Beantown’s Best

Forget that calorie-packed clam chowder. Forgo that lethal Boston cream pie. Boston’s newest culinary attractions serve up a healthy and light fare, using a myriad of vegetarian, organic and raw ingredients. From ethnic-vegetarian to raw foods delights, many restaurants now offer a healthful yet tasty alternative to diners.

Reviews of health-conscious restaurants are popping up in papers all over town, and loyal clients are proving that healthy eating isn’t just a passing phenomenon.

Go Vegetarian

Several Boston-area eateries boast vegetarian and vegan menus. Country Life, an unlimited vegetarian buffet in the heart of Boston’s Financial District, features a variety of menu items that change daily. 200 High Street, Boston, MA. 617-951-2534.

From veggie burgers to “tofu teriyaki” to vegetarian tacos and enchiladas, the buffet features several hot dishes and an extensive salad bar. Prefect for a quick lunch that’s bound to please everyone, Country Life is affordable at $7 for lunch and $8 for dinner. Also try their Sunday brunches, offering “tofu scrambles” and whole wheat waffles.

Veggie Planet in Harvard Square serves up vegetarian pizzas that delight herbivore clients everywhere. This cozy eatery has all types of pizza toppings, including curried sweet potatoes, grilled cheese and broccoli, and even a Thai-style creation featuring coconut rice, peanuts and tofu. The menu also includes soups, salads, “real meals on rice,” and desserts. The fare is reasonable—under $6 for lunch and around $10 for dinner. An added plus: Veggie Planet has live music on most nights. See healthy vegetarian recipes here.

Organic and Ethnic Options

For an all-natural treat, try the Organic Garden Restaurant and Juice Bar in Beverly, which sports a vegan menu; its dishes entirely made with raw organic products. Organic Garden’s selections include innovative falafel, scores of rich smoothies, and even lasagna and ravioli—made without the processed pasta, of course. Chef Robert Reid boasts a menu that’s free of wheat, dairy products, and unhealthy fats. Dishes run between $10-14, while appetizers go for $4-7 and desserts are $3-5. Smoothies and treats from the Juice Bar (a must-try!) cost between $4-5. The restaurant also offers an extensive organic catering menu. 294 Cabot Street, Beverly, MA. 978-922-0004.

Healthy eating has been extended to some of Boston’s ethnic restaurants as well. Several restaurants are experimenting with vegetarian dishes and lighter fare, adding new items to their menus in an effort to satisfy customers seeking a healthy meal. In addition, newly opened ethnic vegetarian/ethnic vegan eateries are becoming increasingly popular.

Buddha’s Delight in Chinatown serves up authentic Chinese and Vietnamese dishes—vegan style, without the use of animal byproducts. The meatless meals are made with innovative meat substitutes, and include such favorites as lo-mein made with tofu, wonton soup and several stir-fry dishes. Dinners run between $6-14 and the menu is extensive and convincing—it is sure to please even those who prefer traditional Chinese food. 3 Beach Street, Boston, MA. 617-451-2395.

Masalaa in Billerica is an Indian vegetarian restaurant, offering a variety of rice dishes and meatless entrees in a plethora of sauces, for just under $9. Masalaa carries a great deal of breads, rice cakes and Indian pancakes, as well as fresh juice and milk drinks. The restaurant prides itself on its dedication to preserving the individual culinary authenticity of the many states of India through the use of genuine Indian spices and flavors in a healthy environment. 786 Boston Road, Billerica, MA. 978-667-3443.

Healthy Escapes

And if a simple healthy dinner isn’t enough, why not try a whole weekend of health? The Shady Hollow Inn in South Dennis is a great place for cozy Cape Cod weekends, as well as vegetarian and vegan eating. The Inn offers healthy breakfasts, dinners and picnics, made with organic ingredients whenever possible. In addition to healthy food, the Shady Hollow Inn also provides plenty of opportunity for exercise, with kayaks and bicycles available for rent and scenic trails for walks and hikes. 370 Main Street, South Dennis, MA. 508-394-7474.

Fiending for a healthy eating excursion? There are various happenings dedicated to honoring the vegetarian lifestyle and healthy eating. The Boston Vegetarian Society sponsors an annual Boston Vegetarian Food Festival, which boasts natural food exhibitions and cooking demonstrations, food tastings, and free consultations with nutritionists. The Festival is a wonderful day for exploring some of Beantown’s healthy eating options.

The Boston Vegetarian Society, which was founded to promote and educate about vegetarianism, also schedules a plethora of healthy-eating activities year round, including cooking classes, social dinners, and even discussions on raising vegetarian children. P.O. Box 38-1071, Cambridge, MA 02238-1071. 617-424-8846.

With a number of great restaurants offering vegetarian, organic, and raw choices, it is easier than ever to follow a healthful diet when dining out in Boston. So don’t get those too-rich baked beans opt for some bean curd instead!