Healthy food is important. We need it to live well and to live long - no one’s denying that. But in this era (and city) of oversaturated health food consciousness, we’ve clearly reached a breaking point. Most of it is overpriced, disgusting, and in the end, probably not even that good for you. Quick hint: You’re only going to eat healthy if you actually enjoy doing it.
We aren’t going to tell you how to live your life, but choking down some sort of bacteria water in a concrete-walled juice den will be a phase in your life you undoubtedly look back on with regret. Just find those welcoming places where you can eat like a reasonable human being, hang out with friends or coworkers, not spend a fortune, and actually have a pleasant time. Without a mention of the word "cleanse" anywhere. Here are some of our favorite LA spots to accomplish just that.
You can definitely go the not-healthy route at Baroo (we’re pretty sure that celeriac pasta dish isn’t doing our waistlines any favors), but with all the fermenting going on here, this is the kind of place where you can eat kind of healthy without actually trying to. Especially if you order the Bibim Salad, which involves at least 16 vegetables that we can’t pronounce. While they’re often slammed for lunch, Baroo is the kind of low-key dinner place perfect for a Tuesday night.
Grand Central Market might seem like a pain in the ass, but Madcapra makes it all worth it - and is a healthier option in between the egg sandwiches and tacos. Yes, we know falafel is deep fried, but hear us out. The main event at Madcapra isn’t the falafel - it’s the presence of vegetables in quite literally everything, from your sandwich or salad to your beet-flavored soda. Minimize your carb intake and go for the Green Salad and wonder why all good-for-you food can’t be this enjoyable.
If you’re going healthy here, you’re going to need to pretend the sandwich section of the menu doesn’t exist, because the cauliflower grilled cheese can be hard to ignore. But once you’ve done that, you’re kind of in the clear - of course there’s a kale salad, but there are also more interesting things like housemade yoghurt with chlorophyll (who knows what that is, but it comes in green liquid form, so it must be good for you), vermicelli salad, and a brown rice risotto, all of which make for a much better than average healthy meal.
We’re pretty sure Santa Monica didn't need another fast-casual spot, but we’re also sure you could do a lot worse than Flower Child. They’re open all day, and once you’ve ordered your avocado toast or “Mother Earth” bowl at the counter, you don’t have to stand in an awkward line - they’ll bring it to your table. There are a lot of vegan options, and the mix and match veggie/grain plates are pretty hearty (especially if you add a protein). You definitely won’t have the hungry-an-hour-later problem here.
The kind of Mexican food we get in LA doesn’t exactly have a reputation for healthiness, but Tocaya, a mini-chain with locations in Venice and West Hollywood, is an outlier. Sure, there are tacos and burritos here, but the emphasis is on the salads and bowls, as well as the mostly organic produce.
There’s no doubt things have changed in Highland Park over the past couple of years, but if you needed proof, here's the neighborhood's first vegan cafe. Kitchen Mouse is the real deal when it comes to healthy restaurants - it’s generally gluten-free and there’s plenty of tempeh on the menu, but most importantly: the food is delicious. The vegan cheese-topped chilaquiles are excellent, and you (probably) won’t even miss the real dairy. Although you should probably still add the eggs.
Little Pine is like your friend who won’t eat a lettuce leaf unless she knows the exact type of earth it was grown in, only way less annoying. Everything here is vegan and completely organic and, of course, is in Silver Lake, owned by Moby, and donates 100% of profits to animal welfare organizations. Despite all this earnestness, Little Pine rubs nothing in your face, won’t give you a lecture, and serves food that tastes really good.
The Butcher’s Daughter might have originated in New York, but it’s found its spiritual home on Abbot Kinney. From juices and “wellness lattes” to cauliflower grits and an entire section of the menu devoted to avocado toast, it’s basically one big California cliché. Sometimes the dairy-replacement can mean dishes get a little heavy, but in a world of terrible, tasteless, healthy food, The Butcher’s Daughter is a welcome oasis.
