Nourish Your Body. Feed Your Soul. Shine Your Light.

Category: Healthy Dining

A Healthy Foodie’s Ultimate Guide to Chicago

My husband, Bill, and I were recently in Chicago for a week, celebrating our 7th wedding anniversary. We had an amazing time. Think of all of the offerings of New York City but in a friendlier, cleaner, more laid back environment.

That’s Chicago.

We believe in really celebrating each year of our marriage and travel to a new city each year to eat, explore, rest, and spend most of each day outdoors. We splurge in just about every way because we believe our relationship is worth it.

Our trip to Chicago was no exception.

We had beautiful weather (apparently, August is the time to go…not so much in February or one of the winter months). Most of the time when we travel, we go for less time or have other commitments like weddings to break up the trip. This time was the most like our honeymoon – seven days with just the two of us!

One of the things that surprised me most was that Chicago is one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been to and one of the most beautiful.

There were flowers and parks at every turn! I felt like I was in a cute European city at times.

Dozens of people shared recommendations with us and we followed quite a few of them. I thought I’d put together a post with all of the places we ate, things we did, and where we stayed. If you are ever planning a trip to Chicago or know someone who is, you’ll have it all in one place!

Because of my dietary restrictions (no gluten or milk products), I could have been limited in Chicago – the city of deep dish pizza – but I’m happy to say we had lots of incredible meals that both of us enjoyed. Everywhere we went was accommodating and many places had gluten-free menus, so I didn’t feel the least bit deprived. Here’s the scoop on places to eat and fun things to do! Click on the red hyperlinked titles to go to each place’s website to learn more.

Where We Ate

Beatrix

The Scoop: With multiple locations throughout the city, this place is a solid pick for any meal, and it was our very first stop once we arrived. According to their website, Beatrix is a neighborhood coffeehouse, restaurant and meeting place in Chicago’s River North, Streeterville, and Fulton Market neighborhoods. The menu features healthy meets delicious options, and also includes an iconic coffee and pastry counter, including signature cookies and in-house bakery favorites. That was enough to sell us, so we went for lunch.

What We Ate: Bill had the Kennebec fries with crispy lemons and chilis and Dr. Bob’s turkey burger served with poached egg mayo and a quinoa & almond kale side salad. I wanted something simple, so I opted for the grilled chicken kebab served on top of English pea hummus with lemon vinaigrette and a cucumber salad. I could have eaten an entire bowl of the hummus. The flavors were on point. Visit their website here for menus and a list of their locations.

The Purple Pig

The Scoop: When one of my coworkers found out I was going on a trip to Chicago, without hesitating, she said: “You HAVE to go to The Purple Pig.” She had recently been and said the trip wouldn’t complete without a meal there. Another Facebook friend also recommended it, and even our Uber driver was jealous as he dropped us off because he hadn’t been in some time. Since opening in 2009, The Purple Pig has been named one of the “10 Best New Restaurants in America” by Bon Appétit magazine, showcasing the flavors of Italy, Greece and Spain. They don’t take reservations, so it’s best to go as early as possible because they’re pretty much always busy.

What We Ate: Despite its name, there are a bunch of vegetarian and seafood options available in addition to their signature trio of “cheese, swine and wine”. I had my eye on the octopus appetizer because it was so highly recommended, but we arrived so early that the chef hadn’t fully prepared all of that day’s octopus.

Womp womp. Bummer.

We started with an appetizer of shaved carrots with kumquats (a small citrus fruit) and spinach served on top of a tahini-based spread and sprinkled with pumpkin seeds and peanuts. The flavors and textures were out of this world amazing. We had another seasonal appetizer of mussels served with cauliflower, mushrooms, and rice, and Bill had the milk-braised pork shoulder (the best he’s had, he said).

Just as we were closing out our check, our waitress came up to us with a smile, “The octopus is ready!” We knew we had to try it, and OH MY GOODNESS are we glad we did! It was Bill’s first time eating octopus, and he devoured it along with me.

The grilled octopus was served with fingerling potatoes, green beans, and the best salsa verde I have ever had in my life. It was one of our top three dishes of the entire trip! Check out The Purple Pig’s menu and learn more here.

