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In Search of a Good (for You) Restaurant

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — I  love to eat out. It’s such a treat to sit down to a beautiful table and be served. Then there’s the joy of sharing a great meal with people you care about. But finding good food that is also good for you in a restaurant  is often a challenge.

If you’ve seen the movie “When Harry Met Sally” with Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan, you probably remember the famous “faking it” scene. But before that, Sally is ordering her meal with pretty much everything “on the side.” If you eat out more than once a month and are trying to consume a healthy diet, you probably have found yourself ordering that way, too. But I really hate being a high-maintenance diner. Not to mention the fact that you never really know for sure you are getting the food prepared the way you ordered it.

The back-up plan (ordering a menu salad with grilled chicken) can also get old.

So that begs the question: Why isn’t there a restaurant where you can walk in, order pretty much anything on the menu, and feel confident that the ingredients are healthy?

I was recently in Flagstaff and Sedona, Ariz., and came across some pretty amazing eats that fit that bill.

Picazzo’s Organic Italian Kitchen in Sedona (there are also locations in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson and Flagstaff) bills itself as the “healthier dining experience.”  Everything on the menu is organic and preservative-free and they have a bunch of gluten-free options — even pasta. My family and I had lunch there and we all came close to licking our plates.

Thin crust Pizza Margherita was perfect; not overpowered with cheese. My 11-year-old devoured the Pesto & Ravioli, which was cheese ravioli in pesto-basil sauce with goat cheese and served on spinach.  And the pear and gorgonzola salad was great as well.

The best part was that the prices are reasonable.

“You’d think preparing natural, organic and preservative-free entrees would increase ingredient costs in our kitchen,” says the company’s website. “That may be true for others but for us it’s merely a myth. We’ve worked hard to multiply our buying power and establish local vendor relationships to keep our prices the same as in the past. That’s right, no pricesincreases. Some say it’s Organic on a Budget.”

The other surprise was Macy’s European Coffeehouse, Bakery & Vegetarian Restaurant in Flagstaff. We found this quaint spot while searching for a place to park for that city’s Fourth of July Parade. The coffee smell coming from the place was amazing. And walking by people eating in their outside dining area just lured us in.

We had the steamed scrambled eggs with veggies and were surprised to find out they don’t add salt to the food — it’s a choice they let their customers make. The waffle with fresh fruit was also delish (whole wheat waffle and simple berries and bananas not overly sweetened — this was no Rooty-Tooty-Fresh-n’-Fruity stuff here). There were homemade pastries in the counter, but there was an entire menu board full of yummy-sounding stuff with an abundance of vegetables. Very refreshing.

One of my favorite food blogs, Snack Girl, recently wrote about looking in to a restaurant kitchen only to see people not actually cooking, but assembling pre-packaged, processed foods.

That’s certainly not the way I want to spend my limited “eat out” dollars.

Have you found healthy eat-out options in the Albuquerque area? Send me your favorites.

Nancy Tipton is an athlete who likes to run, cycle, hike and climb (when not working as a Web developer and writer at the Journal).