Archive for the ‘Healthy Eating’ Category


Friday, October 9th, 2015

I really wanted to like this product.











“Wild Ophelia”, an offshoot of the Chicago-based, woman-owned company Vosges Haut-Chocolat and the brand behind this particular chocolate bar is described as “the spirited younger sister of Vosges Haut-Chocolate”.  I mean, consider the things we have in common; Chicago is my adopted hometown, there’s a “sisterhood” of women biz owners, I’ve eaten Vosges products before and LOVED them, and dark chocolate holds ever-steadily at the top of my list of food must-haves. . .I really, really wanted to like this product.

And in support of my October breast cancer action to highlight food and nutrition to elevate health and optimize healing, good quality chocolate is a topic that fits right in – it’s flavorful, satisfying, and a source of antioxidants

Earlier this week I attended a conference where piles of this chocolate bar were available, serving both as a complementary snack and a clever marketing initiative to ~ 2,000 women.

Never mind that I was drawn to it as a treat for my husband.

I like my dark chocolate either straight up, or smeared with homemade peanut butter; he fancies the kick of chili pepper.

Perfect. I snagged a couple.

But as I examined the label more closely it struck me (and not for the first time), how consumers trying to make conscious choices for health – particularly my audience of women eating to elevate health and optimize healing in the fight against breast cancer – can easily be duped.

Notice the words “ALL NATURAL” stamped predominantly on the front. But flip the package over, scan the ingredient list, and you find “soy lecithin.”











Spoiler alert. The only thing natural about soy lecithin is that it originates (very early on in processing) as a soybean.

Hopefully, yet potentially not, a non-GMO soybean.

Here are two links to info on what soy lecithin is and how it’s actually derived from the soybean plant – the first, a quick read, the second, a deeper dive; 1., 2.

Essentially, soy lecithin is added to foods as an emulsifier to help prevent oil from separating from other ingredients while allowing the ingredients to bind or blend nicely together.

My concern with “natural” splashed across the front of so many food labels – you simply need to buy food to see hundreds of examples – is that it misleads people to believe that the food they’re eating is somehow “better or healthier” for them, when in fact that doesn’t always hold true. Here’s an article that speaks more to this issue:

Let me be clear. I’m not saying “DON’T EAT” this product. It’s strictly a personal choice to determine which ingredients (and how much of them) you’re ok with. Will occasionally eating one of these chocolate bars trigger illness or death (as some would lead you to believe)? Of course not. My goal is simply to educate my readers so that they can make confident decisions on their own.

Katrina Markoff’s initiative and mission behind “Wild Ophelia” is incredibly laudable,, and if my previous experiences with her product hold true, the chocolate bar is AMAZING (full disclosure – I haven’t tasted it). It’s simply my hope that small, “do-good” food companies such as hers will lead the effort in using food labeling terms responsibly and authentically so people can feel confident making food decisions for health.

I strongly encourage breast cancer patients and survivors to consider everything they put into (and on!) their body by asking themselves; does this support health, optimize healing, and support an internal environment inhospitable to cancer? Those questions can be game-changers; for both the woman, and food manufacturers.









Friday, October 2nd, 2015

It’s true I’m on a tirade against Pink Ribbons, but since I don’t envision them abating anytime soon, I’ve had a flash of insight as to where I feel they’d be most effective.

Wrapped around an enormous box of produce.

And that box of produce would be delivered to the front door of every person on the planet.

Indeed, fruits and vegetables are that powerful. For both protection against and as an aid in reducing the risk of recurrence of breast cancer, research continues to show the benefit of adding more phytochemicals to our diet. Where to find them? Produce!

According to Food, Nutrition and the Prevention of Cancer: a global perspective, a report produced by the World Cancer Research Fund together with the American Institute for Cancer Research; “evidence shows that most diets that are protective against cancer are mainly made up from foods of plant origin.”

That doesn’t mean you need to adopt a completely vegan or vegetarian diet, it simply means PUT MORE PLANTS ON YOUR PLATE.

Here’s how: fill 2/3 of your plate with non-starchy fruits and veggies, the remainder with lean protein (plant or animal-based) and complex carbohydrates (brown rice, quinoa, farro, etc.).

One way to get a jump on your daily intake is with the ubiquitous smoothie. While there are literally thousands of recipes on line, certainly enough to stress you out deciding which is “the best (read, healthiest) one”, trust me, the absolute best one you can choose to make is the one that you enjoy!

