Keep Those Resolutions

20 terrific restaurants for eating healthy while staying social.

For Your Health

For me — and, I imagine, for a lot of people — the toughest part about dieting is when you're confronted with eating out. Unless you're dining in a chain restaurant, it's tough to count calories or know what the sodium or fat content of any given dish is. And I can pretty much guarantee you that neither your server nor the cooks know, either.

Yet dining out is often unavoidable. We've turned restaurants into entertainment venues, and that's where we meet up with friends instead of entertaining at home. We entertain clients and conduct business meetings over lunches and dinners. We eat out for sport in Houston. And it's tough to turn down a dinner invitation in many social situations.

Chicken salad at benjy's.
Troy Fields
Chicken salad at benjy's.
Down House pleases all palates.
Troy Fields
Down House pleases all palates.

"Dieting?" your friends or boss will scoff. "Order a salad!" But you don't want a salad at every meal. Or perhaps you've wised up to the fact that salads aren't nearly as healthy as the advertising industry has tricked us into believing. Regardless of the reason, no one wants to get stuck eating lettuce leaves at a restaurant while everyone around them is gnawing on steaks and sucking down wine.

Fortunately, there are plenty of Houston restaurants that accommodate both parties: the dieters and the non-dieters alike. Below is a list of 20 restaurants where you can find good, thoughtful, delicious meals — healthy or not.

Adair Kitchen

At breakfast, have a bowl of steel-cut oats with fruit or build your own egg-white omelet. At lunch or dinner, look for light items such as a grilled chicken quinoa bowl with mixed greens, black bean-quinoa burgers, grilled pesto salmon and lean turkey meat loaf.

Backstreet Cafe / Hugo's

Although it's tempting to feast at both of chef Hugo Ortega's restaurants, there are healthier dishes to be found here. Backstreet features separate thoughtfully composed menus for both vegetarians and gluten-free diners. And Hugo's also has a vegetarian menu alongside such vibrant dishes as smoky grilled chicken in an ancho chile sauce and traditional grilled huachinango (red snapper) with roasted vegetables.


The Lebanese chicken fattoush salad at Barnaby's is one of the greatest salads in existence, but you can also stay healthy with a selection of four different veggie burgers, grilled salmon and grilled chicken. For breakfast, Bob's Healthy Plate with six egg whites and apple-chicken sausages is practically legendary. For anyone who wants to do the opposite of diet: blue cheese waffle fries.

Becks Prime

Look under the "Hot Plates" section of the menu to find grilled favorites such as mesquite-grilled chicken and vegetables, chicken with wild rice and seared ahi tuna. Still craving a burger? Try the "burger in a bowl" dishes like The Kitchen Sink, The Volcano and the Luv Ya Blue.


Sure, there's the comforting, crunchy chicken with gratin potatoes that beckons each time. But just as good are dishes such as grilled salmon with root vegetables and a cauliflower-olive salad or the Milton's Warm 10 Vegetable Salad with grilled chicken.

Cafe TH

The vegan section of this Vietnamese menu isn't the only place you'll find healthy food. Cafe TH has partnered with Washington Gym to create specific paleo-friendly dishes like spaghetti squash topped with chargrilled beef and vegetables that's a noodle-free version of bun. But there are still gut-busting dishes like the nine-inch-long Zombie banh mi to be found, too.

The Counter

Since The Counter allows you to endlessly customize your burger, you can hold the bun entirely, make it a turkey or vegan patty, and top it with an array of vegetables from roasted green chiles to marinated artichokes while your dining buddy sucks down a cheeseburger and shake.

Down House

Shrimp and grits, a kimchi burger with a fried egg, or crispy pork belly — all options for your non-dieting friends. For you, there's a tasty selection of dishes like grilled or baked fish, seared scallops, pickled shrimp salad and a lentil soup with pickled apricots.


Hummus made with edamame, grilled fish tacos, buffalo burgers and an indulgent spinach-artichoke dip that's served with cucumbers — these are for you. Bacon-and-caramelized onion pizzas, cheesesteaks and stuffed meat loaf — these are for your friends.

Hobbit Cafe

While it used to be that only crunchy hippie types ate here, the Hobbit Cafe has greatly expanded its menu and become a beloved Houston institution. These days, you can get jalapeño poppers and bacon cheeseburgers. But you can still find the classic sandwiches like my favorite, the Thorin Oakenshield (tabbouleh and mushrooms, hold the cheese), and that old standby, the Valinor (steamed veggies on a mountain of black beans and brown rice).

La Fisheria

The red beet and lobster risotto is tough to resist here. But it's equally easy to keep it light with delicious dishes like the signature ceviches, shrimp cocktails, tiraditos and seared yellowfin tuna over lentils and nopales.

Niko Niko's

A comforting plate of roasted chicken with a huge, crispy Greek salad on the side is an easy pick for healthy dining, but don't overlook the equally tasty Turulu Turulu, a Greek vegetable stew of zucchini, squash, eggplant, onion, parsley, tomato and garlic. Meanwhile, let your friends pig out on spanakopita and moussaka.

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