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Planning to Eat Out on a Healthy Eating Plan

Story by Lee Rennick

As people are becoming more conscious of what they are eating and where it comes from, healthier restaurants are opening in Murfreesboro and Smyrna. While it’s exciting to be given these alternatives, it is still important to be aware of your personal dietary requirements.

“Even though a restaurant is deemed ‘healthy,’ notes Crystal Chester, a registered clinical dietitian at StoneCrest Medical Center, “that doesn’t mean they adhere to or have options for every diet out there. Whether you follow a Paleo, gluten free, Whole 30, ketogenic, low carb, DASH, diabetic or another diet, it’s important to be knowledgeable of what foods or meals are offered that fit your dietary requirements.”

It is important to do your homework before you head out to whatever health-conscious restaurant you frequent.

“If you’re determined to stick with your diet,” says Chester, “check out their nutrition information online or at the restaurant. Names, labels, and colors can be deceiving, so get a good idea of what fits into your diet ahead of time so you can order with confidence, and the peace of mind that you’re not unconsciously sabotaging all your hard efforts.”

What many of the current diet trends have in common is to get followers to eat more fruits, vegetables, and lean meats, while staying away from too many grains, bad fats, fast food, processed food, and in some cases, dairy.

Low salt, low fat, low sugar, diabetic, and even gluten free diets are disease-management based, but Paleo, Whole 30, ketogenic, and DASH are the most popular current general diet plans. Paleo is a high protein diet that mimics ancient ways of eating. Whole 30 is a thirty-day program to help clean up eating habits that are having a negative impact on health, like sugar and grains. The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low carb diet designed to increase energy levels.

The DASH diet was developed to counter hypertension. While many suffer from food allergies, others are not necessarily allergic to a food, but certain foods may trigger unhealthy reactions. Sandy Barrett, the clinical provider for Murfreesboro Medical Clinic’s Weight Loss and Wellness Center, notes that it is best to focus on healthy eating as a lifestyle, "as diet fads only set us up for failure and are not a realistic long term goal for anyone to achieve.”

She suggests looking for healthier options and proper nutrition when dining out. “…[I]t is difficult to find restaurants that have truly healthy choices,” says Barrett. “Often the menu will host a variety of items that appear to be ‘good for you,’ but, when you get down to it, they end up being very high [in] calories, fat, and/or carbs.”

Five local restaurants are making a point of providing healthy meals for those wanting or needing to follow a particular diet due to health needs or lifestyle options. These restaurants are all focused on fresh produce and made-to-order service, focusing on their customer’s special needs.


Juicy's Wellness Café 
Coming to Murfreesboro this Fall

Mary Beth Laxson, the owner of Juicy’s Wellness Café has seen her own health improve by putting herself on a 100% plant based diet after three bouts with cancer and other medical emergencies. Ten years ago, this former nurse opened Juicy’s Wellness Café in McMinnville to share what she learned. According to an article on the Mainstreet McMinnville website, it has become a popular stop for people from all over the world after being featured in the sequel to the movie Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. Juicy’s is soon coming to Murfreesboro.

Vegan diets are shown to help people lose weight, have a healthier heart, combat diabetes, lower inflammation that can cause arthritis, and fight some cancers, according to

At this all vegan restaurant, Laxson creates favorite comfort foods with all plant-based ingredients. One of her favorites is the loaded Bar-be-cue Nachos made from jackfruit. She swears that you can’t tell the difference. Other items include salads, soups, sliders, and Sweet Greens juices made from a combination of fruits and vegetables.

Even with a vegan diet, customers with salt, fat, and sugar issues need to be aware of exactly what is in each dish. For example, avocadoes are high in fat, and juices are full of natural sugars, according to Chester.

Whatever Laxson is doing at her restaurant, she is doing it right. Customers rave of feeling more energy and just feeling better.



I Love Juice Bar
Mon-Fri 7:00 am to 6:00 pm | Saturday 8:00 am to 4:00 pm

According to owner, Anthony Anderson, I Love Juice Bar doesn’t focus on any one diet plan, but they do have options for those who require gluten free foods, as well as those wanting low fat options.
One of their hottest menu items is their bowls. Their bowls are a combination of fruits, nuts, grains, and juices. Also, lots of their customers will come by to pick up their fruit and veggie juices made fresh, many locally sourced.