Six days per week I use my trusty Vitamix to whip up a smoothie. I like to include two fruits (I use dates (for sweetness) plus frozen blueberries or banana – and sometimes all three – crazy!), a large organic carrot, and a couple of handfuls of frozen kale (I buy Trader Joe’s pre-washed fresh and throw it in the freezer). This morning my supply of blueberries had dried up, presenting the perfect opportunity to add cocoa (3 tablespoons) and peanut butter (well, not exactly peanut butter, but certainly the flavor) to that lonely banana. It was soooo good.

SmoothieIngredients1SmoothieIngredients2Aim for AT LEAST 5 servings (1/2 – 1 cup = 1 serving) per day of a combo of fruit and veggies – but don’t be afraid to go OVER that number. Seriously.

Creating an environment INSIDE your body that is less hospitable to cancer is easy to do, completely free of side effects, and delicious.

Let’s wrap a pink ribbon around THAT.

I welcome your comments, and if you found this post helpful, please share!

P.S. Follow me on my new twitter account: @cathylemanrd


“Everybody Into the (Amino Acid) Pool!”

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015

I recently had a conversation with a gentleman who shared that his son eats a 100% vegan diet. That’s 100% to the tune of avoiding even honey.

Dad commented that his son has been eating this way for four years, and as far as dad can tell, “He looks alright, like he’s getting enough protein. I think he has to combine, right?”

I’m not sure what dad is expecting to see as an indicator of “not getting enough protein” (the old nutrition dogma that simply refuses to die); sunken cheeks, off-color pallor, muscle atrophy?

Yet I also understand his concern. How one could possibly get enough protein when eating nothing but plants has been the subject of debate, the butt of jokes, and a myth that refuses to be busted FOR YEARS, largely due to a lack of understanding about how the body uses protein from non-animal-based sources.

And who could expect the average person to understand? In our western culture and dietary practices, meat still reigns supreme – irrespective of the fact that plant-based eating is gaining a mainstream foothold.

So, given that plant-based diets are becoming more common (you may even live with or know a plants-only-eater), and having migrated to a (mostly) vegan diet myself just under 2 years ago, I’m writing this post in support of putting more plants on your plate, and putting your mind at ease.

Here’s vegan/vegetarian protein guidance distilled down to two main points. Even if you know nothing else about avoiding meat, but you want to give it a try – these will help clear things up.

  1. What’s the difference between vegan and vegetarian?

Vegetarian – Diet may include dairy and/or eggs. Vegetarian diets that include these animal-based choices provide adequate protein and all essential amino acids.

  • Lacto-vegetarians exclude meat, fish, poultry and eggs, yet include dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt, butter).
  • Ovo-vegetarians exclude meat, fish, poultry and dairy, yet include eggs.
  • Lacto-ovo vegetarians exclude meat, fish and poultry, yet include dairy and eggs.

Vegan – Diet contains no animal products (i.e. dairy, meat, fish, pork, poultry, or eggs). Vegan diets require attention to balance, variety and portions (to insure adequate protein intake).

  1. How do I get adequate protein intake?

Proteins in food and the human body are composed of 20 amino acids. Humans can “build” eleven of these as long as we get sufficient nitrogen from our diets (nitrogen is a component of every amino acid).

The other nine (the “essential” amino acids – EAA) have to come from our food, because we can’t make them. Our need for protein is actually a need for these nine essential amino acids, PLUS enough nitrogen to build the other eleven.

All plant proteins contain all nine of the essential amino acids – they aren’t missing any – yet they are always a little low in one or two. This results in a less precise match to human protein needs, which is how the practice of “protein combining” or eating “complementary proteins” at the same meal came about, ala Frances Moore Lappe’s 1971 vegetarian classic, “Diet for a Small Planet”. (FYI, the photo is my own copy of “Diet for a Small Planet” purchased for $5.72 in 1995 at Crown Books – remember that bookstore?!)


For example, grains and beans have complementary strengths and weaknesses in their EAA patterns; eating them together produces a complete amino acid pattern that mimics patterns found in human body proteins. I’m pretty sure you’ve eaten beans and rice, hummus and pita, or bean soup and bread; common, delicious dishes that all happen to be vegan, as well as being exceptional examples of effortless protein combining.

Even without eating these foods at the same meal, your body essentially does its own “complementing”, thanks to the fact that it maintains a reserve pool of amino acids to draw from when necessary. It’s this ability to use proteins consumed at different meals and snacks throughout the day that renders protein combining an outdated idea.

