Popular restaurant offers tips and advice for eating better in 2019.
Story by Robyn Passante + Photography by Karin Curtis
A sign on the wall inside Healthy Habit restaurant defines for diners half of the eatery’s name: “Habit: noun. An acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary.”
It also describes what the owners think is an essential ingredient of a proper diet. “I think so much of what we do is about instant gratification. We send a text, we want a text back right away.
We’ve conditioned ourselves to be like ‘I went to the gym, so I deserve this treat,’ or ‘I went to the gym, how come I’m not seeing results right away?’” says Hope Yeung, who owns Healthy Habit with her husband, Kevin Yeung, and their partners Andrea Roberts and Nick Bergelt of HHI Hospitality. “Getting away from that is important, realizing there is no instant gratification in the health realm.”
On the contrary, being healthy is a series of decisions one makes over and over until they become habits – a lifestyle you no longer think much about.
As a nod to the new year and all the health-related resolutions wrapped up in it, we asked Hope for some habits we can make — and break — for a healthier 2019.
“We really believe in seasonally locally sourced food,” she says. “It’s been fun because you can visit these farms and see the pesticides they’re using or not using, you can see the water source they’re using.” Locally sourced, in-season foods have the quickest trip from the ground to the plate and, therefore, the most nutrients.
“It’s amazing when people come in and it’s winter and they’re asking for strawberries. So we’re trying to teach people you don’t want to eat that strawberry in December, that’s the wrong thing to eat.”
No Mo’ GMO
Genetically Modified Organisms are not the way to go when selecting food, so Hope suggests careful label-reading of the things you buy. “A chicken breast should not be bigger than my husband’s hand,” says Hope.
As parents to a 1-year-old son, the couple has become even more careful about the food they buy and serve.
“Everything you do with children and being parents is very much looking at how to keep your children away from toxins. And everything these big farms are doing with massive amounts of pesticides are scary. You can’t eat Cheerios now because they carry pesticides. That’s just so scary for us. So we try to keep the focus on non-toxic, non-chemical, pesticide-free ingredients.”
Make It More Often
Making your food rather than buying it prepackaged (and loaded with preservatives) is a good way to ensure you end up eating healthier. “I’ve pulled people behind my counter and showed people how to make a dressing. May I lose someone’s business if I show him how to make our Cilantro Lime Chile Dressing instead of buy it from us? I might. But I’d rather show him how to do it because then his children are eating that rather than ranch dressing from a bottle. It teaches children you make what you eat.”
Kick-start your day with a glass of freshly made juice, which Hope admits takes just the right balance of flavors.
“When people try to juice on their own, they’re not successful because of the earthiness. They say ‘It tastes like the ground,’” she says. The trick is to use lemon to counteract that slightly bitter bite. “You have to learn the balance of earthiness to the lemon. The lemon will take earthiness right out of something.”
Start by juicing a head of celery using a good quality juicer, then add about 1 inch of ginger root and two lemons. Add more lemon or more ginger, depending on your taste and what your body needs.
“You might need an apple — or an extra apple — for more sweetness,” she says. “The more you drink it and your taste buds acclimate to a healthier thing, you don’t need the added sugar.”
Warm up this Winter
Chef Kevin Yeung, who grew up in New York City’s Chinatown and went to school at the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, is debuting some menu changes this month that promise to warm customers from the inside out. One hot rice bowl features Korean Gochujang pepper. “It’s more what my husband likes to do, complex flavors but not high calorie,” Hope says. “He gets to express his creativity a little bit more and it just changes it up for everybody.”
Also look for the Harvest Bowl, a plant-based bowl filled with roasted broccoli, mushrooms, and butternut squash or sweet potato when it’s in season.
Healthy Habit: Arcadia Salad
Healthy Habit’s Arcadia Salad is one of their best sellers. “Adding lentils and quinoa is a great way to increase your protein and fiber intake,” says Hope. “We love it with our freshly made Cilantro Lime Chili Dressing.”
Large handful cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
Oil of your choice
Salt and pepper
Blend jalapeños, cilantro, garlic and lime juice. Add oil until emulsified; season with salt and pepper to taste.