On Friday, my lovely cousin and I made our ways to Funxion, a new “fit” restaurant in Downtown D.C., for lunch. I was excited about the fact that Funxion offers clearly marked vegan items, though I also knew before I ate there that I wasn’t signing up for a vegan-centric dining experience, per se. “Fit” dining usually means a couple of things:
- Menus with calorie counts
- No added oil, sugar, or sodium
- Many mentions of “lean protein” options
- A plethora of burgers, including bison and turkey burgers
- Lots of chicken breast
- At least one or two “low carb” options
You can see me rolling my eyes from afar, I’m sure. Of course there’s nothing wrong with calorie counts on menus—I actually think that’s a healthy thing for mainstream consumers—or with reducing unnecessary sugars and salts and fats. My problem with this whole ethos is
- The focus on poultry and meat
- The implication that protein sources are by definition animal foods—not always spoken, but often implied.
- The lack of nuance. Sure, most SAD eaters could use a drastic reduction in salt, fat, and sugar. But what about healthy mono- and poly-unsaturated fats (avocados, for example). What about the simple sugars in dates and fruits that can fuel and sustain athletic performance? What about the vital energy we derive from complex carbs? You get the idea.
So when I eat “fit,” so to speak, I prepare myself for an experience that’s sort of paradoxical for me. On the one hand, “fit” restaurants (like NYC’s Energy Kitchen or The Pump) tend to be some of the few lunch spots where it’s extremely easy for me to find vegan options, salads, and food that’s clearly and honestly labeled. Great news for a vegan eater. On the other, I have to suspend my annoyance with the culture of whey protein and low carb this and that, which is inherently at odds with the message I try to spread. It’s a dilemma, no?
Fortunately, I had a good meal at Funxion, and wasn’t too bombarded with protein propaganda. The real emphasis here is actually on “functional foods,” (hence the name), and not as much on lean meats. Functional foods, in this context, means superfoods, and I’m pleased to say that it also means a really well stocked juice and smoothie bar. Check out the options here—they include such blends as “flourish” (Fresh Carrot and Beet Juices, Blueberry Pineapple, Coconut Water) and “indigo” (Blueberry, Coconut Water, Spirulina, Vanilla, Protein Powder, Goji) or my favorite, “stamina” (spirulina, hempseed, coconut water). These are much better options than your typical skim milk or non-fat yogurt based smoothie at a fit restaurant, and demonstrate much more thought about food that’s valuable for its nutrient density, rather than its being low fat, low carb, and high protein.
Of course some of Funxion’s superfood policies strike me as dubious: they endorse FRS beverages, which contain sucralose (and the company’s energy chews contain corn syrup), and they also serve diet muscle milk and a whole lot of powdered supplements that freak me out. But those things exist alongside coconut water, not to mention such dishes as the “red and green slaw” (shredded red and green cabbage, shredded carrot, red pepper, celery seed, agave, white balsamic vinegar) and a sweet potato and apple salad. Plus a lot of salads that are easily veganized. The décor is pretty fun, too:
And check out the funky bathroom sink!
(I promise that’s a sink, not a toilet. I wouldn’t photograph a toilet.)
For my part, I ordered the apple and sweet potato salad, which was really more of a mashed sweet potato dish than anything—but that’s fine with me!
And the chopped salad, which was peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, cannellini beans, edamame, and a fat free tomato rosemary dressing:
If it were up to me, I’d have put flax or olive oil into the salad dressing STAT, and some coconut oil in the sweet potato mash. From a food critic’s point of view, they were wanting in some fat, and the nutritionist in me doesn’t happen to believe that all oils and fats are at odds with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Nevertheless, I loved the flavor profiles (tomato and rosemary is almost as tasty as tomato and PB!) and would never have tried a sweet ‘tater and apple mash, so this gives me inspiration.
My cousin enjoyed her chicken wrap:
And her cucumber salad:
I tried the cucumber salad and it, too, needed fat. But again, great flavors.
All in all, I think my focus when I come back to Funxion will be on smoothies and juices. The food is good, but I just like my healthy fare to be a little more flavorful and fun. I started CR in part to show readers that thriving on a healthy diet need not mean giving up all fats, all carbs, all desserts, or all favorite foods: with close attention paid to the sources and ingredients in our food, not to mention their origins and ethics, we can all afford to eat for pleasure and health at the same time.
But I do give Funxion major props for bringing some of my fave superfoods (hemp, cacao, coconut water, acai, spirulina) into the mainstream spotlight, and I also feel as though their menu will probably grow and take some exciting directions as they partner with other food companies. I’ll be checking in!
What do you guys think of fitness dining? I think Funxion’s special in that it bridges the superfoods ethos and the musclehead ethos on one menu, but I’m curious for your thoughts on both or either perspective. Vegans, what do you think about these sorts of dining experiences? And conscious omnis, what about you?