The best way to get ENOUGH plant-based protein? Eat a varied and balanced diet, adequate in volume for your specific needs, while avoiding the vegan/vegetarian “junk food diet” of veggie pizza, vegan cookies, and French fries!

Need more help? Contact the NutriFit office and schedule a nutrition consultation; we’re happy to clear things up!

“Salad Jar Daze”

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

You know it’s important to eat your veggies – a 3rd grader could tell you that.

Yet when most people think about adding more veggies to their day, bags of plain (boring) baby carrots and plates of (over) steamed broccoli often come to mind, squashing even the best of intentions. Even a devoted veggie lover like me can’t get excited about that.

If one of your goals is to “put more plants on your plate”, packing a salad (along with the dressing) in glass canning jars is a fun, creative, efficient way to make that happen.

Canning jars come in a variety of sizes, but the wide-mouth pint or quart sizes work well for this purpose. A pint jar holds two cups, perfect for a lunch or side salad, while a quart jar holds four cups – good for crowd or dinner size salads.

Simply pour salad dressing (1-4 tablespoons) into the bottom of the jar, then layer the veggies, starting with heavy, non-absorbent varieties like carrots, onions, cauliflower and cabbage, and ending with the lighter ingredients like spinach, lettuce, arugula, etc. on top.

Press down the veggies, screw on the lid, and that’s it! “Salad jars” keep will in the refrigerator for up to 5 days (yes!), making it super easy to have a ready-to-eat salad available at any time. When you’re ready to eat, just shake the jar to distribute the dressing, or simply pour the contents into a bowl and toss a bit with your fork.


Have fun mixing and matching ingredients and dressings, and congratulations on accomplishing your goal!

“VegPledge – 1 Year Later”

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Guest Blog by NutriFit Admin, Leah Freund

US Veg Pledge Week is April 20-26, 2015. Last year I took this same pledge to go meat-free for one week, and one year later, I (mostly) haven’t looked back (I’m currently part-time vegetarian, part-time pescetarian, because I love all things seafood. And fish has some great health benefits). Along the way I’ve tried new foods, expanded my cookbook collection, and learned a lot.

You might think that removing meat from your diet sounds restrictive, but I’ve actually expanded my tastes since going vegetarian. There are a number of things I never used to eat or cook with until now: flax seed, whole wheat flour, beans, kale, tofu, even simple vegetables like tomato and onion. When I was younger, I HATED onion for no particular reason. Now I cook with it all the time.

But my favorite addition in the last year? QUINOA! You name the recipe; I’ve either tried it or pinned it on Pinterest to attempt some day soon. Quinoa spinach patties, buffalo quinoa bites, Mexican quinoa, quinoa burgers, quinoa “mac and cheese”, all great dishes that I had never tried before, because I didn’t know much about quinoa, nor how to cook it.

To learn new recipes I’ve used resources provided in the NutriFit newsletter (and the recipes featured in those newsletters), the NutriFit blog, cookbooks, and Pinterest. I have Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian and The VB6 Cookbook, and Forks Over Knives, The Cookbook by Del Sroufe. All of those books have great recipes, and there are plenty of other resources out there. There are countless vegetarian and vegan blogs, websites, and of course, Pinterest. You can simply search “vegetarian recipes” and you’ll get thousands of options. Narrow down your search to “quinoa recipes” and you’ll see all the meals I listed above and more. You’ll never get bored with vegetarian meals if you have the internet!

I’ve also learned a lot about how a plant-based diet is great for your health. It may lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart disease (to name just a few). The biggest difference for me is having more energy and not feeling sluggish after meals.

The bottom line is, if you’re looking to switch it up and feel more energetic and alert, then give the Veg Pledge a try! Be open to trying new things. You might discover some new foods you like while making good choices for your health. And if I can do it, so can you! 

“Tricked Out” Veggies For Your 4th of July Table”

Monday, June 30th, 2014

For many, the 4th is a favorite holiday, what with no obligatory gift giving or main event meal requiring days of advance preparation. But every holiday has its celebratory foods – and why should the 4th be any different?

Holiday foods ARE fun, but they tend to include choices you may not make on a regular basis. With a typical 4th food lineup boasting pounds of barbecued meat, gallons of alcoholic beverages, and loads of frozen desserts, “balanced nutrition” can be pushed ever so slightly out of balance.

It’s important to remember that one meal, heck, even one day of eating “out of balance” doesn’t make or break a healthy diet; it’s the choices you make day in and day out that matter over the long haul.

