photo: courtesy of Karyn's
Karyn's has turned many a patron onto a new way of thinking about food.
Now that you're done hibernating and are attempting to squeeze into last summer's wardrobe, the Atkins diet is probably looking mighty appealing, again. But before you start shoving bacon down your gullet, consider how much better you'll feel if you adopt an eating style that makes your entire body feel cleansed and energized (not to mention a few pounds lighter).
Built on super-healthy foods like whole grains, vegetables, beans and miso, the macrobiotic diet promotes balance for its followers and for the land they live on. Not hardcore enough for you? The raw food diet, based on unprocessed or uncooked foods, follows similar principles of balance, and it also happens to be one hell of a way to detox.
Drastically changing your eating habits can be a terrifying notion, but there's no better place to do it than right here in Chicago. For an official introduction to your new culinary life (or just a one-night stand), check out these health-promoting restaurants.
After the bad rap carbs have gotten over the past decade, it can seem counter-intuitive to start a diet that's based on grain. But since the macrobiotic approach to eating is largely influenced by seasons, availability of local product and each individual's specific dietary needs, "intuitive" is perhaps the best word to describe this diet. For the hesitant, Chicago Diner's black beans and rice plate ($9.95) offers a tasty introduction to macrobiotic wellness. Brown rice, which along with other whole grains should comprise 60 percent of your calorie intake, is served alongside savory black beans (beans and legumes should make up five to ten percent of your food intake). Impeccably seasoned grilled tofu brings further protein, while sides of sauerkraut, steamed kale and carrots take care of your veggie needs (under macro guidelines, 25-30 percent of your food should be in veggie form). A vegan brown gravy and side of salsa add extra flavor so you won't walk away feeling like a bunny rabbit.
Sometimes the hardest part about switching your eating style is convincing your carnivorous, beer-swiggin' buddies to set foot in a health-food restaurant. That's where Rogers Park's Heartland Cafe comes in. Your party can down buffalo burgers and brewskis while you acquaint yourself with the Heartland Macro Plate ($8.50). That familiar base of rice anchors a plate full of steamed greens and nutrient-packed seaweed, along with a hearty helping of whatever beans happen to be on hand that day. Heartland's incredible mushroom gravy is served on the side, but you'll want to pour the stuff over the whole plate for some extra oomph. The accompanying bread will help you sop up any extra drips. The Macro Plate also comes with a portion of gomashio, which is a condiment made from toasted, unhulled sesame seeds, used as a replacement for regular salt by macrobiotic-devotees. If you're really famished, you can add a salad or one of Heartland's homemade soups for only two bucks.
Blind Faith Cafe
Getting' your macro on in the north suburbs? Look no further than the comprehensive Macrobiotic Plate ($12.50) at Evanston's Blind Faith Cafe. The essential brown rice is dressed with an exotic shiitake gravy, served with steamed kale and those oh-so-healthy sea vegetables. To add a little color, Blind Faith throws in some butternut squash—or whatever squash is available seasonally. Beans rotate by the day, but are always savory and delicious. To keep with the guidelines that most followers of the macrobiotic eating process follow, a bowl of miso arrives on the side. Why miso? The fermented-bean based soup has cancer-fighting nutrients that also do wonders for the "intestinal flora," thereby enhancing the immune system. And while most macro-loving folks probably refrain from talking about "intestinal flora" at the dinner table, they make sure to consume a bowl of soup with each meal, for five percent of their total food consumption each day.
Chicago is the home of Karyn Calabrese, the raw-food guru who seems to get younger by the day. For the raw-newbie, there's no better resource than her restaurant in Lincoln Park. Not only can you load up on "living" goodies—which should make up at least 75 percent of your food intake if you're following the guidelines—from one of the best salad bars in town, but you can pick Karyn's brain at a series of seminars and cooking classes before grabbing some comfort food to-go.
Cousin's Incredible Vitality
Keeping your meals under 110 degrees (any higher than that, say raw-foodists, and your food loses valuable enzymes which aid in digestion) may seem a bit extreme, but the benefits can be enormous. Just ask Chef Mehmet Ak, who lost over 70 pounds when he made the transition. Ak now runs this Mediterranean raw-food mecca that, in addition to serving up a mean hummus, also offers classes, seminars and support systems for people hoping to change their lives through food.