It’s easy to eat healthy when you stick to restaurants that serve salads and grilled fish. Easy when you manage to shut out those voices inside crying for fudge ripple and red meat. But, even if you can’t avoid the bar or the barbecue joint — or the craving for pizza — there are some less-fattening, less-sugary, less carby options to be found out there.
Heart-friendly barbecue? Sort of. Carolina-style barbecue has a vinegar-based sauce that’s less sugar-heavy than other versions; go for brisket or pulled pork instead of ribs and you’re halfway there. (And no, coleslaw is not a salad of cabbage and carrots, it’s a wad of mayonnaise and sugar.) Jessie Rae’s Carolina BBQ offers up a fine sliced brisket and pulled pork. For sides, opt for the smoky buttered corn, which is spicy/sweet and full of fiber. Rollin’ Smoke also does it Carolina-style, with a peppery chopped brisket and a solid side of collard greens. Remembe: Collards are among the healthiest comfort foods, full of vitamins A, B, C and K.
Wedge salads slathered in blue cheese, porterhouse swathed in hollandaise, cheesecake smothered in chocolate … yeah, best to lean on the appetizers. At Bavette’s steakhouse in Park MGM, the shellfish platters stand tall, while the avocado-crab salad is a Mad Men-era dish, an avocado split and filled with faintly citrusy crab meat simultaneously decadent and delicate — and, heck, everything feels fattening in a room this plush. Feeling paleo? They’ve also got a lovely steak tartare. MB Steak’s charred octopus or tuna poke are both refreshing openers and their NY Strip -- one of the least fatty cuts wherever you go — is a top-shelf as the rest of their red meat.
It’s hard to make pizza healthy, but it can get close. Good Pie offers vegan and gluten-free options — pizzamaker Vincent Rotolo’s gluten-free dough has won awards at the International Pizza Expo and is frankly better than some of its standard-recipe brethren. The vegan pie is topped with roasted vegetables and red sauce, with vegan cheese optional. At Masso Osteria, there are a number of specialty pizzas that go light on the cheese, including one topped with bomba (a spicy pepper sauce), arugula and prosciutto; their happy hour also offers low-fat snacks like olives, almonds and oysters on the half-shell.
The grease-and-cheese wrapped ball of beef may be out, but the burger is still in. The turkey burger at Carson Kitchen remains the city’s gold standard, a jerk-spiced, chutney-topped delight that doesn’t try to disguise it’s fowl origin, but rather celebrates it’s effectiveness for highlighting other flavors. The O.G. of burger spots, Hubert Keller’s Burger Bar, makes their veggie burger in-house from caramelized onion, mushrooms, pumpkin, potato and mozzarella cheese, among other tempting things — and their zucchini fries are a pleasant break from the potato variety.
Most ice cream places offer at least one option — Lappert’s rainbow sorbet is like a Carmen Miranda hat sprung to life — but Handel’s Ice Cream offers many choices. If you just want something light and cool, there’s watermelon ice and the pink champagne sherbert has a delicate, slightly fragrant flavor, while the mixed berry sorbet is rich and velvety. If fruit isn’t your jam, coconut milk ice cream is tropically dairy-free and their Fudge Ripple is both fat and sugar-free, a sweet-cream ice cream with chocolate swirls.
Wherever you go, macarons are lower in calories than cake or cupcakes and most are gluten-free. The Clubhouse Deli in the Rampart Casino at the Resort at Summerlin also offers an array of sugar-free desserts (they use maltitol) from tarts to cheesecake, each as a pretty and tasty as their sugary counterparts. The chocolate-raspberry mousse is richly flavored, while the “rainbow cake” is a colorful cake filled with creme patissier and topped with fruit — worth choosing even if you can blow a few thousand calories in one dessert. If you’re feeding the masses, Showboy Bake Shop offers gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan version of their lavish confections with advance notice.
Tiki drinks are out: Rum is sugar, as are Curacao, Kahlua and all of those other liqueurs that mask the flavor of liquor. Daiquiri fans can try a Paloma, a combination of Tequila, grapefruit and lime — both Downtown Cocktail Room and the Vesper Bar at the Cosmopolitan offer refreshing versions. The classic gin and tonic is low in calories and sugar: Juniper in the Park MGM has a selection of exotic gins and flavored tonics, along with garnishes like rose petals and berries that make a minimalist cocktail feel luxe. Speaking of luxe, champagne is the healthiest choice of all — how do you think Marilyn Monroe kept her figure while drinking so much of it?