Even still, it never hurts to offer healthy choices, for yourself and your guests; they’ll appreciate it, and you’ll feel good about it.

Since there’s often a dearth of vegetables on the 4th table – so sad considering this is the time of year when they’re plentiful and at their peak – here are a couple to consider, tricked out to taste delicious and deliver an explosion of flavor.

Roasted Carrots and Garlic w/Honey Drizzle and Sea Salt: Stop by your farmer’s market for fresh carrots, garlic, and local honey. Clean, peel and chop carrots into 2 inch pieces. Peel several large cloves of garlic. Drizzle the carrots and garlic with olive oil and roast at 450 degrees for ~ 30 minutes. When they’re fresh out of the oven, toss with honey and sprinkle with sea salt.










Sauteed Cabbage Ribbons: While you’re at the market, pick out a heavy, green cabbage. Use a food processor attachment or sharp chef’s knife to make thin “ribbons”. Saute the “ribbons” in olive oil with a sprinkle of sugar and kiss of sea salt until buttery soft and translucent in color. Delicious as a side dish, or piled high on a veggie burger. Cabbage dscn07301






“Putting Out The Fire”

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

I recently did a lecture on the topic of inflammation, and thought I’d share a few of the highlights here.

Although there are a number of nutrition books based on the anti-inflammatory idea, there is a lot that we don’t yet know for certain. That being said, the following are things that we DO know:

  • Guidelines reporting specifics are premature (individual foods, dose, frequency).
  • For many diseases of aging (i.e. cancer, heart disease), inappropriate inflammation is the common root.
  • Growing evidence links eating patterns with lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers.

Inflammation Facts

  • Body’s defense mechanism.
  • Body’s healthy response to injury and infection.
  • Increased blood flow sends immune cells and nutrients to injured area.

Chronic Inflammation

  • Constant, out of control production of immune cells.
  • Leads to irreversible tissue damage.
  • Triggers chronic diseases over the years.

Are you familiar with the following causes of inflammation? Luckily, there is much you can do to eliminate these culprits, such as eating a healthy diet, increasing activity, and quitting smoking. These are all lifestyle behaviors that you have the ability to change!

  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • Inactivity
  • Lack of sleep
  • Smoking
  • SAD Diet (Standard American Diet)

Not sure where to start? Below is a list of delicious foods that just so happen to also help reduce inflammation.

Fight Inflammation with Food








Baby Spinach

Baby Spinach


  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Good fats
  • Walnuts, and other nuts and seeds.
  • Fatty fish
  • Plant-based protein
  • Whole grains versus refined
  • Herbs and spices
  • Minimize saturated animal fats and trans-fats
  • Limit full-fat dairy
  • Soy
  • Tea

USVegWeek 2014 – Recap #1

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

April 21 – 27, 2014 was US Veg Week, and the NutriFit staff participated fully (and deliciously!). I’ve got two recaps of that week to share with you; the first, a guest post written by my admin assistant, is below.

At the start of US Veg Week, my studio counted one vegan, one vegetarian, and two “flexitarians” (semi-vegetarians). At the close of US Veg Week, we added another vegetarian to the group! Enjoy Leah’s recap; I found it so exciting to read about the experiences she had during her week without meat. . .

Guest Post – By Leah Freund

Attempting a vegetarian diet was something I had always wanted to try, but never had motivation to start.  US Veg Week 2014 provided the opportunity to pledge and receive helpful tips, recipes and other resources.  A lot of material provided by US VegWeek encouraged diets without meat, eggs and dairy.  Personally, I chose to go one step at a time and use the week to go meat free.  There are a couple dairy items that I already use replacements for including soy milk and ice cream, but a complete shift to a vegan diet seemed a little too extreme for me right away.

The most difficult meals I encountered were at restaurants.  Day one started at a restaurant near my house where I frequently eat breakfast.  Normally I would order a skillet that contains bacon, but that day I ordered an item I have never tried before, a spinach and feta omelet.  Yes, there were eggs and cheese, but there was no meat (baby steps).

I also ate at a Cajun restaurant that has chicken and seafood dishes as the majority of their choices.  As a seafood lover, it was difficult to pass up a great dish, but the grilled vegetarian platter I chose was delicious and had a great variety of vegetables.  It was encouraging because it is also something that can easily be prepared at home with rice, grilled vegetables, tomato sauce and Cajun spices.

