farro, baby carrots, roasted grapes, mushrooms, smoked pearl onions, and a vegetable demi-glace.

Beefsteak

The beet sandwich at José Andrés’ veggie-centric eatery only comes around when the season is right. This year, the star of the Beetsteak Burger will rotate between gold or red beets ($4.99). The nutritious root is lightly pickled and topped with lettuce, tomato, pickled red onion, sprouts, and romaine on an olive oil brioche bun.

BRABO

Chef Harper McClure swaps beets for beef in his white beet carpaccio ($13). Paper-thin slices of beet are brightened by hibiscus, bull’s blood beet granita, preserved lemon, and arugula.

Central Michel Richard

Though the presentation is the same, the Thai Quinoa Salad with Pickled Daikon at Central is sure to be more satisfying than a meal-prep jarred salad eaten at the office ($14). The mason jar is filled with quinoa, pickled daikon, arugula, and a coconut-peanut dressing.

China Chilcano

Good quality raw fish doesn’t need much help in order to impress. The classic ceviche at China Chilcano features red snapper dressed with simple accoutrements: leche de tigre, sweet potato, red onion, cancha, and cilantro ($14).

Choolaah Indian BBQ

This Ohio-based, fast-casual Indian concept recently arrived in town, bringing with it tandoor-cooked proteins, naan, and biryanis, along with a selection of accompanying daals and masalas. Their street snacks menu includes pav bhaji, a hearty vegetable curry from Mumbai served on a toasted bun ($6.99). The curry is packed cauliflower, peas, potatoes, peppers, onion, ginger, garlic, lemon, and cilantro.

The Dabney

Chef Jeremiah Langhorne always gives vegetables the love they deserve, and the lowly carrot is no exception. His ember-roasted carrots are enhanced by whipped ricotta, sumac, fried garlic, and spicebush ($14).

Equinox

Salmon is an excellent source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, so it makes for a guilt-free beef substitute in a burger. Equinox’s Fennel Spiced Salmon Burger comes with mustard aioli on grilled brioche ($20). Even the side gets a nutritional boost courtesy of sweet potato chips.

Fare Well

Dairy-free burrata seems like an impossible feat, but not when it’s in the hands of vegan magician Doron Petersan. The burrata at Fare Well is made with cashews and almonds, and gussied up with arugula pesto, balsamic marinated tomatoes, arugula, capers, and a toasted baguette ($16).

Firefly

Nutrient-filled acorn squash gets the sweet treatment at Firefly ($20). It’s served with steel-cut oatmeal pilaf, collard greens, Fuji apple, maple syrup, and pine nut gremolata.