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Food Trends in the Big City

Experts describe hip and healthy food trends in some major U.S. cities.

What's Cooking in New York? continued...

Salad Sells. City dwellers do seem to love their salads, but can a restaurant survive on salad alone? At least two New York City chains are hoping so. Tossed and Chop't -- both fast-casual eateries specializing in salad -- have sprung up all over town. Besides healthy greens and toppings, Tossed also offers two fat-free salad dressings (cucumber dill and honey dijon) and a nice basic vinaigrette made with extra-virgin olive oil and fresh-squeezed lemon juice.

Savvy Shopping. Many locals I spoke with, including Anthony Starpoli, MD, a well-known New York City gastroenterologist, named the newly opened Whole Foods Market among the biggest food crazes to hit the Big Apple recently. A quick visit to the store quickly confirmed that even in the middle of a sweltering weekday, this hip new supermarket is hopping. Whole Foods offers city dwellers variety in food and meal options, says Forman.

Mini Desserts Make Headlines in Atlanta

The stylish southern city of Atlanta has a few food trends of its own. Minidesserts are big in all sorts of restaurants across town, says Susan Puckett, food editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. When it comes to dessert, the first few bites are usually the best, and this way you don't get too far into the triple-digits in calories. One restaurant chain in Atlanta has made "mini-indulgences" a cornerstone of their casually sophisticated menu. From red velvet cake to pecan pie with vanilla bean mousse, at Seasons 52 restaurants, $2 will buy you dessert in moderation. At just 40 calories, the fresh fruit mini is the most virtuous choice. Strawberry shortcake clocks in at just 154 calories, and even a more decadent dessert -- the 283-calorie tiramisu, for instance -- is still low-cal by most restaurant standards.

This restaurant chain (originating in Florida), now with two locations in Atlanta, has helped kick-start the trend of lower-calorie dining. "All their entrees and sandwiches seem to be under 500 calories," notes Puckett. How do they keep the calories so low? To start with, they use natural cooking techniques such as grilling over open fires, which gives their food fantastic flavor with fewer calories.

Drinking in Atlanta has even taken a turn toward health. According to Puckett, many restaurants and bars are featuring fresh, healthful ingredients in their cocktails, such as antioxidant-rich tomatoes and herbal teas.

Hungry in Seattle?

Seattle is setting its own food trends on the left coast. "The biggest Seattle trend is the overabundance of 'small plate' restaurants, allowing people to have a delicious meal without having to overeat," writes Nancy Leson, restaurant critic for the Seattle Times, in an email. By serving smaller portions, these restaurants are encouraging their patrons to eat sensible amounts of food.

And if farm-fresh organic eggs count as "health food," then add them to the list of healthy food trends making waves in Seattle, notes Leson. "Simple farm-fresh organic eggs have become the star of the show at restaurants everywhere: poached and served over grilled asparagus; soft-boiled and placed over a frisee salad; or baked in salt and turned into saffron-colored strands of fresh pasta."

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