Chester notes that the natural juices are perfect for those wanting to lower their fat intake, as juice is naturally low in fat. The juices are also good for those looking for low salt and gluten free options. Juice in moderation is okay for other diets like Paleo, and Whole 30. Juice is not good for those watching sugars and carbs, as fruits are high in natural sugars.

Anderson points out that their sandwiches are made on gluten free bread, and that many of their other food items are made with grains that contain no gluten, like quinoa. Soups are another option in the winter, but they are high in salt, so they are not good for low salt diets. “What we are really about is helping people eat clean foods made daily from fresh, natural goods,” said Anderson.



CORE Life Eatery
Daily 11:00 am to 9:00 pm

“Core Life Eatery is a … notably healthy options restaurant,” said Barrett. “It has a variety of choices from most food groups, and can appease the most stringent vegan or gluten free patron. When I assessed the menu, not only for ingredients, but for the nutritional content of those ingredients, I was impressed by their transparency.”

“Our concept started [by]… a group of people … in the restaurant and food business [who] watched things move from convenience and away from the whole foods our bodies really need,” said Kelsey Searles, who, with her husband own CORE Life Eatery on Murfreesboro.

They opened the restaurant because they saw an opportunity to provide the best foods and prepare them on-site, instead of having a truck deliver preprepared foods.

“We believe in making our food from scratch,” added Searles, “grilling right there where the customer can see it, and providing food that tastes great, without giving up your health to get it.”

For those wanting to avoid lots of calories and carbs, that can achieve that at CORE Life. Those who need to follow restrictive diets, such as gluten free, or want to follow specific diet plans, like DASH or Whole 30, can find choices with great flavor.

Their menu is not designed towards one specific diet or nutrition program, but the Searles believe that what each of us puts into our bodies is important. They want to provide their customers with the best ingredients they can put into their foods. And their menu lends itself to any nutritional program a customer is following. If there is no dish that fulfills a customer’s need or desire, that customer can customize any dish as needed, so they can stay within any guidelines.

Barrett says that her favorite options on the menu are the power plates. They provide a great source of protein, whole grains, and veggies. CORE Life offers five power plates, including Antibiotic Free Chicken, Grass-Fed Steak, Humus and Falafel, ToFu, and Ahi Tuna Poke.



First Watch
Daily 7:00 am to 2:00 pm

“We’ve not specifically created any menu items to address specific diets like Paleo, Whole 30, etc.,” said Eleni Kouvatsos, Public Relations and Communications Manager for First Watch Restaurants, “though we take an overall healthier approach to daytime dining. That means that most customers, regardless of their dietary preferences and restrictions, should be able to find something nutritious and tasty on our menu.”

According to Chester, First Watch is a great place to find something for just about any diet, as long as you explore ingredients before you order. They have items that offer high fat or low fat, such as Roast Beef and Havarti and Sunrise Granola Bowl, respectively. For those requiring low sugar, there is the Frittata Rustica. For low carb, there is the Kale Quinoa Salad. And Udi’s gluten-free bread can be substituted for regular bread on any sandwich at no additional charge.

“If following a two to three gram low sodium diet,” says Chester, “the Market Veggie Sandwich with a side of fruit, One piece of chicken sausage, and unsweet tea would fit into the diet for a meal’s sodium allowances.”

First Watch offers an extensive menu made from the highest quality ingredients. “…[W}e source the highest quality ingredients that are available to us,” said Kouvatsos. “Sometimes, that means we have locally sourced ingredients, and other times, we’re bringing in ingredients from across the nation!”

The first restaurant was opened in 1983 in California, the home of fresh and healthy cooking, and it has been expanding by leaps and bounds every since.

Not only do they make great food, but their Project Sunrise Coffee supports a collective of women coffee growers in Huila, Columbia. Their goal is to help the women expand their farms and increase their quality of life.

BEST DIET OPTIONS: Pretty much any diet plan can find something to eat here with diligence watching the ingredients. The nutritional information is easily available online.

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