Healthy, Delicious Dining Options

You've made a New Year's resolution of getting in shape and eating healthy. Granted, the turducken stuffed with cranberry-brisket fried in lard or the fatback on Kwanzaa didn't help. Luckily, you can still eat out without becoming stuck in salad hell.

Eating healthy doesn't mean counting the calories you're allowed, but includes how your food was prepped and created from the get go. Is there such a place that makes everything from scratch? Salt of the Earth (114 E. Main St., Fennville) does, except for the cheese. Open since August, Salt's Executive Chef Matthew Pietsch has taken the Italian theory of cooking and mixed it with Americana.

"Simple preparations focused on quality of ingredients. No fillers, no hormones, no additions," says Pietsch. "We use local and seasonal ingredients as much as possible. We bake our own breads and everything is from scratch-even our own ketchup and mayonnaise. We use local vendors at any and all opportunity, mostly within 60 miles."

Sit down in the café up front, the dining room in back, or at the bar and sample a shared plate of Farmer's Table Greens grown hydroponically when not in season. Have the seared, thick salmon steak with baby spinach and Dijon, but withhold the bacon or have a cup of 4 Bean Chili with one of their many Stratas- I recommend the chicken and spinach, or an Italian-New Orleans muffaleta on sourdough, with mortadella, sopressata, black forest ham, provolone, and Kalamata olive salad spread. Musical shows are held weekly at the bar, with six beers on tap and a lovely liquor selection.

The Hearthstone Bistro (3350 Glade St., Muskegon) has been serving some of the greatest fare in West Michigan for more than 30 years. Swanky and comfortably lit with touches of Paris upon the walls, the Hearthstone offers plenty of healthy opportunities for the weight conscious. Begin with pan seared Sesame Ahi Tuna with wasabi, orange ginger, and ponzu sauce. Skip the steak section of the menu in favor of its salads. Yes, salads that can be customized as you see fit.

The Asian Cashew Salad is a leafy medley of Napa cabbage and romaine with toasted sesame seeds, crushed bell peppers, scallions and more paired with a spicy Thai peanut dressing. For something with an Italian twist, dig into the Crispy Milanese Chicken Salad, a sautéed boneless chicken breast whacked thin, breaded with parmesan cheese, grape tomatoes, mushrooms, more scallions, Applewood smoked bacon and mixed greens with the house vinaigrette of creamy parmesan served with grilled focaccia bread. The Hearthstone also offers a full bar and numerous wines to wet your lips, but perhaps you should stick with a water and lemon wedge.

Want to eat at a luxurious, yet affordable, healthy place? Try the KT Omelette at Marie Catrib's (1001 Lake Dr., Grand Rapids). It makes for a sumptuous breakfast, with tofu, ginger, garlic, zucchini, onions and spinach sautéed in olive oil with Marie's special seasoning. Add gluten-free toast and a full pot of Turkish coffee and you'll be ready for winter. Or venture over to The Green Well (924 Cherry St., Grand Rapids) for its Roasted Vegetable Quesadilla padded with mushrooms, squash, and greens served with garden salsa. Chow on the Free Range Chicken served on a bed of black beans and rice with Chimichurri sauce and grilled pineapple salad.

Stick with eating at any of these unique, healthy green places and maybe you can allow yourself some boxed chocolates for Valentine's Day.

New Foodie Spots

3501 Greenleaf Blvd. Kalamazoo, (269) 375-2105
Chef Trent Mead reinvigorates the menu at the former Black Swan, now the new Martell's. Open since September after heavy renovations, the elegant dining experience above Willow Lake on the Southside of town is perfect for a dinner date away from Lake Effect snow. The grilled swordfish is superb and the pasta choices are mesmerizing. Lunch features are pared down, but their emphasis in wines will have you wanting to stay all day.

One Stop Coney Shop
154 E. Fulton St. Grand Rapids, (616) 233-9700
Coneys have taken GR by storm within the past decade, but this one has a style its own. Have a cone of Belgian frites (read: fries) with salt and vinegar, and mow down a GR-style coney (chili, dill relish, mustard, ketchup, onions). Subtle touches to the Detroit dogs are standard, but come love the Chicago with its poppy-seed bun, dill spears, and sport peppers. Pitas, chili, and a Greek salad are among other tasty options for the non-dog caring crowd. Hot dog connoisseurs rejoice!