Poke is exciting because it’s sort of like froyo except that it’s raw fish and instead of sprinkles you get vaguely healthy toppings like seaweed and sesame seeds. The poke craze has hit full-on party mode in LA and quality spots are popping up everywhere, but Sweetfin is one of the best around. Though they have their “signature bowls," your move is to build your own and walk out feeling healthy and accomplished. Just be mindful of that Creamy Togarashi sauce. Even while draped on fresh fish, mayo has calories.
We absolutely love eating fruits because they’re not vegetables. And when it comes to the acai bowl behemoths over at Backyard Bowls, you’re basically getting as much fruit as the human body can handle in one sitting. $11 might seem like a lot for a bowl of pureed berries, but fear not. These things are gigantic and amazing and will keep you full well until dinner. Also, everyone inside looks like they’re in a Quicksilver fever dream.
With a name better suited for one of those humiliating LAX kiosks where you buy a $17 dried-out turkey club because it’s the closest thing to your gate and you hate yourself, Fresh Corn Grill could easily have slipped into LA’s infinite health food abyss. But they’ve survived (and thrived) off of good food, a beautiful space, and a wide-ranging menu with everything from pastas to tacos. Also, hidden parking in the back.
No real introduction needed here, Sqirl has quickly become one of the most popular breakfast/lunch spots in the entire city. And we completely condone the fanfare. No, we won't be doing any nutritional tests on that Brioche Toast anytime soon, but this remains some of the most reinvigorating food in the city. Portions are big, everything tastes great, and if you're able to snag a table, there's no better way to spend a lazy Saturday morning. Don't feel like standing in that 30-person deep line? Come here for a killer weekday breakfast.
Hugo’s is delightful, and despite being a full-fledged “health” restaurant, it’s avoided all the nauseating pretension that accompanies that category. Open daily at 7:30am, Hugo’s is simply your everyday neighborhood spot that also happens to serve healthy food. If you are of the gluten-free variety, this is your El Dorado.
It wasn’t all that long ago people were still wondering where all the build-your-own-salad places in LA were. Well, say hello to Sweetgreen, the East Coast salad cult fave whose LA invasion is in full force. Bringing local ingredients, reasonable prices, and flat-out excellent salads to our health-conscious mouths, Sweetgreen is a welcome addition to a market that, in LA, will frankly never be too crowded.
Generally speaking, we prefer to order our chicken without quotation marks around it, but in the case of Sage Vegan, we make an exception. Because time and time again, Sage has proven to be some of the best meatless food in the city, with a cool space you don’t feel ashamed to be in. Hot tip: their take-out operation is excellent, if you’re running late to your Bachelor viewing party.
At the end of the day, the crippling fear Americans have of calories probably isn't the worst thing. But it’s also misplaced. Real calories are good. Weird, processed, 50%-fat-free bullsh*t calories are bad. Sorry Mom. And at Forage, a cafeteria-style spot in Silverlake, you’re going to eat calories. But you’re also going to know (down to the exact farm) where they came from and how good they are for you. Forage is real food, from real sources, and your body will really thank you.
Located on that stretch of Ventura by Universal Studios where not much of anything happens, SunCafe has developed a rabid cult following of people seeking fantastic organic food and one thing you don’t often see at places like this: a solid beer list. Is this perhaps slightly counter-intuitive? No, get over yourself. Anytime there’s good food, great beer, and a casual space, we are there.
Now a bonafide SoCal mini-chain (there’s even one at LAX), Lemonade has expanded quickly thanks to a strong concept and food quality that continues to be high. It calls itself a “marketplace,” probably because cafeteria is not nearly as sexy, but it’s definitely a cafeteria. And that’s not a problem for us. At Lemonade, it’s all about grabbing a tray and getting wild. There’s never any doubt your food here will be just as good for you as it is for your Instagram.
Nothing about a trendy marketplace on 3rd St. full of girls (and guys) in yoga pants bitching about how their ClassPass app is glitching sounds appealing. And yet, Joan’s On Third continues to reel us back in with good food and a great sidewalk patio. And while Joan’s menu will always be somewhat health-conscious, some major splurge items remain. Short rib sandwich? WE WON’T TELL IF YOU DON’T.