Hi-Vibe Superfood Juicery

The Scoop: After getting pretty stuffed the night before at The Purple Pig, we wanted something light to get the day started on the day of our anniversary, so we jogged to Hi-Vibe Juicery, which was about a mile from our hotel. I had stalked their website and knew they had a variety of elixirs, smoothies, juices, and broths that would nourish my body (and they’re all paleo and 100% organic, too!).

What We Drank: We started the day with a Kill Shot (camu camu berry, oil of oregano, echinacea, ginger, turmeric, black pepper, lemon, green apple) to get our immune system and digestion going. We also had one of the coconut and apple cider vinegar drinks (the name is escaping me!) to rehydrate.

I ordered a serving of their activated bone broth made with these nourishing and immune-boosting ingredients: 100% grass-raised beef + pastured chicken bone broth spiked with a signature blend of ginger, turmeric, apple cider vinegar, coconut cream, and sea salt, brain octane, MCT, oil of oregano, black pepper extract, cayenne, grass-fed butter, and dulse (seaweed). It was so full of flavor, and introducing a warm, healing liquid like that to your stomach first thing in the morning can really help rev up your digestive system to take on the day. I also stopped by their second location a few days later and grabbed the Mood Mylk, but I’d love to try their Shaman Shake and Golden Mylk. This place is one of the best juice and smoothie bars in Chicago. For more info and the full menu, click here.

Wildberry Pancakes & Cafe

The Scoop: Bill and I love breakfast food, so we wanted to go to a top-rated spot for brunch on our anniversary. What drew me to this place was the variety in the menu and the fact that they have gluten-free breakfast options. Apparently, the waits can run nearly 90 minutes on weekends, so get there early!

What We Ate: We had a delicious meal, and I was even able to have gluten-free pancakes (you wouldn’t even know they’re gluten-free!) as a side to my meal. I got the vegan breakfast hash served with hash browns, spinach, wild mushrooms, avocado and their homemade gluten-free veggie burger. I topped off the burger with an overeasy egg.

Bill had the Fresca omelet made with sundried tomatoes, provolone, basil and avocado. I had a bite, and it was delicious! He also got a side of their cinnamon roll pancakes, and both of our bellies were happy when we left. Here’s their full menu and website with locations.

Maple & Ash

The Scoop: We wavered between several options when deciding where to spend our anniversary dinner but ended up picking Maple & Ash because of their high reviews online. What an experience! From the photo booth (which included a GIF-maker!) on the first floor to the buzz and vibe of the main restaurant, we knew we’d made the right choice.

What We Ate: Everything! At least that’s what it felt like when we left 🙂 We were welcomed with a dish of blistered shishito peppers and radishes served with sea salt and chilled butter along with a welcome cocktail made with vodka, blood orange bitters, lemon juice, elderflower, and vermouth. I’m a bit of a teetotaler and usually get mocktails when we go out to eat, but this drink was one of the best I’ve ever had. It was so light and smooth that I ended up having two.

Dinner was over the top delicious and fun. Bobby was the best waiter and really made the meal special. We started with the roasted beet and shaved greens salad served with rosemary roasted almonds and ordered their signature fire-roasted seafood tour (YOU HAVE TO DO THIS), and it was divine. I had the halibut for my main course, and Bill had the Skuna Bay salmon. Despite how majorly stuffed we were, we had to say “yes” to the make your own sundae dessert bar. I opted for blueberry sorbet, and Bill had ice cream.

Girl and the Goat

The Scoop: Bill and I have been fans of the Bravo show, Top Chef, for years, so when a friend recommended this restaurant and we saw that Top Chef’s first female winner was in charge, we knew we had to go. Reservations are tough to get at this place, so I would suggest booking at least a month out or do what we did and stop by at the start of dinner service at around 5pm on a weekday. We were seated immediately and just had to be out by 6:30, which wasn’t hard.

What We Ate: Girl and the Goat is a small plates restaurant (think tapas-style), so we ordered a few different dishes to share before heading to see Hamilton in downtown Chicago. We started with the kohlrabi salad, which was served with fennel, evalon (on the side – this is cheese), toasted almonds, roasted shiitake mushrooms, and blueberries. It was a neat combination of flavors and textures but was a bit salty for me. We tried the roasted cauliflower served with pickled peppers, pine nuts, and mint and enjoyed that.

