Ready-to-Eat Right

Jeremy Lehrer

What to do when you're in the mood for some healthy food—organic, vegetarian, or vegan, let's say—but you don't want to go to a restaurant, and you don't want to pick up the standard deli fare? Sprinkled throughout the City, from Times Square to the Lower East Side to Brooklyn, are organic and natural-foods markets that offer a delectable array of healthy, prepared food options for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. At these sometimes unassuming grocery stores and markets, you can satisfy your cravings for just-squeezed juice, freshly made vegetarian meals, sugar-free chocolate-chip cookies and hot buffets stocked with healthy eats.

Near Times Square, Westerly Natural Market, at the intersection of Eighth Avenue and 54th Street, is an unparalleled wonderland of health-food treasures—whether you're searching for organic produce, prepared packaged lunches, a fresh salad, green juices or a cup of hot soup. The store has a wide variety of freshly made ready-to-eat foods like chickpea salad, baba ghanoush and soba—perfect to pick up before picnicking in Central Park.

Lifethyme, located on Sixth Avenue just above 8th Street in Greenwich Village, is stocked floor to ceiling with all varieties of nutritious meals and organic foods. The store has a scrumptious hot-and-cold food bar with a multitude of vegetarian and non-vegetarian items. In addition to offering fresh-squeezed juices, Lifethyme sells ready-to-eat prepared veggie meals and carries a mouthwatering selection of prepared raw foods, including a pecan pie and a nori roll—all of which are made on the premises. Take a snack break in Lifethyme's seating area, located in an upstairs alcove.

The East Village's Commodities Natural Market carries prepared foods—with lots of macrobiotic and vegetarian options—and all manner of healthy snacks. Pad Thai prepared lunch? Check. Bento box lunch? Check. Granola sweetened only with agave? Check. Commodities doesn't have a hot-food bar, but it does have one of the best (if diminutive) produce sections in the City, featuring remarkably fresh and diverse fruits and vegetables. The bulk-food area has treats like organic tamari almonds and dried bananas, and the refrigerated section offers organic yogurt, seasoned tofu and other healthy on-the-go food options.

For those sightseeing on the Lower East Side, emerging from an art show at the New Museum or searching for a quick but satisfying meal before a show at Pianos, EarthMatters is just the spot. Located on Ludlow Street, the market has a deli/café section that serves a wide assortment of prepared foods and made-to-order organic meals and juices throughout the day. The café selections include seitan stew over rice, the "Green Power Detox" juice, a "Yogi Smoothie" and veggie wraps, among other items. EarthMatters has seating upstairs, at the front of the store and outside, where customers can enjoy their meals, soak up the vibe on the LES and surf on the store's free WiFi.

Health 4-U is a hidden gem in the bustle of Midtown. Tucked away in the back of the store is a delectable and fully vegetarian hot-and-cold-food buffet, with a new set of daily delights that include barbecue tofu, chickpea masala, sautéed broccoli, a delicious vegetarian pulao and veggie soups. Health 4-U's refrigerator section features a stellar selection of vegetarian prepared meals, and fresh salads and invigorating juices are available at the counter next to the check-out.

For those locals or visitors who've just walked across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan—or are soaking up the grandeur of Brooklyn Heights or the Promenade—Perelandra is an ideal stopover to grab some quick, nutritious, delectable foodstuffs. A huge store by Manhattan standards, Perelandra has an extensive selection of prepared packaged foods and organic produce; at the fully vegetarian deli counter, menu items include a barbecue un-chicken sandwich, coconut-curry chickpeas and vegan vegetable lasagna. The store has a juice bar, hot soups and enough energy bars to get you back over the bridge into Manhattan.