Healthy spots to dine and drink at near campus

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By Joe Shearer, Photo Editor

While living through your college years, you may often find yourself strapped for time. Whether you’re living on or off campus, you’re probably too busy to cook something wholesome and clean up afterwards. Between classes, studying, work and other responsibilities, students often have little time to partake in activities that they truly love.

We often look for the cheapest, quickest hot or cold meals to drive into our guts as we’re on the go. It’s easy to do, and it’s hard to resist the temptation. Junk foods loaded with processed goods and empty calories are marketed to people like us. It’s nearly impossible to avoid. However, there are many establishments around town and near campus that offer more natural fare to refresh and nourish your body.

Here are four popular locations close to campus that offer healthy meal options and are priced well within the financial boundaries of the average college student.

Jason’s Deli

A classic lunch or dinner spot for UNO students, Jason’s Deli has been serving the Maverick community for many years. Conveniently located on 70th and Dodge, students can easily walk or drive the few blocks to have a quick meal and return to their on-campus activities.

Jason’s Deli founder Rusty Coco has been adamant about keeping the menu as healthy and natural as possible. The 2010 Texas Health Champion Award recipient eliminated all trans-fats and high-fructose corn syrup from the Jason’s Deli menu years ago. He also recently introduced a gluten-free menu and vowed to stop using any artificial dyes and colors in the food.

The casual diner offers an array of hot or cold sandwiches, po’boys, muffalettas, soups and a popular salad bar, complete with dozens of fresh ingredients to mix in with your greens. There are a number of vegan and vegetarian options available. The food comes out hot – or cold, if so ordered – and fast, which most students should enjoy.

If you stick with water to drink, it’s very easy to have a solid meal for under $10 at Jason’s Deli, which is why students keep going back.

Blue Planet Natural Grill

Blue Planet opened in 2008 in a complex of businesses south of the Pinhook Flats apartments on 63rd and Center Streets. Since its opening, it’s been serving hormone-and-antibiotic-free meals to students and midtown residents alike.

The menu is quite expansive and has several options for carnivores, vegetarians and vegans. One cool, unique feature is its many dishes that offer different meats or vegetables to accompany similar recipes. Blue Planet has seven different burger styles with six different meat options: beef, turkey, chicken breast, veggie burger, black bean veggie burger and Portobello cap. A burger and fries no longer has to come with a side of guilt – not when you have air-baked fries and lean, natural ingredients in the burger patties inside a whole wheat bun.

Blue Planet goes way beyond burgers, though. It features salads and wraps with chicken, salmon, ahi and tofu as protein options, and rice or pasta bowls that are served with organic brown rice or whole grain penne pasta. It also serves pizzas on whole wheat and lavash crusts.

Several juice and tea options are available for liquid enjoyment, as well as fruit smoothies that are low in calories, fat and cholesterol.

McFoster’s Natural Kind Café

Not just for hippies, McFoster’s has been catering its vegetarian-focused menu to health-conscious denizens of Omaha since 1994.

Located just east of campus on 38th and Farnam Streets, McFoster’s is a great spot for more adventurous and healthy eaters. The menu offers free-range chicken and fresh seafood dishes to appease a variety of taste buds and preferences.

The menu is as sprawling as the restaurant’s dining area, which includes a spacious patio. The first page is all appetizers, more than half dedicated to vegan dishes. The bottom half, for the non-vegan starters, still features organic, fresh ingredients. The rest of the menu is literally squashed full of every vegetable dish imaginable. You can view the full menu online at mcfosters.com.

The drinks menu is also quite decorated. It starts with fresh fruit smoothies and moves on to fresh-squeezed juices and 100 percent fruit juices in cans or bottles. There is also a massive tea list, including herbal, medicinal and caffeinated varieties. Sodas and other “normal” dine-in beverage options are available as well.

McFoster’s is a must-try destination for those truly concerned about what goes inside their bodies. It even offers a 10 percent discount on take-out orders when a self-brought container is provided, a bonus for students short on cash.

The Juice Stop

Sometimes you’re looking for the nutritional benefits of a meal without having to actually sit down and eat. Athletes and people on the go often find themselves in this position. Luckily for those on campus, The Juice Stop in Aksarben Village offers blended fruit drinks that pack a healthy punch and are light on calories and fat and easy on the wallet, especially for UNO students.

Their menu has more than 35 blended fruit drinks, all having their own exercise-themed names like “The Grand Slam” or “Full Nelson.” Silly names aside, these drinks are seriously tasty and priced well for the 24-ounce cups they come in – $4.75 after tax for every drink isn’t bad for the volume.

For an extra charge you can get nutritional “blends” added to your drink. Metabolic, green and smart blends are a few of the 10 blends available, and all have their own unique ingredients. The Juice Stop wants UNO students to stay focused, so they offer one free blend per drink with your Mav Card, which is an exceptional perk that takes your drink to a whole new level while keeping you under the $5 mark.

Check these guys out on your next busy day on campus and get refreshed on the cheap.

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