Our favorite dish was pan-roasted halibut served with marcona almond butter, white asparagus, blueberry nuoc cham (a Vietnamese dipping sauce), and beech mushrooms. The marcona almond butter was out of this world. We wanted to lick the bowl when we were finished. We also ordered the sautéed green beans topped with a fish sauce vinaigrette and crunchy cashews and the seared scallop & sausage summery succotash served with green harissa. This place is a must-stop dining spot on a trip to Chicago, so check it out!

Real Good Juice Co.

The Scoop: I love food puns, and this place was full of them (how about the Kal E. Kapowski Smoothie…Saved by the Bell, anyone?). For more punny names, check out their full menu here. According to their site, this is what they do: “We are a company that makes juices that are real good. Cold pressed juices, locally sourced and organic smoothies, salads, granola and other stuff.” I’m in.

What We Ate: We stopped by for a late lunch after our day at the spa (info below!) on our anniversary. We shared an order of their avocado toast served on gluten-free bread, and I had one of their elixirs. What really brought us there was the promise of dairy-free frozen yogurt (chocolate!). We shared a serving of that topped with chocolate avocado mousse (like this recipe on my blog) and cacao nibs, which I’ve written about here. We swung by again on another morning midway through a run to have a juice to start the day. I always look for less than 10 grams of sugar in juices and make sure they are cold-pressed. Check the label because a lot of “healthy” juices can be super high in sugar.

Wheat’s End Cafe

The Scoop: If you are gluten-free and miss things like biscuits, donuts, bread, muffins, and even bagels, Wheat’s End Cafe has you covered! The cafe is located in the Lakeview area of Chicago and is 100% gluten-free. In 2007, a friend of Wheat’s End co-owners Susan McMillan and Amelia Fonti was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. Soon after, Amelia learned that she, too, was gluten intolerant. They became aware of the growing unmet need for gluten-free food that did not compromise taste and texture.

What We Ate: We started with a warm cinnamon roll because who doesn’t love cinnamon rolls?? Bill ordered avocado toast with an overeasy egg on top and gobbled his up. I ordered the shakshuka pizza, which is basically eggs on a pizza (all dairy-free, too!), served with a vegan pesto sauce. I wanted to love it, but the crust was a little tough to cut through, and the cheese slid off pretty easily. The flavors were great, but I’d definitely order a biscuit, avocado toast, or a pumpkin donut next time since those were all highly rated…and more breakfast-like. The menu was so extensive, I’d definitely want to go back to try more!

Left Coast Food & Juice

The Scoop: This place was recommended by my boss’s daughter, Ann, who recently moved to Chicago. After checking out their website and learning a bit more about their story, I was sold. Here’s what they have to say: Left Coast was created from the idea that eating healthy should be quick and easy and still taste delicious […] Our philosophy is to change the perception that eating healthy is dull and flavorless.

YES. YES. YES to all of that.

What We Ate: I wanted something light and refreshing, so I ordered the Jimmy Ching salad made with napa cabbage, romaine hearts, snow peas, crunchy quinoa, cashews, green onion, mint, sesame seeds, and a Chinese mustard vinaigrette. I added some tofu to my dish for a bit of protein. It was the perfect summer salad. Bill ordered the morning buzz smoothie: espresso, cacao, peanut butter, maca powder, banana, and dates. I had a few sips, even though I don’t love the taste of coffee and really liked it. This is a great place to check out for a salad, bowl, juice or smoothie!

Ēma

The Scoop: My friend Sara, who is a fellow gluten-free foodie, enthusiastically recommended this tapas restaurant after a recent trip to Chicago. I’m so glad she did! Everything was delicious. When we arrived at the hostess stand, I saw a business card with the name “Aaron Covert, Executive Chef” on it and instantly recognized the name. We graduated from college together, and he has clearly made a name for himself, so we were that much more excited to eat there.

What We Ate: It was so hard to choose from their menu, but we were happy with everything. To simplify things for you a bit, we had the following dishes:

  • Basmati and Beluga Lentil Salad served with crispy shallots, yellow tomatoes, cucumbers, pistachios, and an orange vinaigrette. It was a light, refreshing summer salad and a great start to the meal.
  • Green Falafel with garlic tahini (I asked for a side of their garlic hummus, too – AMAZING!
  • Brussels Sprouts with crispy shallots, pumpkin seeds and sherry glaze
  • Black Lime Shrimp served with tomatoes and aleppo pepper.
  • Sea Bass special served with thinly sliced summer squash

We could have easily ordered five other dishes because everything sounded so amazing. We will definitely be back! Make sure you get a reservation, as this place gets quite busy.

