A healthy lunch on the go

You know veggies are good for you. You know fast-food calorie bombs lurk at every turn. But when your lunch hour's crunched, your stomach growls and you're deep into a due-right-now report for the boss, you do not have time to calculate calories, fat, protein, sodium — let alone a nice balance of color and textures. It's a miracle you're stepping away from your desk!

That's why a recently launched program at Freshii eateries got our attention. The chain's already known for its "custom built" wraps, salads and bowls based on lots of fresh veggies.

The new program dubbed the Freshii15 offers 15 different bowls, wraps, salads and yogurt parfaits that do all the balancing of nutrients (carbs, protein, fat and unlimited vegetables) to help manage your weight. They bear the imprimatur of a "celebrity" dietitian (aka Ashley Koff), a nutrient breakdown plus as names such as Rejuvenate, Happiness, Peace of Mind, Yin-Yang and Oxygen.

How do they taste? The Invigorate bowl ($7.49), lowest in calories at 182, was a tasty, colorful and texturally interesting mix of brown rice, spinach, avocado, egg whites, mushrooms, diced tomatoes and roasted red peppers dressed with a balsamic vinegar. Get it again? Yep.

A huge, nicely spiced Recharge salad (280 calories; a bit pricey at $9.49) featured Freshii's salad mix plus grilled tofu, avocado, mango, black beans, sweet corn, fresh cilantro, diced tomatoes and salsa.

Love the hefty Wisdom wrap (258 calories; $8.49), its tuna-feta-broccoli mix, plus menu suggestion: "have half now/half later."

Don't like any of the menu selections? There's a custom built, Koff-guided option. The best part? Her tips: "Get your dressing on the side so you can use less," and "If you are having a wrap, have half the wrap without the tortilla, or save half of it for later."

Freshii Chicago locations? 200 W. Monroe St., 312-269-0995; 111 W. Jackson Blvd., 312-588-5998; 311 S. Wacker Dr., 312-435-0311; Water Tower Place, 835 N. Michigan Ave., 312-202-9009.

A reader tip: On our close look at frozen mac and cheese entrees, David Child of Chicago e-mailed: "The next time you are at Dominick's frozen entrees, please take a look at kids' Eating Right items. Portions are about the same as for adults but have veggies or whole wheat pasta, for example, making them attractive alternatives." Hmmm, bet we see a few really big kids checking them out.

Got any lunch-hour tips, recipe suggestions, deals to share or questions? Write to Judy Hevrdejs at jhevrdejs@tribune.com.

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