Comfort Food Reclassified

Crushed Red serves up fast-casual, healthier options

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Let’s think about all the reasons you might throw in the towel after just a few weeks of living clean and healthy in the New Year. Maybe it’s that you naturally crave comfort food as the snow is falling. Perhaps you feel limited in your options; eating out is difficult and too tempting for someone who is counting calories, and to cook every meal at home takes major planning. Perhaps it’s the cost; if you’ve chosen to go organic, you may be feeling a pinch in the pocketbook as a result. Lastly, eating healthy often takes time. You swear off fast food and drive-thrus, but the reality is, fast food is perfectly timed for our hectic schedules.

There’s good news for Columbians in search of healthy food in a hurry. Crushed Red, which started in St. Louis, has been in Columbia for more than a year now. The fast-casual restaurant is located in the Broadway Bluffs. The concept is creative, the food is fresh and flavorful with a menu that gives a healthy eater inspiration to stay on course. The chain sources sustainable foods and is a member of the Green Dining Alliance.

While you won’t find macaroni and cheese or mashed potatoes on the menu, you will find ingredients like buttery shrimp with garlic and pesto, wild caught salmon, sirloin steak, chipotle chicken, a variety of cheeses and many fresh-from-the-oven options if raw salads are not your thing.

Eating right doesn’t have to feel like a punishment, and the green goddess dressing at Crushed Red is packed with guilt-free flavor.

Menu favorites include the Tunapalooza, a fresh chopped salad topped with slices of seared ahi tuna (pink in the center), over crisp and freshly blanched green beans, hard-boiled egg, tomato, roasted yukons, goat cheese and mixed greens. At $10.50, it’s just a buck or two more than you’d pay for a burger meal at a nearby drive-thru. The fast-casual atmosphere allows guests to see into the food preparation area where the salad chef will substitute any ingredient for you. Guests can expand their vegetable repertoire with little effort as all ingredients are available for a build-your-own-salad creation.

Children can find something they like, as well, with options including the Five Cheese Pizza (featuring fresh garlic and goat cheese, feta, gorgonzola,

Parmesan and mozzarella). They can also add pepperoni or sausage for added protein. Youngsters might also enjoy a cup of soup with choices such as butternut squash, mushroom and brie bisque, and broccoli and cheese, among others and depending on the day.

The fast-casual restaurant style is gaining ground as companies realize their customers are raising the bar for nutrition and responsible sourcing of ingredients. Crushed Red is ripe with options for a meal rich in antioxidants, vitamins, proteins, iron and even fish oils full of omega-3s.

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