I’m not a health nut. On my best days, I eat my servings of fruits and vegetables alongside more indulgent foods, or simply avoid eating anything actively unhealthy.
But after publishing the 12 Days of Tacos series and six months of a job that requires me to eat out frequently, I’ve gained newfound appreciation for foods that help me feel grounded. This is a feeling y’all might be familiar with after the punishing diets of cookies, chocolate, roast meats and alcohol practically required in the holiday season.
So let me help you out and connect you to an indulgent eater’s favorite healthy(ish) foods in Tucson.
Little Gems Salad at Pizza Luna
While the pancetta lardons are far from vegan, they’re an indulgent garnish that helps make this a salad for people who don’t like salads. But don’t worry, this isn’t like an iceberg wedge coated in bleu cheese dressing (not that there’s anything wrong with that...) — it’s still packed with nutrients and a refreshing mix of delicious greens and watermelon radishes. You’re doing it right if you order with a friend who gets a pizza so you can nab a slice of Pizza Luna’s stellar Neapolitan-style pies.
Poke bowl at Flora’s Market Run
Despite the miracles of fresh-frozen fish and sourcing from nearby Guaymas, I am hesitant about raw seafood in landlocked Tucson, but Flora’s knocks theirs out of the park with high-grade tuna and an addictive little green sauce. I heard that they got their poke mentorship from Tommy Begay III, the chef at Sushi on Oracle (whose menu features sashimi and grill specialties like hamachi-kama instead of poke).
A dumb salad with grilled chicken
As unimaginative as it sounds, my off-duty meal of choice is usually a salad topped with grilled chicken. After weeks of nonstop tamales, cabeza and ice cream sandwiches, I can't get enough greens. Chick-fil-A’s market salad and Panera’s Fuji apple chicken are convenient chain options, but to support local, go with Choice Greens or Serial Grillers.
The Eggleston sandwich from Five Points
Are sandwiches healthy? This vegetarian egg sandwich from Five Points makes a compelling argument for a lighter brunch with its fire-roasted and marinated Roma tomatoes, house-baked ciabatta and farm-fresh cheese and eggs. I usually feel full after just half, and save the rest for precious leftovers.
Cauliflower burrito from Tanias 33
Although I’ve never been able to try this one out myself (it’s miraculously out of stock every time I make it over to Tanias), this vegan burrito was the go-to for my vegetarian ex whenever he was in town. Their extensive vegan menu includes mushroom pastor and housemade vegan cheese.
Navratan Korma at Indian Twist
Navratan Korma gets its name from its bounty of veggies: nav means nine, ratan means jewels. While this dish might not be considered actively healthy (I do not want to know if they put cream in their sauce, nor how much), it’s packed with nutrients from broccoli, amazingly soft-yet-crunchy water chestnuts and green beans. You’ll definitely be getting your five a day! Caution: You are risking getting tempted by samosas and garlic naan while at Indian Twist.
I’m compulsively budget-conscious and have long made my own smoothie bowls. I love getting Target’s $10 mix of antioxidant-rich frozen fruit and bulk superfood toppings from Natural Grocers. But if you want a more convenient option (depending on how far away Oro Valley is), I’m tempted to try Wow Wow Lemonade’s Blue Hawaiian.
Foods I’d like to try
Where is your favorite healthy spot in Tucson? I haven’t found my sushi place yet, so please send any recs you might have my way at firstname.lastname@example.org.