Eating Out in Iowa City: 5 Favorite Restaurants For Healthy Food

A few weeks ago the Iowa City Press Citizen featured a piece on local, healthy restaurant options. The author promised places where you could eat and still maintain your New Year’s resolutions. I read about the first three great places and then turned the page, but that was it. Three. I found myself saying, “But what about [insert any of the great, local options with delicious and healthy fare]?” It was as if the author had a birthday party and only invited half the class. The Iowa City mom bloggers say, “The more the merrier!” Whether you have time to browse a buffet or need a quick meal without resorting to a chain drive-through, here are our top five favorite places to feed our kids (and ourselves) in the corridor!

Bread Garden Market

Something for everyone! Bread Garden was a hands-down favorite among the ICMB writers! What makes this place a healthy favorite is the variety. From rich and creamy Mac-n-Cheese to a vegetarian hot buffet, you and your little ones will find lots of options in choose-your-own portions. Before you head to the Ped Mall, check out the “Now Serving” bulletin on their home page to see if your favorite soup is being served that day. My daughter loves the seasonal melon and house-made chicken tenders, and a bowl of their popular Tuscan Tomato Soup (with free bread on the side!) hits the spot for mama.

Situated right on the Ped Mall with open-air seating that turns into a glassed-in patio with heat lamps in the winter, you can fill up on good food and people watching after a romp on the play structure and a trip to the library across the way. I always grab some of their protein and flavor-packed salmon cakes from the deli to heat up for dinner and ICMB Co-Founder Sara stops by the snack case for kid-sized organic juice boxes and string cheese for the road.

healthy restaurants

New Pioneer Coop

Need something quick to sustain you and your little ones between after school activities and late work schedules? Writer Meghann calls ahead to “The Co-op” to order hot deli sandwiches to feed her hungry brood. All of their sandwiches are made with their delicious hearth bread (gluten-free on request), local smoked cheeses, and organic produce. You can get basic turkey sandwiches for your pickier palates and more sophisticated combinations with gourmet spreads to replace the usual mayo for you and your partner. Meghann and her hubby love the “Angus and Andy” when they’re in the mood for meat. Portions are big enough to have your little ones split one, making eating healthy an affordable option even on the go.

Masala Indian Buffet

Most restaurants have a separate “kids” menu. Whoever made that rule has never been to Masala! Forget chicken nuggets and applesauce, writer Lianna’s kids feast on rice, naan, chick peas, yogurt and mango pudding! Masala uses produce from the Farmer’s Market and has a full menu of vegan, vegetarian, and meat dishes. If you’ve never treated your kids to Indian food, the buffet is the perfect place to start.

Red’s Ale House

Writer Kellie loves the new vegan menu at Red’s in North Liberty. Sure, you can get burgers and fries with your besties for girls night out, but you can also bring the kiddos for toasted PB&J while you feast on vegan fare like the Arugula Salad with greens, apples, candied walnuts and Sutliff Cider vinaigrette.

Oasis Falafel

ICMB alum Kate says that no food column featuring great local food in Iowa City would be complete without Oasis. Whole wheat pita bread stuffed with falafel (those fried chick pea balls of goodness!), cucumbers, babba ganoush (roasted eggplant blended with garlic and spices)…I’m hungry just writing this description! Some of my other favorites include their Greek Salad with house-made balsamic vinaigrette. Pick up some hummus to go for a healthy accompaniment to cut-up veggies when the kiddos get home from school. Once you have Oasis hummus, you will never ever go back. Side note: If this were a post talking about food I ate in grad school, I would rave about their French fries.

So, there you have it: Five more healthy and delicious options in Iowa City and beyond. Oh! One more: Mama’s Deli: Situated downtown on Washington, this place has the best Beet Salad!

And, I’m forgetting the Veg Heaven burrito with roasted vegetables and creamy goat cheese at Atlas! I’ve taken my little one to Atlas a few times, but I think this is a great grown-up lunch spot. The Veg Heaven is big enough to eat half there and take the other half home for dinner.

And I didn’t even get to Oyama Sushi on the east side, where your little ones can get introduced to the world of sushi with sweet potato rolls and fried rice. They are one of the more kid-friendly places I’ve ever dined, bringing kid-rigged chopsticks and putting in the kid order quicker than you can say “pre-nap meltdown.”

If I’m not careful this is going to turn into a Top Ten list, so I’ll stop here and let you chime in…Where is your favorite place to feed you and your family healthy food in Iowa City?


Sherri is a transplant from Oregon who came to be a Hawkeye in 2006 and stayed for the sweet corn...and for the Iowa boy she met along the way! She and her husband (Kyle) have a 9 year-old daughter, Aissa. Sherri earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education and Student Affairs at The University of Iowa and works for Ruffalo Noel Levitz as an Enrollment Marketing Consultant for colleges and universities. When she's not working, you can find her with her family, enjoying Iowa City and cheering on the Hawkeyes.


  1. I’m shocked to see no one mentioned Trumpet Blossom Cafe! If I lived in the area, I’d eat there every day. It’s delicious with so many healthy options!


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