Day 4’s email from US VegWeek recommended a couple films.  I found one of those films on Netflix, a documentary called Vegucated. Vegucated follows three New Yorkers as they attempt a vegan diet for six weeks.  Along the way they learn interesting things about conditions on farms, the impact farming has on the ecosystem and the ways a vegan diet can improve your health.  There were some graphic moments explaining some of the abuse and conditions animals experience on farms that were very eye opening.  Those particular examples may have been extreme, but the facts about the impact on the ecosystem and sustainability were things I previously had no idea about.

Overall, I discovered that adapting to a vegetarian diet was not as difficult as I thought it would be.  At the beginning, my goal was to get through the week, but now I know that I will continue with a vegetarian diet.  Even the differences from the beginning to the end of the week were encouraging; the only dairy product I was still eating at the end was cheese.  I also haven’t ruled out slowly adapting to a vegan diet, even if it’s only part time.  I feel healthier, I don’t feel sluggish after meals, and I feel good knowing my choices are better for animals, the environment and myself.


"Bangkok Curry Bowl"

Leah didn’t encounter this dish during her week, but she would LOVE it!


Small But Mighty – Almond Quinoa Muffins

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

I may have mentioned this before, but for me, cooking, and especially baking – is like therapy. I’ve given this a lot of thought, trying to figure out why it’s so relaxing and satisfying to create something delicious. My musings have made me realize that one of the most therapeutic things about cooking and baking is that there’s a definite beginning and a definite end; you get a final result every, single time. Absolute completion.

Much of my work week revolves around things that are open-ended; they simply never get finished. When you own a business that comes with the territory, but honestly, sometimes I just like to start and finish something.

So there’s that, and then there’s the fact that I’m actually spending time in my kitchen – which always grounds and centers me. I work a lot, and miss spending time puttering in my “small but mighty” creative workspace.

That’s where muffins come in – sort of “small but mighty” in their own right. They don’t take a lot of time, you typically have the basic ingredients on hand, it’s easy to start up a recipe, ending with a delicious product, you can load them up with nutritious powerhouse ingredients, and last but not least, muffins are multi-purpose, serving as breakfast, a snack or dessert.

What could be better? I know. An easy way to clean muffin tins.

Those Hard-To-Clean (but orderly) Tins

Those Hard-To-Clean (but orderly) Tins

Muffin Batter

Adapted from Veganomicon cookbook. My changes/additions/substitutions are in italics.

1 cup vanilla soy milk (or use plain, and increase vanilla extract to 1 1/2 teaspoons)

1 tbsp ground flaxseeds

1/4 cup canola oil

1/4 cup agave nectar or pure maple syrup (used maple syrup)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup almond meal almond flour (or omit and use 1/4 cup more quinoa – haven’t done this, but for those with nut allergies it’s worth a try)

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon (increased to 1 teaspoon)

1/2 tsp cardamom (used 1/2 teaspoon cloves and 1/4 teaspoon allspice)

1 1/4 cups cooked quinoa

1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots or currants (used golden raisins, no chopping required!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease a non-stick 12-cup muffin tin. In a medium size bowl, whisk together the soy milk and ground flaxseed.  Allow to sit for 1 minute, then whisk in oil, agave nectar and vanilla. In a separate large bowl, stir together flour, almond meal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mixing until just incorporated.  Gently fold in the cooked quinoa and the dried fruit and mix until only the large lumps are gone. Pour into the prepared muffin tin and bake for 20 to 22 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Photo: It's the second week of "Feed Me Friday!". I promised recipe for Almond Quinoa Muffins. It's coming via my blog in time to whip up over the weekend; just a little behind this week. Thx for your patience. . .trust me, they're worth the wait!

Finished! “Small But Mighty”

Feed Me Friday!

Friday, November 8th, 2013

I am a huge fan of cooking on the weekend for the week ahead. It saves time, money, energy and YOUR SANITY!

That said, I know how easy it can be to get into a cooking rut, making the same dish over and over and over; many of my clients struggle with this. Because my mission is to provide nutrition solutions to my client’s nutrition dilemmas, I thought a “Feed Me Friday” theme, featuring a new plant-based recipe each week could help.

I don’t have an actual pic of my dish, simply didn’t get it done, so I’m using “other” photos. I’ll be better in future – promise!

The photo below is one I took while dining at a Persian restaurant in San Diego. My dish is similar in appearance, so this gives you an idea of the finished product.

Here’s my inaugural post, I hope you enjoy the delicious results.

