Freshii concept is good, execution could be better

freshii green wallfreshii wallI’m always looking for healthier options when it comes to getting food on the go, so the prospect of a super healthy restaurant right off the main road I drive every day was really exciting. The two concerns I had about Freshii when I went to try it with Michelle was that the food would basically be a more expensive version of what I already make at home, and it wouldn’t actually be as healthy as I wanted it to be. And unfortunately, Freshii had issues with both of these concerns.

Freshii dining room
Freshii dining room

In general, everything we got had high and low points (some had lower points than others) and everything had a focus on healthy ingredients. However, everything was also a lot higher in calories than if I had made it myself at home, and everything was also pretty pricy. Don’t get me wrong…if I’m in a pinch and need something to eat, I will definitely choose Freshii over the other options on the west side.

Freshii teriyaki bowl
Freshii teriyaki bowl

Freshii offers soups, salads, wraps, burritos, bowls, smoothies and juices. We got to try a couple different dishes and by far, my favorite was the teriyaki bowl. It has brown rice, broccoli, carrots, edamame, green onions, crispy wontons, chicken and teriyaki sauce. I believe most of the options come vegetarian and you can add tofu, chicken, steak, shrimp or falafel…but another thing to note is that adding a protein does cost extra. The teriyaki bowl has over 600 calories without the chicken…that’s a little high for something that’s supposed to be super healthy. But I did enjoy the brown rice, edamame, al dente veggies and the teriyaki sauce. The bowl was filling and the ingredients were indeed fresh.

Freshii pangoa bowl
Freshii pangoa bowl

We also got to try the pangoa bowl which has brown rice, avocado, black beans, shredded cheese, corn, grape tomatoes, cilantro, hot sauce…and ours had chicken in it. This one was basically a smaller, less flavorful version of a Chipotle burrito bowl, plus their hot sauce was thick and not very flavorful, and their avocado was hard as a rock.

Freshii cobb salad
Freshii cobb salad

The cobb salad looked promising when we started digging in, but the heavy honey dijon dressing and lettuce slightly past its prime did not impress me. In addition to also having rock-hard avocado, it had blue cheese, which I really don’t like.

Freshii smoehouse burrito
Freshii smoehouse burrito

The smokehouse burrito was also a sub-par version of something you could get at Chipotle. It had brown rice, black beans, red onions, tomatoes, corn, shredded cheese and what the menu called “fiery barbeque.” I’m not sure there was even any barbeque sauce on the wrap…and if it was on there, there was nowhere near enough of a flavor to call if fiery. It was basically a brown, mushy wrap with no distinctive flavor…all for more than 730 calories.

Freshii green smoothie
Freshii green smoothie

The other thing that I very much enjoyed was the Freshii green smoothie with kale, spinach, pineapple, avocado and low-fat frozen yogurt. It was surprisingly refreshing and light…and tasted nothing like the green ingredients that were in it. The smoothie has just over 250 calories in it, and I’m told they can add protein powder…which also probably costs more.

FOOD NOTES: I had high hopes for Freshii, but some of those hopes were dashed during my first dining experience. Some of the ingredients (lettuce, avocado) were less than fresh (bad lettuce, rock-hard avocado), some of their dishes are not as healthy as I’d like them to be (the salads) and the prices are a bit high since you have to pay extra to add protein to your meal. The smoothies are good and I’d like to give their breakfast options a try, but their hours are a little limited (they close at 7pm and aren’t open Sundays), so I probably won’t be able to make it back for a while. If you go to Freshii — just ask yourself, “Can I make this at home or get a better version at Chipotle?”

Macro bowls: Big taste, big flavor, small calories

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Macro bowl pin on pinterest

In my quest to be healthy and eat healthy I found a recipe for Macro Bowls on Pinterest about a month ago. Well, it wasn’t really a recipe, it was more of an idea to make lunches for your work week with five or six really heathy ingredients put together. I’ve been cooking food for the week all at once since I’ve lived by myself in college, but the idea of a macro bowl was new to me. I usually make a dish – lasagna, turkey meatloaf, something in the crockpot – and pack sides like an apple, veggies, etc. The website I found on Pinterest basically says to cook up two vegetables, a starch, a bean and a protein. They used kale, sweet potatoes, black beans, quinoa and tofu. Other than making lunches super easy, the goal of a macro bowl seems to be making lunches super tasty and healthy too. I’m not sure on the calorie count of the macro bowls on the website but it couldn’t have been very high.

macro bowl 4
macro bowls

When I decided to try making macro bowls I didn’t follow their recipe. I just focused on what super healthy ingredients I actually like and my favorite flavors (garlic, olive oil). My first set of macro bowls had sauteed kale with zucchini, onions and garlic, quinoa cooked in water with garlic salt, sweet potato wedges roasted with olive oil and garlic, and some low-fat chicken sausage cooked with black beans and garlic. The sauteed vegetables were super easy and very tasty. The quinoa added a good base for the dish. Sweet potato wedges are one of my favorite foods! Most people eat them sweet with sugar or brown sugar, but I think they are best with a little garlic salt and olive oil. For the chicken sausage I peeled off the casing and cooked the chicken like it was ground beef with the black beans. I layered all of these different pieces in to-go lunch containers and had five lunches for the week.

macro bowl 1
quinoa, sauteed kale and zucchini
macro bowl 3
chicken and black beans, sweet potato wedges

As for the details: I used one pan to cook the three stove-top layers and then roasted the sweet potato wedges in the oven, which was great because who likes to do dishes!!?? When I divvied out the ingredients I measured how much was going into each bowl so I could plug that information into my calories app on my phone to see what I was eating in numbers. According to my app, each bowl I made had 280 calories and 22 grams of protein. I work nights so my “lunches” are actually my dinners and typically you want to eat a high-protein low-calorie dinner to keep you full but not weigh you down. The best part of the macro bowl was how easy it was. The longest part was cooking the quinoa – it takes about 20 minutes on the stove, but now you can buy precooked quinoa that you just have to heat up, so that could decrease the time it takes to make the bowls.

macro chicken
chicken, peppers, black beans
macro bowl attempt 2
macro bowls with squash, brussel sprouts, chicken, kale

For my second attempt at making the bowls I eliminated the quinoa (mainly because I didn’t have any in my cabinets). Instead of chicken sausage I sliced up chicken breasts and cooked them with onions, spicy banana peppers, garlic and black beans. Instead of sweet potato wedges I steamed a small butternut squash and then mashed it with garlic and olive oil – very similar in taste and health benefits! I made the kale the same way but instead of including zucchini I steamed some brussel sprouts sprinkled with garlic salt – I love brussel sprouts! My second attempt took less time because I didn’t make the quinoa, and I still only used one pan to limit the amount of dishes. This time, my macros had 225 calories and 17 grams of protein.

macro bowl 5
macro bowls to go

FOODNOTES: The goal of a macro bowl is to make lunches super easy and super healthy. The best part about the macro bowl is you can make it however you want. If you don’t eat meat use tofu. If you don’t like kale use broccoli. If you don’t like quinoa use brown rice or eliminate it all together. Macro bowls could also follow different flavor profiles. Obviously I’m a garlic girl but you could make a miso dressing or  a peanut sauce to drizzle over the bowl for an Asian feel – both of those usually have low calories and the peanut sauce would add protein! I love how customizable these are, and that they ideally have less than 300 calories for so much food!