The Chicago Diner

The Scoop: Because of its gluten-free options and focus on plant-based eating, The Chicago Diner was recommended by several friends. It’s in a cool artsy area of Chicago that we hadn’t been to and was within walking distance of Wrigley Field, so it was a great stop before the game. The diner is 100% vegetarian and full of vegan and gluten-free options.

What We Ate: I went with the potato tempeh hash, which consisted of crumbled tempeh, sliced potato, roasted red peppers, and onions seasoned with crushed red pepper and fennel seed. I ordered it with scrambled tofu that looked like and actually had the texture of scrambled eggs. Even Bill was surprised and approved of it, and he doesn’t even like tofu. You have to try it. It was so full of flavor and well seasoned. If we weren’t feeling so pleasantly full (but not stuffed) from brunch, we might have gone for one of their signature vegan milkshakes or their vegan and gluten-free cheesecake. Maybe next time!

Summer House Santa Monica

The Scoop: Our host at the Thompson Hotel recommended this place and we were so glad he did! What a beautiful spot. You feel like you’ve been transported to California and are hanging out in a Santa Monica summer house! It was about a mile and a half from Wrigley Field and served as our post-Cubs game meal. We had a fantastic experience and can’t say enough about how the generous and hospitable staff there treated us as we celebrated our anniversary.

What We Ate: We love guacamole but hadn’t had any yet on our trip, so we started with the guac appetizer (freebie as a result of using the Yelp! app!). We shared a few small plates including caramelized Brussels sprouts served with pancetta, whole grain mustard, and balsamic vinegar and the Emerald Kale Salad made with shredded brussels sprouts, local apples, toasted cashews, and mustard-citrus dressing. We also shared the wood-grilled fish taco platter served with black beans and rice, cilantro, salsa, and guacamole. Everything was on point, and even though we were full by the end, we each snagged a cookie from their pastry bar on our way out. They have a talented pastry chef onsite, who also happens to make gluten-free and dairy-free cookies as well, so I got the chocolate walnut cookie, which tasted just like a brownie. It was decadent and no one would possibly know it was gluten and dairy-free. 

The Little Beet Table

The Scoop: We checked out one of these on a recent trip to NYC, and after scoping out the menu, we decided to go there for our final brunch. We got there just as they were opening, so we were served quickly and had a wonderful experience. It helps that the restaurant is 100% gluten-free, which meant my options for ordering were endless!

What We Ate: We started with their banana bread served with housemade hazelnut butter. Oh my goodness. We ate the whole thing. If you can’t tell that I have a deep affinity for Brussels sprouts, you’ll know that now because we ordered them for the third time in one week – roasted Brussels sprouts served with salsa verde and sea salt. For our main entree, Bill had the avocado toast with bacon (some of the best he said he has ever had – perfectly cooked bacon), and I opted for something out of the ordinary – crispy spirulina rice. It was a round of jasmine rice served with shishito peppers, garlic, soy, ginger and topped with a farm egg. It was one of my top three favorite meals of the entire week. Perfectly seasoned, packed with flavor and fun textures, and covered with a sauce that put it over the top, this meal was a winner.

Brightwok Kitchen

The Scoop: This was our final food stop in Chicago and definitely the right choice. Brightwok Kitchen is a veggie-focused, Asian-inspired restaurant. Think of Chipotle for Asian food or sweetgreen for salads and add some on-the-spot wok preparation, and you’ve got Brightwok Kitchen.

What We Ate: It was hard to decide what to get, but I went with the Earth, Curry and Fire bowl served with chili coconut curry (I asked for mild), brown rice, tofu, kale, onions, carrots, bell peppers, and a crispy egg on top. Bill ordered the Everyday Eat Right Bowl with thai basil dressing – holy flavorville! That thing was the best. With so many options, many of which are gluten-free, you can’t go wrong!

What We Did

So, it might seem like all we do on vacation is eat, but we also love to explore new places. I’ve listed below some of the places we went to and things we did. Feel free to click each title to be linked to the website, so you can learn more.

For more recommendations in and around Chicago, visit Time Out Chicago Magazine.

