Eating Well in the Grand Canyon

To be honest, most national parks are not known for their healthy eating choices, as the concessionaires tend to offer a menu of high-fat, low-taste, sodium-filled options. And although you can certainly find calorie-laden options at the Grand Canyon National Park, Xanterra Parks & Resorts also offers a number of healthier selections at their restaurants. Granted you do have to read the menus and choose carefully, but here are a few examples of some of the healthier food options at Grand Canyon National Park.

Maswick Food Court

This cafeteria-style restaurant offers a number of healthier selections, including gluten-free bread and veggie burgers. For breakfast, the healthier station is in the center of the food court, where you can get fruit, cereal and oatmeal. You can also get a hot breakfast with eggs cooked to order, although unfortunately they don’t do poached eggs. Best bet is to stay away from the super-sized mega breakfast burritos and huevos rancheros.

For lunch, you can get a healthy grab and go salad, and for dinner the best option is one of their plated dinners. I chose the baked chicken with green beans and mashed potatoes. The servers were very obliging when I requested no gravy, and they even asked if I wanted butter on the beans and potatoes (which I didn’t). Charles got a sliced turkey dinner with squash, potatoes and a small serving of cranberry sauce. Again, gravy was optional. All in all the food was good, not heavily salted and fresh. They have a number of healthier preparation methods available (grilled, baked, sautéed) so the standard fried and breaded isn’t your only choice. Overall it’s really not bad, and a step above most cafeteria style food.

Canyon Cafe

Canyon Cafe in Grand Canyon National Park

This cafeteria style restaurant at Yavapai Lodge offered a nice self serve salad bar. It was pretty basic, with a few types of lettuce and various other fresh veggies. I liked the fact that it didn’t have any prepared salads like most “salad bars”. It was a one-trip option and you pay by the ounce (.60 per ounce). My only gripe is that they didn’t have my favorite honey mustard salad dressing, but they did have a low calorie vinaigrette. It’s a healthy and affordable choice, and they keep the salad bar well stocked and very clean.

Arizona Room

Black Bean Soup at Arizona Room in Grand Canyon National Park

The Arizona Room is my favorite restaurant on the South Rim, partially because of the great canyon view it affords patrons, but also because of the menu and the service. For lunch one day I stopped in and had a cup of black bean soup and their Southwestern version of a Caesar salad. It had corn and back beans, a light southwestern Caesar dressing, and it was topped with tortilla strips instead of the standard croutons; which is great if (like me) you don’t eat wheat. I also liked that they didn’t glob on the salad dressing, like most restaurants do.

Southwestern Caesar Salad at Arizona Room at Grand Canyon National Park

This was one of our favorite restaurants, so we stopped by a second time for lunch, and that time we got a table by the window, which offered a great canyon view. I ordered a Southwestern chicken sandwich, minus the bread. My server didn’t even bat an eye with my special request, which made the “sandwich” doable for me . Charles opted for the quarter BBQ chicken with green beans and rice. The veggies were fresh, and although the chicken piece was pretty large, it was grilled. He also got a Caesar salad to start (included), and this one seemed larger than yesterday, so he split it with me.

We also stopped by one night for dinner – like I said it was really one of our favorite restaurants. I ordered the tortilla crusted tilapia which came with a small serving of Spanish rice and lot of steamed broccoli. Charles had the chicken adobo, which came with the same sides. My fish was very light, and I appreciated the fact that they didn’t dip it in flour and fry it. And we both loved the fresh steamed broccoli. It was nice to just get a veggie without a heavy sauce or seasoning.

Bright Angel Dining Room

This is your standard coffee shop, but as an added bonus they do include calorie counts with some of their menu items. We stopped there one night for dinner, and I saw that the enchilada casserole was pretty low in calories, so I opted for it. I liked the fact that it was a small portion, but unfortunately mine was not heated adequately. The server took it back to the kitchen and promptly corrected the error, and in the end it was adequate. Charles had the trout which was grilled and served with Dijon mustard, rice and some green beans. Although it was prepared in a healthy way (not fried), it was a pretty large portion. Still, he seemed happy with it.

El Tovar Lodge Dining Room

Don’t miss breakfast in the El Tovar, as it’s a wonderfully relaxing experience. The servers are probably the best out of all the Grand Canyon restaurants, and the food is prepared to order. I got the Harvey House breakfast with my eggs cooked to order (poached, soft) and some turkey sausage. The sausage was light, not greasy, and the serving size was appropriate (not massive). Since Charles and I both passed on the included toast, the server also brought us some fresh fruit. I liked the fact that it was freshly sliced that morning (you could tell from how the pineapple tasted), and it wasn’t canned (liked some places serve and call it fresh). Charles had the blackened trout with his eggs over easy. It looked very flakey, and Charles said it was quite tasty. We were both members of the clean plate club that morning!

All in all I think Xanterra is doing a great job of providing healthy food options at Grand Canyon National Park. There was something healthy or light on every menu, and the servers in the sit down restaurants were all very accommodating with special requests. To be honest, I’m looking forward to returning to some of my favorite restaurants on my next visit – and that’s not something I often say about national park food!

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