It’s a new year and perhaps you made some promises to yourself about eating healthier or healthy in general. Or maybe you just prefer to eat that way all the time – you can find plenty of healthy options at great restaurants in The Great Smoky Mountains. Whether breakfast, lunch or dinner, we have ideas for your healthy eating.
At many restaurants in Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, you can order calorie conscious foods on a menu: omelets with lots of veggies, salads, fresh veggies and fruits and seafood, cheese-less pizzas (serious, Mellow Mushroom does a great gluten free crust with no cheese – I promise!). These are great options when you want to try one of our local restaurants known for cheesy nachos, loaded potatoes, fried catfish or ooey gooey cheesy burgers or your friends and family do but you want to keep your eating clean.
Here are some of our favorite spots for all meals – with options for eating clean and healthy – or at least a little lighter.
Some rules to consider – grilled or dry seared meats and seafoods, no creams or creamy dressings (try oil based or just oil and vinegar), baked dishes without cheese.
Quaint and homey, Wild Plum Tea Room, is a lunch-only restaurant open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and reservations in advance are highly encouraged. Don’t be fooled by the name – Wild Plum Tea Room offers way more than just tea.
Inspired by Austrian-style tea houses, the restaurant has fresh homemade lunch menu offerings with vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. All menu items are homemade and made daily from fresh ingredients.
Lunch is served on fine china in a cabin set in the woods. The menu selection may include daily chef specials, soups, salads, specialty sandwiches, desserts, vegetarian, vegan and allergy-accommodated meals. Check out the photo gallery.
Find Wild Plum Tea Room at 555 Buckhorn Road, Gatlinburg, 865-436-3808 (Wild Plum doesn’t accept same-day reservations)
Mellow Mushroom in Gatlinburg offers salads and build your-own pizzas that include gluten-free crust, no cheese or dairy-free cheese. There’s also creamy hummus drizzled with olive oil, then topped with paprika and fresh basil. Served with your choice of lightly toasted pita wedges or carrots and celery to keep things light.
While Mellow Mushroom is a chain, Gatlinburg’s restaurant brings in local inspiration with the striking two-story restaurant reflecting the local geography and culture that lies within the Smokey Mountain region. “The bar, which offers Dude’s Daiquiris, is dubbed the ‘Moonshine Lounge’ as a nod to the mountains’ past exploits. Colorful paintings are seen throughout the space along with vintage ads painted on the walls. The upstairs dining area has a wall made up of glass garage doors that can be opened to let in the refreshing mountain air.
Mellow Mushroom Gatlinburg is located at 903 Parkway, Ste 103 – (865) 277-0600.
Harpoon Harry’s Crab House
Harpoon Harry’s Crab House in Pigeon Forge is another Smoky Mountain’s gem with healthy options. Among them: peal and eat shrimp, shrimp rice and sausage gumbo, salads and raw oysters.
There are also crab buckets that include steamed crab, sausage and red potatoes in Harpoon Harry’s crab boil. Seafood platters made the way you want, lobster tails, steaks and grilled chicken. Choose sides of vegetables and salad to lighten the meal.
Harpoon Harry’s also offers a sushi menu offered all day.
Keep the calories down by ordering sashimi – just pieces of fish or nigiri – fish on rice. Or order rolls without mayonnaise. Edamame – soy beans – make a delicious and healthy appetizer. In addition to being a good source of soy protein, edamame is rich in healthy fiber, antioxidants and vitamin K. These make a great snack at home too – instead of potato chips.
Harpoon Harry’s – located at 112 Community Center Drive – is modeled after sister restaurant Smuggler’s in Punta Gorda, FL., with adventurous food, fresh seafood and fun for the entire family.
The Old Mill
The Old Mill Pottery House and Cafe is a local favorite serving lunch, dinner and weekend brunch on dishes created by its potters right next door.
Lunch and dinner options include grilled salmon cakes,10 different salads, quiche plates served with fruit, salad or a bowl of soup. There’s grilled chicken breast, grilled salmon and spicy grilled catfish – a local fresh fish favorite. Healthy sides include steamed broccoli and baked sweet potato as options.
The Pottery House and Café at 3341 Old Mill Street in Pigeon Forge is part of The Old Mill family of restaurants and shops that have been part of the Smoky Mountain community since the 1780s.
“In the 1780s, Mordecai Lewis moved west from Virginia and settled on the banks of a Tennessee river. Pioneer Isaac Love built an iron forge there that would eventually, along with the huge numbers of passenger pigeons, give the settlement the name”
Fifty years later, in 1830, Love’s son built The Old Mill on a picturesque spot on the river which quickly became a gathering spot for the community. Local farm families brought wheat, corn and other crops to the mill for grinding, visited, and picked up their mail.
Today, The Old Mill continues to serve as a warm, welcoming gathering spot for all, with the goal of keeping its heritage of real hospitality alive for generations to come.”
The Old Mill Restaurant, at 164 Old Mill Avenue in Pigeon Forge, overlook the Little Pigeon River as it flows through the water wheel of the 200-year-old mill.
