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Eating out with a dietitian’s fork: Healthy picks at 4 new restaurants

For someone watching their weight, dining out in Philly can feel overwhelming. Here’s the good news: You don’t have to ruin your healthy eating goals to enjoy our city’s booming restaurant scene. Here are menu recommendations at five popular Philly dives.

Editor's Note: Philadelphia is a foodie's paradise, with more great restaurants and fun bars than we can count. But for those watching their weight, dining out in Philly can feel overwhelming. Here's the good news: You don't have to ruin your healthy eating goals to enjoy our city's booming restaurant scene.

Theresa Shank, RD LDN has provided readers with information on healthy meal selections at popular bars and restaurants. (Yes, dietitians eat out, too!) Consider Shank your personal menu navigation guide to these four new Philly restaurants.

» READ MORE: Harp & Crown

If you raided your grandparents' basement and added in a hefty dose of modernity (plus a private bowling alley), you'd find yourself at this wistful, bi-level spot on 15th and Sansom Streets.

Harp & Crown's menu is extensive, with offerings ranging from small plates to wood=oven pizzas and shareable entrées. If I had to choose among the seven sections of the menu, I'd recommend ordering two options from "Small Plates," one dish from "Plates," and another from either the "Salad" or "Vegetable" sections per two people. Skip the "Charcuterie and Cheese" and "Pizza" sections since these dishes are the most calorie-dense on the menu.

For the "Small Plates," the Spanish Octopus, prepared with preserved fennel, olive, and guajillo sauce, is absolutely one of the best octopus dishes I've tasted in the city. I did not try the Lamb Meatballs — I opted for the Big Eye Tuna Crudo instead — but lamb is a lean protein, so if seafood isn't your thing, go with this pick, paired with date relish, green yogurt, and mint.

Next up, "Plates." I recommend the Hanger Steak — yes, dietitians eat red meat too. You'll definitely want to round out your meal with a vegetable or a salad, so a must try is the Cauliflower. This plate might sound plain on paper, but the flavor from the Meyer lemon mixed with a perfect hint of saltiness from the parmigiano had me wanting to order seconds. As for the salads, all three options, Shaved, Faro, and Red Beet, are RD-approved.

» READ MORE: Wister

At Third and Church Streets, this welcoming BYOB features a seafood-forward, ever-changing menu.

You'll want to order either a salad or a vegetable appetizer to start. Of the three vegetable-based starters, I recommend trying the Roasted Cauliflower, prepared with harissa and muscat raisins, or the Pear and Endive Salad topped with anise, pomegranate and sunflower.

All the entrees at Wister seemed light in ingredients, so you can't really go wrong in the dietary department when dining here. The Ora King Salmon was perfectly portioned and complemented by fiber-rich lentils and delicious roasted heirloom carrots that tasted like sweet potatoes. If you have a heavier appetite, try the Chicken for Two, which surprisingly is enough to feed two people (given the price of $55) paired with seasonal roasted vegetables.

» READ MORE: Scarpetta

Dark wooden tables greet you in this refined yet comfortable spot on the west side of Rittenhouse Square.

Upon ordering, our waiter suggested that my friend and I choose one dish from every section of the menu (there are five) and share them. We did not follow his recommendation and instead decided to order two spaghetti dishes and one vegetable side, which was the perfect amount of food, especially if you indulge in their complimentary Stromboli (guilty). The Roasted Beet Salad tossed with shaved autumn vegetables, market greens, ricotta, and beet vinaigrette was the perfect amount of food before our pasta dishes to come.

When eating pasta, try to go with lighter complements to balance out the heaviness of the carbs (each pasta dish is 6 ounces). This means you'll want to skip the Short Rib and Bone Marrow Agnolotti or Duck and Fois Gras Ravioli. Instead, opt for Black Farfalle, served in a seafood ragout with pancetta and herbed bread crumbs or their classic Spaghetti dish.

» READ MORE: James

At 19th and Arch Streets, James provides a casual bar concept with sleek, friendly interiors and even friendlier bartenders.

I tend to encourage clients to skip appetizers unless they are vegetable- or seafood-based. Good thing James offers both in the Jumbo Lump Crab Cocktail. This appetizer is layered, starting with sliced cucumber and tomatoes and topped with a mixture of refreshing jumbo lump crab, avocados, and grapefruit. All the ingredients are fresh, giving this appetizer an A+ in my book.

If you're not a lover of meat, try the Seitan Risotto. I know, risotto is generally heavy, but this meal is perfectly portioned (absolutely delicious too) so you can leave the table satisfied without the guilt. If starchy carbs are off limits for you, try the Braised Halibut served with olive oil-poached shrimp, peas, morels, and artichokes.

Dessert, well, that's on you to decide.


Read more Goal Getter for healthy eating, weight loss, and more.