Healthy food means different things to different people. In the Midwest, a salad can involve jello and cheese. Provided the jello is green, it’s healthy. Then there are juice cleanse people, and people who think eating the right cereal will change their lives. We are more on the “food that actually tastes good” train, and would like to invite you to join us. Because juice isn’t food. Sorry.
So to help out on the eternal quest for something healthy that’s also tasty and satisfying, we’ve compiled this guide to our favorite good-for-you food in SF.
A vegan picnic sounds like a terrible thing, since good picnics typically feature a lot of cheese and cured meats. But Vegan Picnic actually does a decent job of making vegan things edible, especially the “crispy chicken” sandwich and sugar donut (the sugar helps). This place is very much grab-and-go, but if you’re in Cow Hollow and looking for a quick, healthy lunch, it’s perfect.
Order at the counter, then get ready for some of the best roasted things you’ve ever eaten. While the signature rotisserie chicken at this Hayes Valley spot is definitely worth your time, the cauliflower might actually be our favorite. It also happens to be a vegetarian entree that’s filling and delicious and not pasta. Overall, this is one of the best places in SF for an inexpensive, healthy dinner - provided you don’t succumb to the pork belly sandwich, of course.
As you may have guessed, Asian Box serves whimsical, Mexican-Mediterranean smoothies. Just checking that you’re actually reading this. This low-key spot in the Marina actually serves exactly you would think: very tasty and very filling rice/salad boxes with pre-set or make-your-own options. We’re fans of the tofu curry and the pork, and while you can get your food to-go, know that the interior is a lot nicer than many order-at-the-counter spots. It may not be your new go-to for date night, but it’s a perfectly good place to hang out over a casual, healthy weeknight dinner.
Cala is the best fancy Mexican restaurant in the city, in the prettiest space around, and by some divine miracle, it’s also generally very healthy. The food here is so good that you won’t even notice there’s no beef, pork, or chicken anywhere on the menu. Start with some black bean sopes and trout tostadas, and definitely get the sweet potato tacos, too.
Pacific Catch is a good choice for dinners when you want to have a glass of wine and eat something healthy, but you haven’t planned ahead. Both the Marina and Inner Sunset locations are low-key and easy, and while they feel slightly corporate, they also do poke better than your average fast-casual spot. The rice bowls and salads are also worth your time. Plus, if you can get there early, the happy hour poke deal - with $4 beers and $6.50 wines - is pretty amazing.
Tacolicious is a sleeper option for eating healthily, even when the rest of your group wants queso and tacos. The Marina Girl (romaine, avocado, and other toppings with a jalapeño vinaigrette) and kale salads are huge and delicious, and if you need some protein you can add grilled shrimp or chicken. The tacos themselves are less healthy than the salads, of course, but the portions are small enough that they still feel light, and there are some solid vegetarian options that won’t leave you starving afterwards. The number of margaritas you consume is up to you.
A standby of San Francisco’s Healthy Food Takeover, Little Gem is elevating the movement with its nicely plated food in a beautiful sit-down corner space in Hayes Valley. The portions are small, and you’ll need at least two things from the aggressively organic menu to fill up, but the food is crazy healthy and mostly crazy delicious, too. We strongly endorse the bibimbap bowl and short ribs.
You probably won’t be shocked to learn that a Japanese restaurant attached to a spa/bathhouse serves healthy food. But the food here isn’t just good for you - it tastes great, too. The skewers, especially the chicken and lamb, are simple and perfect, and the mushroom dumplings and poke are also strong. Bathing isn’t compulsory, but it’s certainly not the worst way to pregame your meal.
Blue Barn serves consistently stellar sandwiches and salads, and you can eat them in your gym clothes. Yes, there’s usually a wait, and if you add protein (or anything) to your salad it costs more than a Pop Physique class, and they insist on serving things in Chinese takeout containers. But a bite of the Rajun’ Cajun sandwich or a few mouthfuls of salad and you’re hooked.