Curry-Kissed Lentil Millet Soup








1 medium onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 teaspoon garam masala

1 tablespoon curry powder

3 tablespoons black mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 can pumpkin (not pie filling)

1 can tomato paste

8 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

3/4 cup green lentils

1/3 cup millet

1. In a large stock pot, saute onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons water until soft (add more water as needed to prevent sticking).

2. Add turmeric, curry powder, black mustard seeds and kosher salt, mix well with the onion and garlic. Cover the pot; the mustard seeds will begin to pop and jump and you don’t want them to escape. When the popping stops, remove the cover and stir the spices again, adding a bit of water as needed to prevent sticking. Cook the spices and vegetables ~ 5 minutes.

3. Stir pumpkin and tomato paste into the spice/veggie mixture, blend well and cook for 5 minutes.

4. Add broth, lentils and millet, stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down so the soup simmers gently. Partially cover the  pot and let cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally until lentils are soft.


* Add more water if you like “soupier” soup.

* Find millet in grocery stores sporting a bulk section that includes a variety of grains, dried beans, etc. Whole Foods, of course, but also check co-ops and other nutrition-forward locations. If you can’t find (or don’t want to search for) millet, don’t let it stop you from making this soup; it’s delicious even without it. However, this small yellow grain is a good source of fiber and protein, vitamins and minerals. It also contains the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, beneficial in promoting eye health. Learn about millet.


Raw Millet








* This particular collection of spices is common in Indian cooking. As a whole, this combination adds a rich, satisfying layer of flavor; individually these spices contribute important vitamins, minerals and strong antioxidant properties.  About this link: I haven’t used this particular company to purchase spices, but the founder is a fellow Chicagoan (solidarity!). I ran across her work one day and was smitten, partially because I love Indian food, but also because I found her story fascinating! Indian Spice Selection.

Indian Spice Collection

Indian Spice Collection








Eating Well While Eating Out. . .A Chicago Loop “Gem”

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

I love Chicago. Although I moved here years ago, rarely do I pass up an opportunity to spend time simply reveling in the energy and urban vibe of the city. My passion for the city is one of the reasons I established a Chicago office; it’s a perfectly fine justification for escaping the ‘burbs and heading back to my beloved city streets.

Also, need I mention, the dining options in the city are (duh) just so darn more plentiful, varied and inventive! With one of my professional mantras being “Eat In”, you can probably imagine that I’m a bit particular when I choose to “Eat Out”.

This past weekend brought family in from out of town. Another fine excuse, er, justification for ambling the city streets; SOMEONE has to play tour guide. As I hurried to the weekend visitor hotel headquarters, I inadvertently found myself in front of Native Foods Café, a dining establishment mentioned to me months ago by one of my clients (you know who you are, and I sincerely thank you), yet mysteriously missing from my memory. Somehow, I’d completely forgotten her recommendation.

20130822_155206[1]I tugged my husband toward the menu posted in the window, excitedly explaining how I’d learned of this place. Scanning the menu, our taste buds began whispering “when, for the love of God, is lunch?” Fortunately, we’d arrived at the right time (the fam, wholly uninterested in “weird food” was lunching around the corner at a ubiquitous chain, which shall remain anonymous). Unfortunately (for us), Native Foods was hopping, and we were on a be-there-in-time-for-the-first-pitch Cubs/Cards time schedule. Sadly, we had to skip it. Vehemently, we vowed to return.

Native Foods Café is a vegan restaurant, and the loop location I’d stumbled upon is one of three in Chicago. 20130818_153409[1]What makes this especially astonishing to me is that years ago, when I began eating a vegetarian diet, finding a restaurant like this in the meat and potatoes Midwest was similar to moving heaven and earth – essentially impossible. I am giddy about the many vegan/vegetarian/plant-based restaurants popping up in and around Chicago. It makes “Eating Well While Eating Out” so much easier.

As it turns out, I returned to Native Foods Café at the close of the whirlwind weekend, albeit sans husband (long story). But I took plenty of food pics, shared my (very positive) experience with him, and promised we’d go back to try other options, together. On a closing note, I must mention that not everything on the menu is uber-healthy. Native Foods serves fries, battered “chicken” (a combo of soy, wheat and pea protein), island jack fritters (code for FRIED), and plenty of desserts. Remember, vegan or not, calories are still calories!

"Saigon Roll"

“Saigon Roll”

"Bangkok Curry Bowl"

“Bangkok Curry Bowl”