Increasing Options to Eat Healthy in The Hub City

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—It can be hard in a city, even for longtime residents, to discern where to find healthy alternatives to fast food, processed food, and other unhealthy options.

The last few years has seen the emergence of a new mindset promoting healthier modes of eating, and New Brunswick is no exception.

Located just off of Route 1, the Rutgers Gardens Farmers Market is held every Friday between 11am-5pm from May through November.

The Rutgers Gardens Famers Market hosts local and non-local vendors and is a great place to pick up anything from produce to cheese to grass-fed meats.

This particular market, one of several in the city, has been running since 2008.  According to their website, “[it] wishes to help support the local farmers, as well as the local community and economy, by utilizing an area at the entrance to the Gardens, adjacent to Ryders Lane, for the Market.

The market gives commuters and students easy access to fresh, locally grown crops and commodities.”

While visiting the market, it is tempting to visit Rutgers Gardens, a large and beautiful space of land dedicated to preserving, studying, and promoting healthy agriculture.

The gardens, and the market they host, are primarily accessible via car due to the danger of crossing Route 1.  Ryders Lane, near the market/gardens are located, also gets very congested on Friday after 3pm due to rush hour traffic.

If you are looking for a farmer's market that is easier to get to on foot or bicycle, you can take a trip from New Brunswick right over the bridge to Highland Park.

Highland Park’s Farmers Market is similar, attracting local farmers, vendors, and the like.

Since there are two very similar farmer's markets within a few miles of one another, each one attracts a slightly different crowd. It is not unusual for some of the vendors to spend half the summer at one, and half at the other.

Highland Park’s Farmers Market is open from June to late November and also runs Fridays 11:00am-5:30pm.

Both farmers markets are great places to pick up your healthy produce for the week and skip a trip to the supermarket because you get to meet the farmer who is growing your food.

Novelties of the markets include a delicious pickle stand and homemade nuts for sale. Both are delicious and make a tasty lunch while shopping.

There is also a smaller market held in downtown New Brunswick at the Kilmer Square Park, located at George and Albany Streets.

It runs June through October on Wednesdays, at 11:00am-3:00pm.  This market hosts produce like the others, but it serves a distinctly different customer base.

There is not much English spoken at this market, and they do not accept credit or debit cards.

Located at 178 Jones Street is another similar market operated by the same organization.  The Farmers Market Pavillion and Gardens runs on Thursdays and Saturdays from June through late October.

Unlike the others, this market offers programs about nutrution and well-being in order to better the lives of New Brunswick residents.

Their programs focus on education and they target the schools and communites across New Brunswick by promoting the healthy lifestyle of community gardening.

One of the oldest and most prominent healthy eating options is the George Street Co-op located at 89 Morris Street, near the city's public library.

The Co-op markets themselves as a natural foods market and unlike the places mentioned so far, they hold a wide variety of items like a miniature supermarket.

You can find your daily vitamins, essential oils, and even a great café serving lunch wraps and juices.

The George Street Co-op helps maintain a healthy and environmentally-conscious vibe in New Brunswick. In fact, it is a great place for students to volunteer and receive a percentage off their purchases depending on the hours put in.

The Co-op’s mission statement says it is “a place for people who value healthy food, a healthy planet, and cooperation.”

The Co-op hosts an open mic night once a week featuring local poets, musicians, and others entertainers in New Brunswick.

If you’re a healthy eater looking for a stable store that is open every day of the week and is almost always freshly and fully stocked, the George Street Co-op provides that security.

But the Co-op is not the only health food store in downtown. Another store located on George Street is smaller and more unassuming, but it hides some treasures within.

Marketed as a grocery store, this small family-run store holds an amazing variety of Asian foods, herbs, and other items influenced by Asian culture.

The man and woman who run the place are friendly and always welcoming, eager to help with any questions customers may have.

The nameless store identifies itself  a “health food store,” and they don’t even appear on Google.  To find the shop, look to the right of Fillipo’s Pizza on George Street.

Although they are unassuming, healthy eaters won't want to leave New Brunswick without checking this place out. Their prices are cheaper than the George Street Co-op and they hold many of the same items.

Located next to the cash register, Lemongrass shots are a good introduction to healthy eating and a great taste of Asian culture.

This market acts as a nice place to grab something real quick, usually just a snack or lunch.

There are also several healthy eating options at the downtown restaurants.  Not everyone wants to shop at a market that is only open several days of the week, and if you fall in that category, these places are worth checking out.

Shaka Burrito, on Albany Street, markets themselves as “Surf-inspired Healthy Food” and as they promise, their menu is comprised of nutritious choices and food items for the alternative-eater.

A bit more on the pricy side, Shaka features a Hawaiian-esque menu and their vibe fits their mission.

This restaurant acts as a great way to bring healthy eating into the mainstream, maintaining a fun atmosphere with food for the healthy eater.  They also have top of the line drinks.

Shaka is an easy walk for anyone living in New Brunswick. It is located on the ground floor of 120 Albany Street right next to the train station.

They are open late and they make a great place to check out in New Brunswick if you are a local or just passing through.

Next on the healthy restaurant list is a new restaurant that recently opened up Downtown: Veganized.

True to its name, the restaurant focuses on the vegan eater.  While there are organic restaurants open, this one is the first of its kind for the city.

Veganized provides a modern interpretation on vegan cuisine and focuses on using the highest-quality ingredients in its menu.

Their website says they are committed, “to providing the public with healthy, delicious food.”

Veganized tries to break down some of the stigma against vegan cuisine.

Like Shaka, it's an easy walk from anywhere in the city and is actually in a quiet part of downtown located at 9 Spring Street.

Also like Shaka, it's pricey.  The Kombucha there is marked up something like 50% more than what you'll find in most markets.

All in all, New Brunswick has become somewhere where healthy food is now an option. From farmer’s markets, to restaurants, to healthy grocery stores, there is something for everyone.