SoutheastFood & Drink

The Hunt: Healthy Eats in Tampa Bay

By , June 22nd, 2015

Every city has a unique food culture. However, some cities are more known for their culinary sophistication than others. For instance, New Orleans, San Francisco, New York City, Austin. These names stand out in our minds as a foodies paradise. However, sometimes the underdog creeps its way in, so here is our list of healthy restaurants in Tampa Bay.


Tampa is known for the popular Ybor City, Cuban cigars, the Gasparilla festival, and being the lightning capital of the United States. However, did you know it is home to a number of restaurants serving delectable eats? While there are so many options to choose from in Tampa, most restaurants have the main goal of providing their customers with intense flavor and taste, and are not as concerned with whether the meal is low-carb or gluten-free. This may be the case, but it is still possible to scan any menu and formulate an option that caters to your healthier lifestyle.

Ellas Restaurant Tampa Bay

However, nobody wants to sit at a restaurant, reading the menu like its a novel, trying to figure out which option would be best for them without sacrificing flavor. Thats where we come in — We’ve paired up with Tampa native and Lifestyle blogger Christina Valenziano from The Blissful Balance to help us hunt down the best eats in Tampa, with the healthiest options plucked out for easy choosing.

The Refinery

The Refinery Restaurant Tampa Bay

The mission of Chef Greg Baker, who opened The Refinery just five years ago, was to make good food and local ingredients accessible and affordable. Although the menu changes on a weekly basis, this spot offers many dishes with fresh vegetables and nutrient-dense ingredients. The keys to ordering a dish on the lighter side is to up the veggies, keep the starches to a minimum (we’re looking at you, buttery mashed potatoes), choose lean meats, and to avoid fried foods.

Water Mason Jars The Refinery Tampa

Pictured below is a small plate option featuring smoked acorn squash puree, grilled carrot batons, barley, peas, diced tomato, pistachio, parsley, and lemon zest. Among the healthier small plate options were grilled green beans and a salad consisting of mixed greens, green beans, tomato, cashew, onion, and a honey-red curry vinaigrette.

The Refinery Tampa Healthy Restaurant

For an entree, the grilled quail with red pepper & garlic escarole, sweet potato puree, candy cane beet & pickled green bean salad, lemon, olive oil, and sour corn is a nutrient-rich option.

The Refinery Healthy Food Tampa Bay The Refinery Healthy Eats Tampa Bay

Not feeling the healthful vibes? Don’t worry, your burger and fries awaits you, topped with American cheese, tomato, vinegar kohlrabi slaw, yellow mustard, molasses aioli, and Yukon Gold fries on the side.

The Refinery Burger Tampa Bay

Fresh Kitchen

Among the restaurants of the popular Tampa restaurant group, Ciccio Restaurant Group, Fresh Kitchen is one of the best options for healthy eating. While the CRG restaurants all offer wholesome meal options, Fresh Kitchen is more health-centric. Located on South Howard Ave, this spot is great for a quick lunch or dinner to-go. Similar to the flow of Chipotle, you walk in, create your own bowl or choose from their options, pay and enjoy. The steps are as follows: choose your two bases (kale slaw, brown rice, sweet potato noodles, & more), choose your two veggies (parmesan broccoli, roasted mushrooms, coconut cauliflower, & more), choose your two proteins (grilled citrus chicken, chia seed tuna poke, grilled steak, & more), and top it all off with a sauce (coconut sriracha, cucumber jalapeno, creamy white ginger, & more). You cannot go wrong at Fresh Kitchen when trying to eat healthfully!

Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe

Healthy Restaurants Ella's Tampa Bay

Located in Seminole Heights just a couple miles from The Refinery, Ellas offers an eccentric menu with an equally eccentric interior/exterior.

Healthy Restaurants Ella's Tampa Bay

Ella's Tampa Bay Patio

Their unique menu offers a plethora of tasty options, but navigating for a healthier diet can be a little more of a challenge (bacon wrappedappears a few times). To start off your meal, a good appetizer option is the Tuna Cracka Stacka: sesame seed seared ahi tuna, asian slaw and wasabi cream served on won ton chips.

Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna Ella's Tampa Bay

Below is a healthier option offered for your entree, with no changes made. “The Roots” is a grilled sweet potato and grilled feta over parsnip puree and an herb vinaigrette. It is served alongside an arugula salad with root vegetable chips, pecans, and a balsamic reduction drizzle.

Ellas Tampa Bay The Roots Grilled Sweet Potato with grilled Feta Ellas Tampa

If you are feeling like having a celebratory meal for sticking to your diet all week, their “Tenderloin” pizza will have you singing hallelujah. Garlic puree, mozzarella, asiago, beef tenderloin, tomatoes, red onions and arugulaits unlike any pizza youve tried in the South.

Healthy Restaurants Ellas Tampa Bay Pizza

Edison Food + Drink Lab

If you’re looking for more of a gastronomical experience, Edison is the place for you. Chef Jeanie Pierola combines science, taste and creativity to curate a particularly distinct eating experience. Get your meal started with some flavorful seafood options like charred octopus tiradito with jicama, avocado, yuzu, and serrano. If you’re interested in a hot appetizer, the buffalo cauliflowerr will give your tastebuds a little zest to start off the night. As for healthy entrees, the wood-grilled salmon ‘al pastor’ is a fantastic option. It includes grilled salmon, saffron coconut bomb rice, black beans, dandelion greens, charred pineapple, spring onion, and chipotle al pastor. With the use of only whole foods, Edison’s menu is easy to navigate for healthier choices.

Oxford Exchange

Exploring downtown Tampa? This Kennedy blvd. contemporary eatery offers fresh, seasonal, local and simple meals for breakfast, brunch, and lunch. While the Oxford Exchange menu is impressive in itself, the OE store, Buddy Brew coffee bar, interior design and portrait walloffer a unique experience.

Negotiating a healthy meal option isnt difficult at the Oxford Exchange. Kale, chia seeds, oats, avocado, brussels sprouts and smoked salmon are among the foods displayed on its menu. For brunch, the Kale Scramble with egg whites, black quinoa, kale, roasted tomato, goat cheese, and green onion is a terrific choice.

Healthy Restaurants Tampa Oxford Exchange Kale Scrambled Eggs

If youre in the mood for brunch or lunch, their salad, small plate and sandwich options are full of wholesome picks. The Super Green Salad is packed with nutrition with the incorporation of kale, romaine, spinach, napa, avocado, feta, pickled carrots, and a chia-lime vinaigrette.

Be sure to order a drink off of their coffee menu. OE serves only Buddy Brew coffee, which is always fresh, sourced globally and locally roasted. To avoid the extra fat content, order your drink with skim milk. Below is a a cappuccino with non-fat milk; you wont miss the cream, we promise!

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