There’s nothing we’d love more than to eat a giant deep dish pizza or burrito every day for lunch. But that would create two very bad problems. One, eating deep dish pizza and burritos every day can’t be good for your health. Two, we’d probably end up napping at our desk all afternoon. And that’s why it’s important to have some healthy lunch options to keep your mind sharp and your body bathing suit ready. Or at least something-other-than-sweatpants ready.
Luckily, you can still eat great tasting food if you go the healthy route. There are excellent salads and sandwiches all over Chicago, that are almost as enjoyable as pizza for lunch. Here's where to find them.
Check out the rest of our Guide To Being A Little Healthier, presented in partnership with Bai (a drink that helps us be a little healthier).
Pastoral is the type of artisanal store you’d expect to see while wandering around Paris or some fancy farmer’s market in Napa. But it’s here, and hopefully there’s one close to. If you don’t like salads, try a Pastoral salad to change your mind. But you can also ease your way into the healthy lunch lifestyle with their excellent sandwiches like the farmhouse veggie or Spanish tuna salad. High quality ingredients are always the answer to making simple salads and sandwiches taste great.
Farmer’s fridge isn't actually a restaurant, or even a fast casual take out spot. It's a vending machine. For salad. These vending machines serve fresh and healthy salads in plastic, recyclable mason jars. Welcome to Martha Stewart’s future. There are a handful around the Loop, West Loop, and River North, so find the closest one to you. Not into vending machine salads? One: try one because it’ll change your mind. And two: check out their stand in Revival Food Hall where you can get things like soup and avocado toast too. We’re sure avocado toast will be served in a vending machine one of these days too.
There are a lot of little salad chains around town, but a lot of them are also bad. Not Be Leaf. It might not have the Hollywood star appeal of Sweetgreen, but it’s a great option if you want a basic, healthy salad for a reasonable price. Try the falafel-osophy if you want something a little different with sweet potato falafel, feta, dates, and tabbouleh.
If loving the poke craze makes you a follower, then consider us the first cult members willing to drink the Kool Aid. Aloha Poke was the first poke shop to reach Chicago and we adamantly stand by the fact that it’s the best. It might cost a little bit more than a sandwich, but you'll get your money’s worth with an abundance of fresh tuna, salmon, and veggies for lunch. Make it a salad over a rice bowl because health and all.
Are you badly in need of a juice cleanse? Hit Belli’s, the local Pilsen shop that’s part of Thalia Hall. But more than just fresh juices, Belli’s has actual food like acai bowls, oatmeal and fruit bowls, salads, and different styles of avocado toast to feed you every day. Skip Whole Foods, go here instead.
Speaking of Sweetgreen, it finally made its way to Chicago and it’s only going to keep spreading out more around here. These days it’s basically the gold standard for fast casual salad chains, and there’s a reason why. The store itself smells like a fresh vegetable delivery, and the ability to customize your own salad for around $12 is tough to beat. This is what healthy food is supposed to taste like and cost.
The name should be a dead giveaway that you’re getting some sort of healthy seafood situation for lunch. The menu is a choose-your-own-adventure where you can pick a type of fish like shrimp, salmon, or whitefish, and get it any form your want, whether in a salad, sandwich, or “power box” with quinoa, wild rice, and spinach. It’s your brown bag lunch just like mom used to make, but better. Sorry, mom.
We all have that neighborhood cafe and grocery store from childhood. The place you would go to grab a salad or sandwich but also get sucked into spending entirely too much money on little speciality items, most likely desserts, that you didn’t really need. That’s Goddess & The Grocer, and with a couple locations these days, there’s probably one near you. It’s easy, it’s reasonably priced, and there are plenty of healthy options to eat quickly or grab on-the-go. Just be careful of those desserts.
Ema is a pretty good Mediterranean restaurant in River North that’s good for date night, dinner with friends, or even work dinners. But perhaps the smartest thing they did in opening Ema was to include a separate lunch-counter service, Rotisserie Ema, with it. The quick and casual counter has more styles of hummus than you’ll know what to do with, and you can pair it with veggies, rotisserie chicken, and falafel. Take it to go or grab one of the high tops inside of the Ema dining room that’s designated for Rotisserie Ema during the day.
3 Greens is a Jack of all trades. It’s like Justin Timberlake, Lebron James, or Daniel Day Lewis - someone that’s versatile and can do it all. It’s part coffee shop, part bar, part ping pong stadium, and part burger hot spot. But 3 Greens also has the best salad bar in town, which means you can put together your own healthy lunch consisting of any salad topping you want. Make sure to get a little smoked salmon on your salad - it’s the best part.
Harvest Juicery wants to be a part of your daily life. You can go and get a cold pressed juice or smoothie along with five different styles of avocado toast. There’s also a number of other things like oatmeal or pitaya bowls that are guaranteed to leave you feeling a little healthier for the day. If you’re like us and crave more breakfast type foods for lunch, then Harvest Juicery is a smart move. Your co-workers will be jealous of your healthy willpower.