I’m always on the hunt for great food that suits the health-conscious eater, whether a vegan, vegetarian or die-hard meat lover. A while back I attended the official ribbon cutting ceremony and grand opening event for a newly opened Fogo de Chão, which might be surprising to some. If the name itself doesn’t ring a bell, Fogo de Chão is an internationally renowned traditional Southern Brazilian Steakhouse (Churrascaria) famous for offering continuous table-side service of savory selections of beef, chicken, and pork.

As a healthy lifestyle blogger who is also a true foodie, I’m constantly trying to strike the perfect balance between good nutrition and delectable flavor. Interestingly enough, as I enjoyed each delicious bite of the slow cooked, delicately seasoned meats offered by the friendly gaucho chefs at this classic Churrascaria I couldn’t help but think to myself:

“Is it at all possible for one to have a totally healthy experience at an all-you-can-eat Brazilian Steakhouse?”

If you’ve ever frequented one, you’ve probably asked yourself the very same thing.

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Believe it or not, the answer to this puzzling question is honestly an absolute “YES”.

But, of course, it all depends on how you choose to approach this unique dining experience. It’s all about making wise food choices and also recognizing that there’s no one size fits all approach.

A Brazilian Steakhouse certainly won’t make the list of healthy places to dine amongst vegans and vegetarians but those who follow Paleolithic and other low-carb diets might see this experience in entirely different light.

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Fogo de Chao Nina Cherie Franklin PhD 1Personally, when it comes to healthy eating and good nutrition in general, I believe in moderation, not elimination. Individual preference is one thing but denying oneself is another.

If you like meat, there’s nothing inherently wrong with enjoying meat, as it’s an excellent source of high-quality protein and many other health-promoting nutrients including B vitamins, selenium, and zinc. But, it’s important to recognize that quantity and quality do matter.

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For optimal health and disease prevention, meat consumption should generally be limited to no more than 12-14 ounces per week. It’s also important to choose leaner cuts like beef tenderloin and top sirloin, leg of lamb, or extra lean pork tenderloin.

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Fogo de Chao Nina Cherie Franklin PhD Needless to say, Fogo de Chão is well known for their extra lean cuts of meat, which are served to diners in relatively small portion sizes (less than 2-3 ounces each).

Their signature picanha is a prime cut of top sirloin that’s lightly seasoned with rock salt and thinly sliced for guiltless consumption. Other sensible choices include their filet mignon (tenderloin), alcatra (top sirloin), fraldinha (bottom sirloin), tender leg of lamb or lamb chops slowly marinated in wine and lime juice.

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In addition to the importance of quantity and quality in terms of meat consumption, the general food pairings you choose really do matter. For instance, many people don’t know that combining meats with vegetables like kale, spinach, broccoli, carrots, and parsley helps the body to better absorb dietary calcium. Furthermore, the chlorophyll generally housed in leafy green vegetables can actually help to detoxify meat.

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Fogo de Chao Market Table Nina Cherie Franklin PhD Making the process of pairing an easy one, Fogo de Chão offers a colorful array of fresh vegetables and other plant-based foods on their signature ‘Market Table’. This table is essentially an all-inclusive salad bar where you’ll find a bottomless supply of wholesome options perfectly suitable for vegans, low-sodium eaters, and even those allergic to garlic, gluten and dairy foods.

To maximize the nutritional quality of your dining experience you can simply load at least half your dinner plate with plant-based cuisine like seasoned green beans, zucchini, peppers, shitake mushrooms, beets, broccoli, bell peppers, tomatoes, and jumbo asparagus.

While some of you may feed into the all-too-common notion of “eating your money’s worth”, perspective is important, as paying a fee of $35-50 per person is no more expensive than a typical dining experience at a mid-grade steakhouse.

You can even cut your dinner cost in half by losing the table-side meat service and opting instead for the Market Table only option. With this option you can enjoy an assortment of protein sources like smoked salmon and high-quality cheeses in addition to over half a dozen customized recipes including a tasty kale and blood orange salad and an incredibly filling quinoa tabbouleh prepared with fresh parsley, fresh mint, tomato, green onion, cucumber, lime juice, and olive oil.

The beauty of the Fogo de Chão experience is that your plate is essentially a creation of your own. Again, it’s all about making wise food choices. So, if you choose to overindulge in ginormous portions of meat as opposed to balancing it out with plant-based cuisine, you’re choosing to adopt an experience that’s a lot less healthy.

Bottom line: If you don’t have the discipline to regulate your food intake, you may find it most beneficial to fully abstain from eating at this type of establishment.

But, if you choose to enjoy the culinary versatility that is Fogo de Chão, make a reservation at your nearest location where the atmosphere is euphoric and the service is stellar. The Churrascaria operates in about 30 locations throughout the United States and nine in Brazil.