Healthy San Francisco Guide

San Francisco is a food lover's dream destination, and thanks to the Bay Area's hilly environs and strong farm-to-table ethos, visitors don't have to compromise their healthy lifestyle to partake in the very best food and drink the city has to offer. 

Photo By: Ryman Tolentino ©Copyright Ryman Tolentino

Photo By: Kenneth Stouffer ©2014 My Life at Speed: all rights reserved

Photo By: GoodEye Photography + Design

The Healthy Eater's Guide to San Francisco

San Francisco is a food lover's dream destination, known for its sourdough loaves, Mission-style burritos and label-defying fusion fare (Korean tacos, anyone?). And thanks to San Francisco's hilly environs and strong farm-to-table ethos, visitors don't have to compromise their healthy lifestyle to partake in the very best food and drink the city has to offer. 

Photo by Brie Mazurek/CUESA

Walk It Off

San Francisco is a city of hills, so chances are you'll be expending some serious shoe leather while visiting its famed landmarks. There's no better way to discover the city than by taking a guided urban hike. Urban Hiker SF leads three weekly tours, where visitors get a two-for-one deal: some city history and serious exercise. Tours are generally 5 miles long, take two-and-a-half to three hours, and hit at least 10 different sights. Hikers tote little more than Mojo bars, but there's plenty of foraging opportunities along the way (including wild blackberries, plums and nasturtium, in season). Just across the Golden Gate Bridge, Tam Hiking Tours shares geology insights while you ascend Mount Tamalpais and neighboring trails. Hikers have the option of ordering organic box lunches (with freshly pressed juices from Mill Valley's own Urban Remedy) to tote along.

Photo by Alexandra Kenin

Work Out to Eat Out

Take a break from your dining regime to sneak in a real fitness workout. The city is dotted with yoga, spinning and Pilates studios, but the epicenter of the fitness scene is in The Marina and Cow Hollow. Between Union and Chestnut streets, you'll find more than 20 studios, including Crunch Fitness, Equinox, SoulCycle, Mercury Pilates, The Pad Yoga/Pilates, Pilates Proworks, VyAyr Fitness, BodyRok, Sweat Republic, Taylor Fit, Bodywork SF, OnPointe Training, Dailey Method, Yoga Flow Union, Bar Method, Body Temp Yoga, Body of Work and Pure Barre. Post-sweat session, you'll be within stumbling distance to dozens of healthy options where your Lululemons will fit in just fine. The Detox Salad at Blue Barn Gourmet, fresh juice elixirs at Juice Shop, acai bowls at EarthBar and OHMeal, and Irish steel-cut oatmeal topped with ginger, fresh berries and granola at Blue Fog Market are just a few of the rewards that await.

Photo by Meesha Halm

Your Hotel Stay Just Got Healthier

Aside from a comfortable mattress and a quiet, central location, many downtown San Francisco hotels are luring guests with next-level wellness and hospitality programs. In between sightseeing and dinner, recapture your inner zen with a meditation class at Kimpton's Hotel Triton. The Union Square hotel has partnered with Reboot Modern Meditation to offer guests a complimentary Tuesday evening class, followed by a hosted wine hour featuring local wineries for the ultimate state of relaxation. (Non-hotel guests can drop into the meditation class for $20 per person.) If sitting still isn't your style, the wellness ambassadors at The Hotel Palomar lead guests on local running routes every weekday morning at 7. They also stock their rooms with a paleo and gluten-free mini bar.

Photo courtesy of Kimpton Hotels

Get Juiced

The city is buzzing with the sound of Vitamixes whirling up fresh elixirs, but keep it hyperlocal and stop by startup Project Juice. This burgeoning archipelago of sleek juice bars (find them in the Marina, Russian Hill, Mid-Market, Palo Alto and the Mission) is decked out with wheatgrass and blond wood; the company uses up to 5 pounds of locally sourced organic produce for each bottle of its cold-pressed juices. You’ll also find made-to-order superfood smoothies, sprouted nut mylks, and grab-and-go nutrient-dense, plant-based snacks such as a cashew cream and blueberry crepes made from dehydrated coconut.

Photo courtesy of Project Juice

Make a Pilgrimage to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market

No place in San Francisco better captures the city's love affair with food than the San Francisco Ferry Building Marketplace. Located along the Embarcadero at the foot of Market Street, this world-class food emporium boasts a view of the Bay on one side and historical trolleys out front, and it's home to more than 40 restaurants, open-air cafes and food artisans. Anytime is a good time to graze your way through the stalls, or enjoy a healthy sit-down lunch at Mijita or Out the Door. But the place really hums on CUESA's Farmers Market days. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, NorCal farmers, food crafters and pop-up restaurants feature everything from just-picked seasonal produce to an array of street food, including Korean tacos and sashimi salad from Namu, salad and paleo plates from The Farmer's Wife, and fresh-pressed elixirs from hyperlocal juice pop-up Sow. Check here for an up-to-date list of vendors.

