Shopping with children never quite goes as planned. But thanks to these fresh food finds at The District at Tustin Legacy, that afternoon tantrum is averted!
Twelve years ago, Jessica Seinfeld (as in comedian Jerry’s wife) released a cookbook called “Deceptively Delicious”, a parent’s guide to sneaking veggies into everyday kids’ fare like mac and cheese. All parents, she explains in the forward, face the not-so-occasional battle to get something nutritious into their kids’ bellies. While healthy cooking for young children was not particularly new at the time, the idea of pureeing vegetables for a chocolate chip cookie recipe was. Since then, health-conscious parents everywhere have sought wholesome alternatives to snacks, but as any mom will confess, it can be an excruciating process, especially in public places like shopping centers, where fast food and ice cream abound.
The District at Tustin Legacy is different. Sure, you’ll find ordinary mall fare, but go inside the Union Market and you’ll discover a surprising array of fresh and healthy counter-service outlets with good-for-you treats. Taking a page from Seinfeld’s book, the menus are teeming with kid-friendly items and colors. They’re not super-obvious health food places either. Need something vegan? It’s there. All-natural? Yup. Gotta be a pretty pink for a little princess? You’re in the right place. We discovered four amazing places with something healthy and undeniably delicious for your little helper.
All Coco x MNGO
Already a major hit in Thailand, Tustin’s All Coco is it’s first and only U.S. location, with more expected to open later this year. Coconut, as you may have guessed, is the main ingredient in every single item on the menu and almost all of it will appeal to young tummies. Ice cream, soft serve and smoothies, all with no hidden dairy and little to no added sugar. Kids benefit from the naturally hydrating properties of coconut and get a big dose of potassium with these goodies. All Coco shares their space with San Diego-based MNGO, whose mango delicacies, including Japanese snow ice called kakigori, also hit the right notes for sweetness and nutrition. Snowflakes (a coconut slushy) and mango smoothies get points for portability in young hands, while the sundaes, served on a coconut half-shell, are best enjoyed at a table instead of a stroller. @allcoco.usa
Is your youngest showing the world his melt-down skills? A lollipop or a big scoop of refined sugar won’t improve your situation, but Auraganic’s divine shakes might. Who wouldn’t want a milkshake? Auraganic provides extensive details about their all-natural ingredients and aims to serve those suffering from food sensitivities and battling disease. Their smoothies and shakes are sweetened by a secret ingredient: dates. The naturally sweet fruit is known for high levels of antioxidants and minerals like magnesium, but it’s famous for its fiber content. That’s right, dates are a natural laxative. If the little one is having trouble on the potty (particularly in terms of constipation), an Auraganic shake might be the answer to both of your prayers! With warm days around the corner, the kid-approved Orange Sunshine smoothie is an always a hit and easy to carry on the go. www.auraganicjuicery.com
Open at 9:00 a.m., Berry Brand is one of the few places shoppers can find food early on a weekday at The District. It touts one of the best create-your-own-acai bowls in OC, with chia pudding bases (choose warm or cold), four different granolas and a vast array of toppings from fresh berries to cocoa nibs for your morning masterpiece. According to the store, kids prefer Coconut Dream, a swirled pink and blue coconut base (the blue gets its color from spirulina) that looks and tastes like ice cream. Three bowl sizes are offered and the small is perfect for your child to eat alone (meaning you should definitely get your own because this is the kind of food that makes you feel good). Plus with so many choices, indulging in your favorite fillings and toppings is much more satisfying than sharing. Berry Brand bowls are sit-down treats, it’s a two-handed job to enjoy them. loveberrybrand.com
Oh no, another Cinnabon? Not. Even. Close. Cinnaholic is the sneakiest of all healthy locales because their signage reveals no hint of why it is healthy, nor does it purport to be good for you. It shows nothing other than massive, gooey cinnamon buns and mounds of cookie dough. What are they hiding? It’s big: every single item is plant-based and one hundred percent vegan. You won’t see a single mention of it until you’re paying at the cashier. They don’t want to dissuade anyone from trying their treats just because they’re vegan. Accordion to the store, the Cookie Monster bun is by far the kids’ favorite, with a smattering of mini chocolate cookies atop an icing-covered bun. The Shark Tank-approved business also offers big scoops of “raw” cookie dough with toppings like sprinkles and s’more’s. The dough is perfectly safe to eat because no raw eggs were used to make them. Dining with a child? This is a place where sharing rules. You’ll only need one bun or cookie dough treat because these delicious treats are big and very, very rich in flavor! You’ll want to sit down with a fork and knife to truly enjoy them. For mom, grab one of their dark Bodhi Leaf coffees for the full Cinnaholic experience. cinnaholic.com