  • Allyu Spa: Bill took me here for our anniversary for their couples retreat package complete with a 90-minute couple’s massage and sauna treatment. It was incredibly relaxing and one of the highlights of my week.
  • Wrigley Field: If you’re in Chicago, go see a Cubs game. It was the first time in years that I’d been in a full stadium (the Orioles are pretty terrible!), and the fans there are passionate and die hard. The chant they sing at the end when they win and the real organ that plays at each game are worth the price of admission!
  • Wendella Architectural Boat Tour: You absolutely have to go on one of these if you are in Chicago. Our tour guide was entertaining and incredibly knowledgable as he taught us about the history and architecture of the city. There are other boat tour companies that you can get deals to on Groupon.
  • Millennium Park and Cloud Gate: This is where you’ll find the famous reflective bean, tons of green space and outdoor events happening throughout the summer. 
  • The Escape Game Chicago: This was one of the coolest escape rooms we’ve ever been to. We did Gold Rush by ourselves and got out with 13 minutes to spare and teamed up with another group to escape Mission Mars. I highly recommend this place for an hour of fun!
  • The Great Escape Room Chicago: Can you tell we are a bit addicted to escape rooms? This one was one of the most unique experiences we’ve had. We did the Sherlock Library and escaped with under two minutes to spare!
  • CIBC Theater: We had to see the broadway show, Hamilton. It was amazing. The music is stuck in our heads days later. Go if you can!
  • io Improv: The improvised Shakespeare shows are phenomenal. A member of the audience gives the cast the title of a play and in 60 minutes, the actors come up with a completely improvised play. It was so fun and full of laughs.
  • Navy Pier: This is the most visited spot in Chicago and for good reason. It was one of the first places we walked to when we arrived in the city and offered a beautiful view of the city. From the new ferris wheel to the botanical garden and award-winning theater, it’s a spot you won’t want to pass by on a trip to Chicago.
  • Lincoln Park Zoo: We stopped by the zoo for about an hour or so before heading out on the boat tour, so we didn’t see much, but going to the monkey house was enough for me! I could watch the monkeys and gorillas for hours. The best part about the zoo? Admission is FREE!
  • Division Street Farmer’s Market on Saturdays from May-October. From the gluten-free crepes to the dozens of produce and flower vendors, this is worth a stop on a Saturday!

Where We Stayed

I have to admit. We did it up with hotels this trip. We usually stay in Airbnbs for the bulk of our trips and use Hotels.com or HotelTonight to book one night. I had a connection in Chicago who was kind enough to help me coordinate our stay at two of Chicago’s best hotels in the Gold Coast neighborhood. Both were in the best absolute best locations.

  • Thompson Hotel: Nicholas, who was at the front desk, gave us great recommendations for where to eat, including Summer House Santa Monica. We also had a treat in our room on our anniversary sent by a colleague, so that was a special touch!
  • The Talbott Hotel: We were warmly greeted by Perry when we arrived at The Talbott, which is run by the same group as the Thompson. Perry made us feel so welcomed and special, and he is one of the kindest people I’ve met and always had a smile on his face. We received two free drink coupons and food vouchers upon arrival and had a lovely stay for our final three nights of the trip.

I highly recommend both of these hotels! If you’re looking for regions to stay, try for east of Route 90 and North of Roosevelt Road. There’s a lot going on in North Chicago as well, like in the Lakeview area, but it’ll be a little more of a drive to the heart of downtown.

Reader Feedback

That’s a wrap, my friends! A labor of love to share with you all of the greatness and deliciousness we found on our trip to Chicago. Feel free to chime in with anything we’re missing below!

What We Eat: A Peek at Our Weekly Menu

I’ve had people ask time and time again what a typical week of eating looks like for me and Bill. Every week is different, but I thought I’d give you a glimpse of what last week and the upcoming week consisted of for our meals.

I tend to make a combination of my own recipes from this blog and often look to the Nourishing Meals Cookbook, The Undiet CookbookForks Over Knives: The Cookbook or one of Rebecca Katz’s many healing cookbooks, with a recent focus on The Longevity Kitchen Cookbook

We pretty much follow Michael Pollan’s advice to “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” Sometimes I’m a little off on the “not too much” part, if I’m being completely honest, but we prioritize eating real food made from ingredients we recognize and can pronounce. The vast majority of what we eat, especially for me, consists of plant-based foods like veggies, fruit, beans, grains, nuts and seeds, and we load up on herbs and spices for flavor. I do eat some animal proteins a couple of times a week, usually wild caught fish or pasture-raised chicken or eggs.

