The Nutritarian

Healthy Eating Insight

Best Places to Try Chicago

Written By: The Nutritarian - Sep• 10•12

The best places to try in Chicago Critique is based on these factors:

Great ambiance,  how talented, flexible, and creative the chef can get may be top priority.  However, great ambiance weighs heavily.  Who isn’t looking for knowledgeable servers in a comfortable, stylish setting?  I also expect loads of fresh organic ingredients (especially veggie and vegan dishes) were talking notable, high quality, spicy fresh, without pepper.  As a nutritarian, I appreciate exotic ingredients, higher prevalence of herbs for seasoning, and less reliance on fat-dense, buttery, or oily sauces.  BYOB or great wine/drink lists are also exciting.

Here is another great reference for healthy recommendations in Chicago Fast Lane to Health: Foodie and the Fork.  Places to try, from the same author, also offers some good suggestions.

Great VeganKaren’s on Green (excellent drinks including delicious gluten free beer, ambiance is sexy although sometimes the live jazz can be too loud for conversation. Vegan sushi and pizza are so good, even as acclaimed by a beer and pizza dude, they could do better on the veggies which were pretty typical, not warm enough, and very greasy. Also recommended, but not yet tried: Blind Faith-Evanston, Chicago Diner, Green Zebra, Urban Vegan

Best Italian: Picolo Sogno, Bella Note, Tuscany (Little Italy)

Best Drinks and Dinner Date:  Uncommon Ground, Rootstock, West Town Tavern, Socca, Atwood Café

Best Higher End: Firehouse, Carnivale (great for a group/celebration, very lively atmosphere, Crofton’s on Wells, sadly it closed (atmosphere was quiet and intimate; maybe people had trouble finding a dinner partner they enjoy talking to :/).

Best Indian: Kavita’s Kitchen, Cummin

Best Brunch: Toast (best whole wheat pancakes in the city), Meli (greatest variety of veggies), Waffles, Brunch

Best Sushi: Sunda, Japonais (trendy, sexy, loud, on the river), Tatsu, Wakamono, Taiyo (brown rice rolls), Butterfly (not ambiance, BYOB), Shiso (take your shoes off, intimate group tables)

Best Straight up Nutritarian: Whole Foods.

Best French: Chez Joel (Taylor Street, Little Italy, Chicago)

Chicago Places to Try

Written By: The Nutritarian - Aug• 25•12

Parrot Cage – Washburne Culinary Institute

Hearty - Lakeview / East Lakeview

Wishbone – West Loop, Southern, Vegan Options

Broadway Cellars - Edgewater, Contemporary America

Big Jones – Andersonville, Southern

Southport and Irving- Lakeview / East Lakeview, American

Spaghetti Salad: An Unconventional Healthy Breakfast

Written By: The Nutritarian - Aug• 18•12

Some times you don’t want spaghetti and meatballs, it doesn’t seem like the best way to start out the day, plus not many Italian restaurants are open at 8:30am for breakfast.

Today I gazed into the fridge ready to fuel up for the day.  I found an apple, ate it; still hungry.  Next course: cracked wheat. It was boiled with cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, almond milk and sea salt.  Still craving more of an unconventional breakfast.

Second course, (remember I’m an Italian athlete, we eat a lot), I had to get a creative since I am due a trip to the grocery.  I wanted to feel full so I boiled Lundberg’s gluten free organic brown rice pasta (add salt to the water).  I also knew I wanted it to be healthy, so while waiting for the boil, I chopped fresh spinach and other mixed greens along with fresh dried basil from the garden and the two cherry tomatoes I had left as a base in my bowl.  Once the noodles were aldente (to the tooth, not overcooked mush), I drained them and poured the steaming tendrils over my greens.  I had a huge bowl filled with all the right ingredients; plenty of textures and flavors for a satisfying spaghetti salad.  Recommended wine pairing: HESS Red

To Be, or Not to Be Organic: “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15″

Written By: The Nutritarian - Aug• 12•12

That is the question.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) used the results of nearly 43,000 tests for pesticides on produce collected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) between 2000 and 2004, to produce a ranking of commonly eaten fruits & vegetables.[17]  Wikidpedia, 2012. 