On the lighter side for breakfast, try filling oatmeal; a beautiful fresh fruit plate; vegetable quiche or a vegetable omelet.
Lunch options include broiled catfish, grilled shrimp, fresh English Mountain trout, stir-fried vegetables, southern vegetable plate and that wonderful vegetable quiche. Pinto bean soup – I grew up on this – and homemade vegetable beef soup.
For dinner, The Old Mill adds its signature salad to which you can add a grilled chicken breast:
Crisp lettuce tossed with mixed greens topped with cucumbers, red onion, grapde tomatoes, hard boiled egg, red peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and a cheese blend. Serviced with your choice of dressing (side salad not included). Homemade country dressings: Ranch, Honey French, Blue Cheese, 1000 Island, Honey Mustard, or Fat Free Italian.
Described by locals as “everyone’s favorite,” this Pigeon Forge restaurant locally sources everything on its menu. Even the ketchup and the breads are homemade.
“You won’t find anything bad on that menu,” said one local business owner who frequents The Local Goat. “You can play menu roulette” and always win.
Great burgers with many options, including a Portabella mushroom burger, a good ol’ southern pimento cheese cheeseburger and a “handheld” called The Elvis – peanut butter, smoked bacon, fried bananas. Ok, those aren’t light, but there are lighter options, and you can always get a burger without the bun.
There are six “big salads” – to quote Elaine from Seinfeld. Salads include Mediterranean with crisp greens, kalamata olives, feta cheese, sweet peppers and grape tomatoes. Add grilled chicken, salmon, tofu, shrimp, steak or seared Ahi tuna. The meat, seafood and non-meat options are available on the house salad as well. The Strawberry and Harvest salads includes grilled chicken. There’s also a Tavern Steak salad with a honey-lime vinaigrette.
Healthier entrees include flame-grilled salmon, Ahi tuna steak and jumbo lump crab cakes served with broccoli.
The Local Goat is located at 2167 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, 865-366-3035.
In nearby Sevierville, a healthy option is Thai Basil – family owned in the Smoky Mountains since 2012. Healthy is part of Thai Basil’s mission “to introduce a new flavorful and healthy cuisine to the local area” with a “wide variety of authentic Thai dishes that are freshly cooked to order.”
One of my favorite cuisines is Thai. I love pad thai – rice noodles with egg, spices and anything from tofu to lobster if you want it. And red curry – warming, delicious, as spicy or mild as you want. But those are my favorites. Find out your own!
At Thai Basic, choose a stir fry – selecting protein and sauces from a variety of options including basil sauce, garlic sauce, garlic black pepper and more.
There are six types of curry, including my favorite red curry. I like mine Thai hot but you can have it mild, medium or hot too. There also are noodles and noodle soups – many are rice noodles, making them gluten free.
Check out Thai Basil at 530 Winfield Dunn Parkway, (865) 453-9339.
Smoky Mountain Trout House
Smoky Mountain Trout House has been serving up local food in Gatlinburg since 1975. Trout are usually associated with streams of the eastern mountains, but there are many instances where tailwaters, small rivers and spring-fed streams in other portions of Tennessee have temperatures that support these cold-water fish year-round. If you have never had trout, Tennessee is the place to do it. You can smoke it, fry it, broil it, grill it (but in a cast-iron pan or it will stick) or blacken it (my favorite!).
Smoky Mountain Trout House offers trout 13 different ways on the menu plus a trout fritter appetizer – that doesn’t include any specials. Each meal comes with house salad or cole slaw, baked potato, French fries or vegetables and hush puppies. If you chose the vegetable of the day, maybe you won’t feel guilty about the sweet, crispy corn-meal hush puppy deliciousness.
Smoky Mountain Trout House, at 410 Parkway in Gatlinburg, is open Thursday to Sunday through Feb. 12 when they will add more days. Call 865-436-5416.
Want to catch your own trout and cook it in your American Patriot Getaways cabin? Check out the Smoky Mountain wildlife rules for winter fishing. Don’t forget to get a fishing license.
Cooking in Your Cabin
Speaking of cooking in your Smoky Mountain cabin, shopping options for healthy and natural foods including Whole Earth Grocery in Gatlinburg, which also has take out foods.
The natural foods store has a café focusing on vegetarian & vegan fare including a lentil burger salad and veggie wrap and tuna or chicken salad. The café also offers Wellness Shots such as wheatgrass and lemon/ginger/turmeric.
Located at 446 East Parkway Winery Square in Gatlinburg, Whole Earth Grocery can be reached by calling 865-436-6967.
Book Your Smoky Mountain Vacation and Plan a Healthy-Eating Tour
Ready to book your adventure in the Smoky Mountains? Give American Patriot Getaways a call at 800-204-5169. Let our experts help you find the right cabin and all the right fun, food and entertainment.
You can also contact us online by searching our cabins in Gatlinburg and in Pigeon Forge. Check out our Pinterest boards if you want a cabin close to the fun and the food! Also, see our board on where to eat in Gatlinburg.