When über-processed fast food won’t cut it, head to one of these spots around the region that focus on quality ingredients. You won’t find any high fructose corn syrup. Most offer an astounding variety of made-to-order juices, fresh-made smoothies, and nutrient-filled grab-and-go items and you never can tell — you may even learn to start loving nutrient-rich items like coconut water, leafy kale, beets and protein-packed hemp seeds. Your arteries aren’t going to clear themselves of excess cholesterol, so get up and go to a place where healthful options abound.
11030 Baymeadows Rd., Baymeadows, 260-2791
10000 San Jose Blvd., Mandarin, 260-6950
Independently owned and operated, the bustling 295 & Baymeadows Native Sun has indoor and outdoor seating with a combined 50 or so seats. The original location in Mandarin has about a dozen and an in-the-works beaches area Native Sun will have close to 50.
Native Sun’s been in Jacksonville for 19 years and opened its deli 12 years ago. The menu items are created from only ingredients found in-store, ensuring that everything meets the company’s all-natural or organic standards.
“We cater to anyone looking for healthy, organic and natural options that are simple and delicious,” says Dan Nehring, director of marketing. “It’s a young, hip crowd that cares about great-tasting food as well as making informed food choices.”
He adds that best-selling lunchtime items include a variety of wraps — Cajun chicken, tofu or salmon, smoked turkey, a vegetarian-friendly The Farmer and a collard wrap — as well as chopped salads (create-your-own), sandwiches, juices that are green (kale, cucumber, broccoli, apple) and pure juices, cooked-to-order quesadillas, and an assortment of fresh gluten-free bakery items made onsite in a separate, dedicated bakery facility. Despite the wildly varying temperatures outside, the soups of the day are popular year-round. And perhaps the best part about those liquid delights: Native Sun accommodates all preferences by offering a vegan, vegetarian and meat-based soup daily, like jambalaya, lentils and greens, sweet potato bisque and beef and sausage stew. Scrumptious!
11901 Atlantic Blvd., Ste. 250, Intracoastal,
Hungry again and don’t feel like cooking — again? Fear not. The organic supermarket Earth Fare has a tremendous section of prepared items, such as kale salad and curried chicken salad, available by the pound, plus a nicely stocked sprawling two-sided salad bar, made-to-order juices and smoothies, sushi and fresh pizzas. There’s also a small dessert case and a few bread offerings — baguettes, loaves and buns.
When you first walk in the store, you see a spacious dining area with about two dozen seats, where soccer moms sip smoothies with their cleats-shod kids, and businessfolk read Folio Weekly while enjoying a reasonably priced, healthful hot — or cold — meal.
Grassroots Natural Market
2007 Park St., 5 Points/Riverside, 384-4474, thegrassroots.com
Though set up in a more compact space than the others mentioned, this independently owned and operated 5 Points grocery store is mighty. It’s been in town for nine years.
The organic produce section is where you’ll find freshly prepared items, like halves of sandwiches, assorted wraps, and individual containers of chicken salad, cooked seasoned beets and quinoa salad. Grassroots’ juice and smoothie bar, with its sprawling chalkboard of choices is next. Specials include a Key lime pie smoothie of lime, almond milk, pineapple, mango, spinach and vanilla Garden of Life organic plant protein. “We sell hundreds of fresh organic juices and smoothies per day, and have lots of grab-and-go sandwiches and salads available for a quick, healthy, and delicious lunch,” said James Robison, Grassroots co-owner. He notes the chicken pesto sandwich is a favorite, as are the local Artie’s tempeh wraps.
Grassroots staff insist on quality. “All of the fruits and vegetables are organic and everything is fresh or frozen fruit — no bottled juices or ice in our drinks, just 100 percent real-deal raw, organic, healthy, tasty drinks,” Robison adds.
There’s no seating inside due to space constraints, but there’s a new outdoor patio with seating for at least two dozen that’s perfect for catching a fresh breeze and enjoying the good and good-for-you stuff you just scored at Grassroots.
MUSTARD SEED CAFÉ
833 TJ Courson Rd., Fernandina Beach, 277-3141
Another healthy-minded place with its own café is Nassau Health Foods, serving Fernandina since 1985. The Mustard Seed Café, awarded Slow Food First Coast’s Snail of Approval, is a casual organic eatery and juice bar offering all-natural, organic items for breakfast and lunch — omelets, burritos, bagels, pitas, salads and wraps — many vegetarian or gluten-free or both. Smoothies (made with organic apple juice or almond milk), veggie juices, coffees and herbal teas also available.
Whole Foods Market
10601 San Jose Blvd., Mandarin, 288-1100, wholefoodsmarket.com
With plenty of seating, Whole Foods can claim the largest space of this bunch. An outdoor courtyard accommodates about 36 patrons, and a bar (it’s called Grapes, Hops & Vines) seats 11. Inside, there are seats for nearly 90 diners. Simultaneously, rays of light flood in and light background music plays, making for a relaxing post-yoga class or midday work lunch.
Since Whole Foods opened here six years ago, it’s offered hot and cold bars — up to 70 diverse items, each sold by weight. Options can include protein-rich, house-smoked chicken, ribs or pork. There are also plenty of soups in rotation, a selection of fresh sushi and prepared foods, plus several vegan-friendly items. The bar area serves housemade charcuterie plates and a variety of grilled cheeses. With so many choices, what are the items healthy-minded folks go for the most?
“Our fresh, made-to-order sandwiches are the most popular and our deli meat is free of synthetic nitrates and antibiotics, making it the best sandwich stop in town,” says Jennifer Johnston, marketing team leader, of the best-selling lunchtime items. “The deli has ready-made options for when you’re in a hurry. Our stone-fired pizza oven is always on and our dough is made with Italian white flour and cheese that’s made from RBGH-free milk.”