The EWG lists the “Dirty Dozen” and a “Clean 15″ based on pesticide tests from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the FDA.  Remember that pesticides are designed to withstand rain, and often don’t wash off with plain water.  Using a diluted solution of vinegar can remove most residues, but some get into the plant and can’t be washed out.  Strawberries are an example of this.

This EatingWell article illustrates the best produce to buy organic, picks that are on the fence, and produce that is considered conventional and safe.

Preferably Organic
—Most Commonly Contaminated

Try to memorize the DIRTY DOZEN!

If Budget Allows, Buy Organic

Thirteen in Between

It’s Your Call
—Least Commonly Contaminated

Clean Fifteen!

  1. Apples
  2. Blueberries
  3. Celery
  4. Grapes
  5. Kale/Collard Greens
  6. Lettuce
  7. Nectarines
  8. Peaches
  9. Potatoes
  10. Spinach
  11. Strawberries
  12. Sweet Bell Peppers
  1. Bananas
  2. Cauliflower
  3. Cucumbers
  4. Cranberries
  5. Grapes – Domestic
  6. Green Beans
  7. Oranges
  8. Peppers
  9. Plums
  10. Raspberries
  11. Summer Squash
  12. Tangerines
  13. Winter Squash
  1. Asparagus
  2. Avocado
  3. Cabbage
  4. Cantaloupe
  5. Eggplant
  6. Grapefruit
  7. Kiwi
  8. Mangoes
  9. Mushrooms
  10. Onions
  11. Pineapples
  12. Sweet Corn
  13. Sweet Peas
  14. Sweet Potato
  15. Watermelon

Eat Seasonally & Save

Written By: The Nutritarian - Aug• 11•12

Seasonal eating will help everyone; from the farmer to your wallet, while backing the environment and covering your health and tastebud bases in between.

WiseBread has listed the various fruits and vegetables that are in season each month.  During its prime season produce will be more abundant, therefore less expensive and easier to acquire, so it will be fresher and have more nutrients than something that had to be shipped from New Zealand.

Terrapin 5k and Music Fest Needs a Health Makeover

Written By: The Nutritarian - Aug• 09•12

Who offers runners and athletes cheesy quesadillas and sprinkled donuts to go with Magic Hat beer after a 5k race?  GROSS.  I traded my food ticket for extra beer and made a delightful feast at home that was satisfying and nourishing.  Here is the quick, healthy, and easy recipe replacement:


  • Lundenburg Elbow Rice Noodles
  • Portabella Mushroom slices
  • Fennel (fresh, cut into even, bite size pieces)
  • Fresh or frozen broccoli or any veggie you have in in the fridge (optional)
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Turmeric
  • Kosher salt


  1. Boil the water add noodles and a pinch or two of salt.
  2. After a minute or two, add the mushrooms, fennel, and broccoli or other veggies add immediately if it is raw broccoli since that would take longer to cook than spinach or frozen broccoli.
  3. Add one or two more pinches of salt.
  4. Mix half or entire cup of Fage Greek Yogurt, a pinch of salt 1/8 teaspoon of tummeric, a sprinkle of cayanne pepper and a few shakes of jalapeno flakes (use fresh ones if available for extra kick).
  5. Drain noodle and veggie mix and combine with yogurt sauce.
  6. Enjoy the most delicous and nutritious post race adult mac and not cheese indulgence.

Health & Sodium Intake: How Much is too Much?

Written By: The Nutritarian - Aug• 01•12

Do you ever feel that people are choosing to act old these days?  It almost seems like an acceptance of deterioration; defeat displayed by dropping older bodies off at the surgeon’s.  Why not practice health and being well?  Surely it couldn’t hurt.

Earlier this year The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released an article addressing the need to reduce sodium intake for everyone; noting to be especially mindful if you are 51 or older, black, have high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.  The CDC article states that we could save up to $20 billion a year in medical costs if everyone cut back to the 1,200-1,500 mg of sodium per day that health experts recommend.

Bypassing around a half a teaspoon of salt for $20 billion sounds worthwhile to me.  Recalling the health related agony that can be avoided with fewer medical encounters for ourselves and our loved ones may hit closer to home.