Photo by Brie Mazurek/CUESA

Upgrade Your Baseball Experience: The Garden at AT&T Park

Forget Cracker Jacks and ballpark franks. The 4,320-square-foot edible garden located behind the centerfield wall at the San Francisco Giants stadium produces more than 40 kinds of fresh produce throughout the year. Much of what is grown supplies the craft cocktails, wood-fired pizzas and other farm-to-table goodies at The Garden's two onsite bistros: The Harvest Table and Garden Table. The Garden opens two hours before first pitch, and anyone with a ticket to the game is welcome to hang out by the benches, herb tables and fire pits. TV screens plus cutouts in the Center Field wall enable visitors to view the field, so you can graze during the game without missing a play. On non-game days, the garden doesn't go fallow; organizers host field trips for Bay Area children offering hands-on lessons in growing and cooking healthy food.

Photo by Meesha Halm

The New Superstars of Clean Eating and Meat-Free Diets

If you are celiac, vegan or suffering from food allergies, going on vacation can be a real challenge. For garden-variety vegetarians, nothing beats Greens, the bayside institution that put meatless dining on the map in 1973. But San Francisco has seen a spate of inventive plant-based restaurants open in the past year. Down in the Marina, Seed + Salt is a restricted-dieter's dream. The chic NorCal cafe showcases Brooklyn-based Chef Ariel Nadelberg's clean food cuisine: Every menu item is not only local, organic and plant-based, but also devoid of gluten, dairy, refined sugar and GMOs. For the ultimate guilt-free treat, try the epic beet burger. Across town in The Richmond District, not far from Golden Gate Park, newcomer Nourish Café draws big crowds for its green smoothies, gluten-free pastries, acai bowls and enormous composed salads, including a killer baked-not-fried falafel. 

Photo by Aubrie Pick

Eat Like a Techie at The Market at the Twitter Building

If you've ever fantasized about what it's like to eat at one of those splashed-out tech company's cafeterias, head to The Market. No, you can't actually crash Twitter's employee dining hall, but this 2,000-square-foot food emporium located on the ground floor of its headquarters on is open to the public. Part market, part communal dining hall, The Market features numerous sit-down restaurants offering everything from tacos, pizza, oysters, sandwiches, tapas and Malaysian street food to a hot and cold salad bar filled with delicious seasonal goodies made onsite. The adjacent retail space showcases sustainable meat and seafood, fresh-baked pastries and bottled juices. Hours vary, but the majority are open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. To get there, ride any Market Street trains to 10th St. (it stops right out front), or park in the Market Square Garage (which offers free validation on weekends with purchases).

Photo courtesy of The Market

Eat an Acai Bowl for Breakfast

Head out to SoMa Mint Plaza, a pedestrian alley not far from the Powell Street turnaround, and join the locals relaxing in the sun while lapping up a freshly blended acai bowl from Bowl'd Acai. Unlike your usual food truck gut bomb, this lovingly run converted postal truck slings frozen breakfast parfaits packed with antioxidants and fiber. Long popular in Hawaii and Brazil, these acai bowls feature blended acai pulp, frozen banana and an array of nondairy blending liquids (coconut water, almond milk), topped with fresh fruit and vegan granola. The Bowl'd Acai truck is parked at Mint Plaza Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. If you're lucky, a busker will serenade you while you devour your meal. The bowl should give you plenty of energy, but if you really need a caffeine fix, the truck is parked right across from Blue Bottle Café.

Photo by Gary Magill

Fly Home Healthy

You might have indulged during your trip, but there's no reason to end it with sad airport food. SFO's domestic terminal has a bevy of healthy food concessions. In Terminal 3, Fraîche is a locally run yogurt company that makes its own small-batch, probiotic-rich Greek-style yogurt and froyo from local organic milk; they use their own pasteurizer, and no fillers or sugars. To keep you satisfied throughout your flight home, get a 98 percent fat-free Valhrona chocolate-flavored froyo parfait topped with dried fruit compote and granola, or opt for housemade labneh yogurt spread slathered on toasted quinoa levain. Departing from Terminal 2? Stop by The Plant Café Organic kiosk, an offshoot of a popular Bay Area café with a menu of raw juices and blue-green smoothies at breakfast time, along with a wasabi-aioli lentil-mushroom burger or quinoa bowl topped with seasonal veggies from 10:30 a.m. until 11 p.m. 

Photo courtesy of Fraiche