Sure, this place is primarily known for making incredible bread. But the people behind it also serve a dinner menu of seasonal vegetables and proteins that are both very fresh and not doused in butter and cream sauce. It’s an excellent choice for breakfast, too - the smoked salmon tartine is delicious, and the porridge is surprisingly filling.
Lots of bar seats and a few tiny tables await you at Darwin Cafe, along with a kale salad you’ll actually be thinking about after you leave. The secret may well be in the prosciutto and cheese that come with it, but that’s neither here nor there. It’s still kale. The sandwiches and baguettes here are fresh and flavorful, and the breakfast muesli with tons of fresh fruit is one of the better ways to start your day.
Souvla is just so f*cking good. The Greek food here, served up in sandwich or salad form, is fresh, healthy, and filling. We usually go with the chicken salad or lamb wrap, but there are no bad choices. There is a best choice, however, and that is getting some frozen yogurt for dessert. Greek yogurt = healthy yogurt.
Jane on Fillmore feels like a straight-up Gap Kids casting call, and for good reason. There’s stuff for you, there’s stuff for kids, and it’s all healthy, not to mention highly photogenic thanks to the black and white patterned tables and bright, fresh colors of the food. We love the egg sandwich, avocado toast, and granola at breakfast, and the rainbow and green queen salads at lunch. The Larkin location is more low-key than the Fillmore one, but the pastries, coffee, and food are all on par with the original.
Despite its somewhat terrible name, Basik serves some seriously good acai bowls (or really acai plastic cups/tubs). A few bar seats that look out on Polk Street are all they have inside, so this is more of a grab-and-go situation.
The most high-tech of all the healthy options, Eatsa represents either the future of food or the end of the entire service economy/beginning of our enslavement to artificial intelligence. Take your pick. You order on an iPad and then collect your food from a box in the wall, so if you don’t feel like speaking to a single human on your lunch break, this is the spot for you. They’ve managed to make some very good, filling, and healthy quinoa bowls that are extremely cheap, and we say the Bento Bowl is the only way to go. Just note that it’s not open for dinner.
The $11 lunch combo at Heyday is healthy, quick, and one of your best options for a not-too-expensive meal if you work near FiDi. The raw kale salad has a great avocado-y dressing, and the turkey sandwich is never a bad choice.
If you like raw and/or vegan food, you’ll like Judahlicious in the Sunset. This place has very, very good acai bowls, hearty salads and wraps, and a general “I am healthy just for walking in the door” feel. The cashew cream sauce is better than it sounds.
A Mission breakfast or lunch that isn’t in the form of a burrito? Can it be? Yes, it can, and it can be great. Green Heart Foods is turning out seriously healthy dishes like breakfast bowls, quinoa bowls, frittatas, and salads. Whatever daily specials you find here will also be full of vegetables and health and glory.
This place is nothing like a picnic, but it’s still a very good spot for coffee and granola. And for all the paleos out there, they also have surprisingly good cave-baked paleo muffins. (Kidding. They’re sun-baked.) At night, Picnic gets a little fancier - i.e. even less like a picnic - and you’ll find fresh, healthy dishes that aren’t doused in creamy sauces. Worth a visit.
Greens has ideal real estate on the waterfront, and the vegetarian brunch here (get the potato griddle cakes) will save your life, plus the life of the most hungover healthy friend you can find. The dinner scene is a little more upscale, with a crowd of cashmere blanket/shawl-wearing people who likely own second homes in Sonoma. But it’s the best option around for fancy food that’s good for you.
If you happen to be looking for healthy food before or after spending time in Dolores Park, head over to Cha-Ya for excellent vegan and vegetarian Japanese small plates. You’ll take care of fulfilling your annual tofu and mushroom quota, and you’ll actually enjoy it.
Burgers can be healthy, too, when they’re the organic, grass-fed, free-range ones at Roam. Probably. Choose from whole wheat, gluten-free, and lettuce wrap buns - or, if you’re feeling extra virtuous, get the salad with mini burger patties on top, which is both entertaining and tasty. Add some of the awesome sweet potato fries, too. You’re eating a burger anyway.