Or, maybe you have more encounters with the “lucky ones” regarding health and wellness.  You know, those with normal blood pressure levels and excess energy who practice preventative health care by exercising regularly and eating nutritiously.  Perhaps we shall refer to them as diligent instead.  These diligent beings will have different sodium intake requirements and can follow the advice of a coach or nutritionist.

The American Dietetics Association (ADA) and The United States Department of Health and Human Services recommend consuming no more than 1500–2300 mg of sodium or (3750–5750 mg of salt) per day for healthy, normally functioning individuals.  Hopefully we’re safe with these resources, although you never know what salt farmer is being paid off, so do your research, talk to your doctor, know your body, and keep track of your levels through regular blood testing.  You could also trust in your doctor.

Doctors and authors have been researching and writing for over ten years concluding that a movement, or Food Revolution, as John Robbins titled his book, is imperative.  The more I learn, the more evident the truth becomes: changing eating habits can save lives.

It is astonishing that something within our control (health) is such an outrageous monster in the grand scheme of societal issues.  I guess poor eating damage isn’t instantaneous enough for the general population to be concerned.  However, research on leading causes of death (heart disease), the prevalence of kidney stones, and ever rising obesity rates with 35% of children in Chicago weighing in as obese and 50% overweight, we have some frightening statistics that are hopefully disheartening enough to make at least some of us pay attention to the reality and severity of this problem.

It is common when dealing with change or new leaning for tasks to seem daunting, at first.  Rest assured though, discovering quality products that taste good can be easy and rewarding.  I promise!

Staying healthy by pursuing the best fresh local food is one of the best ways to know your food and stay healthy.  This means scouting the grocery stores and farmers markets and testing food providers.  Whether it’s the wait staff, chef, or manager at a restaurant or grocery store.  It’s kind of like life.  Know what you’re getting into and get what you want.

During my most recent culinary inquisition,  I created a recipe that requires no salt or oil and uses all fast fresh, local ingredients.  It takes 5 minutes to create, tastes amazing, and goes like this:

Fresh organic kale picked off the stem and tossed with a quick squeeze of fresh lemon

Next, simply crack a can of Carmelina Brands Garbanzo Beans, drain, and combine.  Walla!  A delicious dinner party delight.  Confirmed based on compliments and sound effects from community garden potluck parties and cooking show tryouts.

One thing to be noted when following my recipes;  I recommend brands for a reason. In this recipe the Carmelina Brands canned beans have been chosen for several reasons, number one I don’t have enough time to make beans myself and no one else I know of makes them taste as good with such low sodium: 90mg! Food that tastes great raw requires less cooking and retains the most nutrients. So, simple cooking (I am referring to it as combining) is key.  Knowing the company and what they stand for is also important.  The Carmeilna brand is a preservative free, high-quality, all-natural organic food that has no added sodium, that’s about as safe as you’re going to get.

While this may sound rare and complicated, I do believe that bigger corporations are realizing that caring can be a win win relationship.  Look at Whole Foods, while I wouldn’t complain if they lowered their prices, they are a good example of making positive change in health and environmental awareness.

The next time you’re at the grocery think twice before grabbing the first can you see.  When the Carmelina Brands garbanzos weren’t available at Whole Foods for me, I ended up grabbing Isola Garbanzo Beans instead.  The can said organic and I tend to associate that with tasty, especially when I am at Whole Foods. Most times those products are better, not only tasting, but for the environment.  Well in this instance, my theory did not hold true. The beans tasted like they had been soaked in a dirty sodium filled sock. I don’t know what that says about me considering I ate them anyway, but had I taken thirty seconds to note the high sodium content, I may have been enticed to try a better choice.  Taking an extra minute to read the nutrition label and heed health recommendations will lead to more nutritious choices, and, of course, avoidance of recipe wreckage!

We only get one body we need to take care of it!  Remember, long-term high sodium intake causes damage in the lining of blood vessels that may eventually become irreversible.  Apparently, once you’ve developed hypertension in this way, lowering your salt intake usually isn’t enough to normalize your blood pressure according to Dr. Fonarow.  So be an informed consumer and make the best choice for your well-being! As consumers we are the ones contributing to what is being offered in the market.  The food industry is not looking out for our health; therefore, we must be cognizant of our own health.  Reading nutrition labels is great place to start.