My husband Bill’s German heritage demands a higher animal protein ratio than what I eat. He just feels better eating a bit more of it than me! That’s why I’m such a huge advocate of listening to your body and paying attention to what gives you energy and what takes it away. I encourage you to experiment with different foods to see which ones make you feel best. For more on my philosophy around food and eating, check out this recent post.

Okay, now let’s get back to the food. Want to know what a week of breakfast, lunch and dinner looks like for us? Check out the list below!

Breakfast

Because I’m on a healing foods protocol through my nutritionist, as I’m restoring my body from Epstein-Barr Virus, I’m not eating certain things that Bill eats on a regular basis, like eggs. He loves making breakfast and puts in a lot of work each morning. A typical breakfast for him consists of roasted sweet potatoes, sautéed onions and tomatoes or peppers, and an egg, usually served on or with a Swapple, which is one of my favorite freezer staples as well. We also like Bilinski’s casing-free, real food chicken sausage, especially the kale balsamic version!

I usually have a smoothie because it’s the easiest way to pack a lot of goodness into one glass (or smoothie bowl!). I’ve been opting for blueberries as my main fruit because of how antioxidant-packed they are. I alternate which fats I use, including coconut butter, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and avocado. I usually throw in a handful of baby spinach or baby kale and round out everything with a scoop of protein powder or an extra sprinkle of hemp seeds.

I’ll have to share the smoothie I’ve been making lately, so you have the recipe, but this Blueberry Blast Smoothie is pretty similar!

I absolutely LOVE the Oat Berry Yogurt Muffin recipe from the Forks Over Knives Cookbook and have been serving that with Trader Joe’s mixed nut butter. I also tried the Detoxinista’s Vegan Almond Flour Banana Bread. It’s RICH and pretty hearty, since it’s made with almonds as the base, but I really liked the flavors!

Lunch & Dinner

To be honest, lunch and dinner don’t look that different for us. I almost always have a big salad for lunch as my base and often serve up leftovers from dinner for lunch because it makes things easier and saves us time. I’m a big advocate of making grain or salad bowls, which basically consists of throwing together some cooked and raw veggies (focus on leafy greens!), some source of protein (usually beans), something crunchy like nuts or seeds, and a grain like quinoa or brown rice if I’m making a grain bowl. I top it all off with a dressing and toss everything together.

As much as I love to cook, sometimes I need something nourishing when I haven’t planned ahead and packed. When I’m on the go, some of my favorite places to hit up are Stall11 at RHouse, sweetgreen, Harmony Bakery, the Naked Lunch Cafe, and Whole Foods Market hot bar and salad bar. I link to all of those places and others in my healthy foodie dining guide to Baltimore.

Here’s what we’ve been cooking up lately!

That’s a look at some of what we’ve been cooking up in our kitchen lately. We stick with some of our favorite familiar staples and try a few new ones here and there.

How about you? What’s on your menu? Try anything new lately? Feel free to share in the comments below! I love trying new recipes 🙂

Our First Baltimore Cookbook Club: The Power of True Community

What does a life lived in radical community look like?

Is community really worth the effort?

I knew I was in for exactly what I needed to hear at the start of Sunday’s service as our friend and pastor, Ryan, asked us to reflect on the answers to those questions and a few other truths about what it means to be in community.

As a culture, we’re moving away from true community.

The internet has fundamentally changed the way we communicate and connect with each other and altered our expectations about what to expect from community. Long-term commitments of any kind (jobs, houses, relationships) are no longer the norm.

We avoid community for a number of reasons. People require energy and effort, which can make true community feel like a burden. Because we know things ABOUT each other but don’t really KNOW each other, we fill in the gaps with assumptions and are more easily offended than ever before.

The hard truth is that it’s exposing to have people REALLY know us.

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So, we’re left asking ourselves: Is community really worth the effort?

The short answer is,”YES“.

As I’ve shared when I first wrote about community almost two years ago, sacrificially giving my time to be with and invest in others is not something that comes naturally to me.

We are all wired to be communal and crave connection, but when you’ve been burned by community in the past, it can be intimidating to put yourself out there again. When we do, we risk being examined, judged, and rejected.

But the greater risk is that we deprive other people of our presence and the gifts and talents we have to offer. 

