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Carmen Hedrick makes Sunberry Toast, a toast of strawberries, sunflower butter, and hemp seeds at The Well Cafe and Juice Bar in Greensboro, NC, on Friday, May 17, 2019.

Khadejeh Nikouyeh / News & Record

GREENSBORO – One recent afternoon, Kaya Jackson stopped at the Vitality Bowls for a take-away bowl.

“I love that I can easily go somewhere and eat healthy or just look for a quick pick-me-up to make me feel good,” said Jackson.

Vitality Bowls specializes in bowls with advertised superfoods such as acai, graviola, acerola and pitaya. The store is just one of several fast-casual healthy grocery chains specializing in salads, bowls, and other healthy options that have opened locations in Greensboro in recent years. Others include Grabbagreen, Zoe’s Kitchen, Flame Broiler, Corelife Eatery, and Chopt Creative Salad Co. – many of which are based on the West Coast, where all healthy trends originate.

“I think it’s just an evolution of the good, healthy organic diet that is migrating to the east coast,” said Janet Mazzurco as she dipped her plastic spoon into a detox bowl of chilled pureed acai, almond milk, and kale.

Mazzurco, who has been battling stage 4 metastatic melanoma for 10 years, is oversensitive to what she eats. “Treatments are wreaking havoc on my gut microbiome,” said Mazzurco. “Your stomach is your second brain.”

And research is increasingly suggesting that keeping our digestion healthy and happy with fresh fruits, vegetables, and bone broths.

“People are becoming more and more aware that you are what you eat,” said Mazzurco.

Danny Grammenopoulos agrees.

“People take prescription drugs for things that should be done with regular, proper diet,” said Grammenopoulos, who opened Corelife Eatery last year.

Corelife specializes in salad and grain bowls. Grammenopoulos said everything on the menu is made from scratch, including the restaurant’s bone broths. He said these things cannot be rushed.

“If I order (in a restaurant) and that person turns around and says, ‘Let’s go,’ it can’t be real food. It will have some processing steps, ”he said.

One of Greensboro’s newest healthy eating entries, Chopt Creative Salad Co., focuses on salads.

“For the past 18 years we’ve seen a positive impact on people through our food,” said Colin McCabe, who co-founded Chopt with Tony Shure.

In addition to signature salads like Mexican Caesar and Kebab Cobb, the chain mixes with highlighted themes.

“We use local ingredients and feature ‘Destination’ specials every 60 days that are inspired by parts of the world like Vietnam, Mexico and the Mediterranean,” said McCabe.

Healthy Franchise

Potential franchisees are taking note of the appeal of healthier eating.

“My husband and I have always been very active and have a healthy diet,” said Therese Lopez, who opened the Vitality Bowls with her husband Michael at the beginning of the year. “We wanted to start our own business and when we came across this concept and saw what ingredients they use and how they make their food, we could definitely stand behind it.”

Grammenopoulos said he was impressed with the concept of Corelife, whose President Scott Davis spent 25 years at Panera Bread, one of the first successful health food chains. Corelife is now one of the fastest growing chains in the country.

“If these guys do what they really claim, I want a part of it,” said Grammenopoulos, who has become the area developer for other restaurants.

Another growing concept in healthy restaurants are cold-pressed juice bars that specialize in juices made from fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Clean Juice chain opened in Greensboro two years ago. Around the same time, the local Organix juice bar opened a Greensboro shop.

“It’s important to include these raw, nutrient-dense products in your diet,” said George Memory, who founded Organix in Winston-Salem before moving to Greensboro.

Memory says most people will not eat four pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. But when you walk into his shop, you can get the equivalent in a 12-ounce bottle of juice.

“I’m thrilled that there is a greater appetite for healthier diets and healthier options,” said Memory.

Expand menus

It’s not just chains that offer guests healthy eating options. Several locally owned restaurants offer menus of salads, bowls, and fresh items. All-vegetarian Boba House has been a popular destination for over a decade since it took over Hong Kong House, one of Greensboro’s original wholesome restaurants. Well Café is a newer healthy eatery.

“I love food and I want everyone to be able to eat healthily,” says Jessika Olsen.

The café is part of Sonder Mind and Body, a holistic wellness center Olsen, which opened last year with her sister Veronika Olsen.

It offers bowls like the burrito-inspired Bright Bowl with roasted cauliflower and black beans and the Korean-inspired MmmBop Bowl with sauteed spinach and zucchini.

The café menu is vegan and vegetarian. For extra protein, customers can add a duck egg. The menu also focuses on allergen-free dishes.

“We’re free of seven of the eight most common allergens,” said Olsen.

These seven major allergens are gluten, peanuts, nuts, shellfish, dairy products, soy, and corn. Eggs are another top allergen, but Olsen insists that the cafe’s duck eggs don’t come into contact with any other food.

Julie Linz, who suffers from celiac disease and avoids gluten, has been to the café three times.

“Every time I come in here I get something different. I love the bowls, ”said Linz when she tried the BBQ Jack Bowl, which contains jackfruit as a substitute for grilling pork.

Vitality Bowls customize orders to meet a person’s allergies and special needs. This also applies to Corelife.

“A manager will go through the bowl in person to make sure it is safe,” said Grammenopoulos.

Olsen said the menu at The Well Café changes seasonally based on what it can get from local farmers. She tries to create tasty dishes inspired by different styles. The café even offers gluten-free Belgian waffles for weekend brunch.

The new generation of healthy eating restaurants is just as much about taste as it is about nutrition.

“We believe that you don’t have to sacrifice taste for health,” said McCabe. “We want people to come in … and say, ‘This tastes better than any cheeseburger or pizza, and I feel better because I ate it.'”

“Eating healthy doesn’t mean it’s ugly and boring,” said Lopez.

And nutritious nutritional concepts are catching up with traditional fast food, although the latter is increasingly offering its own healthy options.

“In the next five years and over, we will be on the verge of overtaking it or being right in there because consumers will start asking for it,” said Grammenopoulos.

And now that healthy options have quickly become too casual, customers like Kaya Jackson of Vitality Bowls love the convenience.

“It helps me stay away from the many other junk food options,” said Jackson.

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