Two steps to incorporate this week to start making a difference:

  • Buy products that have lower sodium, (if they taste good of course)
  • Limit the high sodium foods, including restaurant foods that we demand.

Informed consumers taking responsibility for their health will help alleviate the need for government intervention and control on how much sodium is allowed in products. Fonarow M.D., assistant professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, & associate physician in renal medicine says the key to high blood pressure prevention is moderation and watchful management of other cardiovascular risks. Fonarow’s words are similar to many health care providers’ and my own beliefs.  He says, ”Avoid a high-salt diet, but also don’t smoke, watch your weight, keep your cholesterol down, and manage your blood pressure,” he said. “Those factors are probably even more important.”

Key points for better health: exercise regularly, and moderate the things you know are unhealthy.  Keep an eye out for products and businesses that are promoting health; real well-being is what we are seeking, not some shortcut pill, surgery, or diet.

Mangia Bene! (Eat Well) To Live well!


Long-Term Salty Diets Tied Again to High Blood Pressure But eating sodium-rich foods over the short term doesn’t have the same effect, study suggests By Barbara Bronson Gra

CDC Weekly Publication, 2/7/2012


The Hunger Scale Challenge

Written By: The Nutritarian - Jul• 16•12

See how many times a week you can eat only when you’re feeling 1,2,3, or 4?  Not easy, at least for me.  I am regularly clocking in at the 7 and up level.

  1. Weak and light-headed, possible headache,  stomach acid churning.
  2. Very uncomfortable.  Irritable and unable to concentrate.
  3. Uncomfortably hungry.  Tummy rumbling.
  4. Slightly uncomfortable.  Just beginning to feel pangs of hunger.
  5. Comfortable.  Satisfied, but could eat more.
  6. Perfectly satiated.
  7. Full. A little bit uncomfortable.
  8. Uncomfortably full.  Bloated or woozy.
  9. Very uncomfortably full.  You need to loosen your clothes.
  10. Stuffed.  You are so full you feel nauseous; as if you could explode.

The next challenge will be stopping at 5 or 6.  One step at a time.

Gluten-free References

Written By: The Nutritarian - Jul• 15•12
William and Sonoma Gluten-free Flour
A blog for recipes:
King Arthur Flour has a great gluten free all purpose flour now.
Found at Whole Foods.
Here’s the website:
Another great flour, is Bob’s Red Mill.  They have a guide on their website about gluten-free.

What are the Best Carbs?

Written By: The Nutritarian - Jul• 11•12


Here you will find carb recommendations from a recent USAT article:

1. Sweet Potatoes

The bright orange color of these root vegetables is a visual cue that they are an abundant source of the high-powered antioxidant, vitamin A. They also are a great source of potassium to help soothe sore muscles and maintain the right amount of fluids in the body. One cup provides 27g of carbs, 4g of which are fiber.

2. Oats
This breakfast staple has been promoted as a “heart-healthy” food due to its high soluble fiber and low saturated fat content, both of which have been shown to reduce LDL (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol levels.

Besides keeping your ticker kicking, the magnesium found in oats helps to maintain nerve and muscle function and is involved in over 300 metabolic reactions in the body. One 1/2 cup of dry oats provides 27g of carbs.

3. Wild Rice
Going a little wild on your rice gives you an edge over the commonly hyped brown rice. Wild rice has the added bang for your calorie buck by providing 6g of protein and double the amount of fiber (3g) for 35 less calories than brown rice per 1 cup serving.

4. Banana
This finger-shaped fruit is widely recognized as a source of potassium. While this is true, bananas are also a source of vitamin C and support your immune system. They also contain prebiotics and help maintain healthy bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics help improve the absorption of other nutrients (i.e. calcium) for added bone health benefits.

5. Chickpeas
The legume that is used to make hummus is often forgotten as a quality source of carbohydrates. Chickpeas not only provide a generous 22g of carbs in one ½ cup, but also a whopping 6g of fiber and 7g of protein. Fiber helps to keep you feeling full, maintains steady blood sugar levels, and may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.