There’s power in investing deeply in people and in having people invest in us. Sometimes we can feel like we are burdening other people. But guess what?

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When I get stuck in my own thoughts (which happens a lot) and overwhelm myself thinking about all that I could or “should” be doing, I tend to retreat and “check out” socially. I find every reason possible to avoid things like social events that pull me away from a self-centered pursuit or an opportunity to do something I want to do.

That’s why last Sunday night was particularly special.

It marked the start of a community-building opportunity that combines a few of my favorite things: cooking and eating nourishing, delicious food with like-minded people who value living a healthy, purposeful, vibrant life in the context of a supportive community:

Our first cookbook club.

My friend and fellow foodie and health coach, Katie Hussong, and I came upon the idea after seeing a post that went viral on Facebook about Why Cookbook Clubs Should Be the New Way We Entertain.

Katie and Me

Both of us are Culinary Nutrition Experts through the Academy of Culinary Nutrition’s program, so we have a mutual love for creating and savoring nourishing, healing food.

After a series of text messages agreeing we should “do this thing,” we organized our first ever cookbook club, bringing together friends from DC to Philly for a Sunday evening in Baltimore to share dishes from our mentor and culinary nutrition coach, Meghan Telpner.

Meghan recently published her first full cookbook, The Undiet Cookbook, and we used that as the source for our recipes. Everything was nourishing, delicious, made with love and dairy-free and gluten-free.

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We brought together fellow health coaches, culinary nutrition experts, and nurses, as well as friends from college, church and our neighborhoods.

Each of us prepared a delicious dish to share and gathered around the community table to savor the meal and get to know each other.

Green Mojito Smoothies and Jamu Juice Shots to kick off the night.

Zucchini Hummus, Balsamic Roasted Root Vegetables, Sweet Potato Grills with Cashew Ketchup, Wild Rice & Chickpea Salad, Thai Mango Salad, and Maple Balsamic Kale with Butternut Squash for dinner.

A decadent array of desserts, including Ginger Cookies, Wild Berry and Apple Crumble, Chocolate Raspberry Delights, and my contribution, the Rawmazing Key Lime Pie, to finish the evening.

key lime

Everything was DELICIOUS! (If you want the recipe for the pie, click here!)

We even had the opportunity to Skype with Meghan, the chef and cookbook author herself!

We had each person introduce themselves and the dish they had made, which was one of the coolest moments of the evening.

Hi Meghan

Me & Katie Skyping with Meghan!

Our bodies and souls were nourished by the food and our time together.

We could let down our guard and just be ourselves.

We ate. We talked. We laughed.

And through it all, we connected.

We were in true community.

This is how we were meant to live!

Community

So, what is holding you back from community?

Who misses out if you don’t show up, if you’re not present and willing to share your gifts and talents?

What makes you feel truly known?

If you’re interested in connecting with community like this, fill out your contact information here, and I’ll put you on our list 🙂

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If want to connect with others and serve Baltimore this upcoming weekend, join me at the Baltimore Crop Circle with Tessemae’s at 900 Druid Hill Avenue in Baltimore from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm on Saturday, November 21st. We will be giving away over 30,000 pounds of FREE fresh produce to the community!

San Diego: A Healthy Foodie’s Paradise & Top 10 Places to Eat

Eating healthy and traveling can be a challenge, but in San Diego, it’s almost effortless.

With juice and smoothie bars popping up on every corner and a commitment to serving sustainable, local, fresh and nourishing cuisine, San Diego is a healthy foodie’s dream.

(Especially for someone like me who is always looking for tasty dairy-free and gluten-free options!)

My husband Bill and I recently made our first trip to California and had an amazing time exploring the relaxing and beautiful coast and eating lots of delicious and energizing food.

hello san diego san diego pics

I have to give a shout out to my friend, Janna, who was kind enough to take the time to send me a few of the recommendations below. Bill and I did some exploring on our own, too, and came across some awesome food that we wish we could’ve brought home with us.

Check out my top picks below for places to try the next time you’re in sunny San Diego! I’ll give you more details about the vibe, what we ate, and what you have to try if you go there. Here’s the short list (in no particular order).

  • Vitality Tap
  • Cafe21
  • Peace Pies
  • George’s at the Cove
  • Juice Crafters
  • Hillcrest Farmer’s Market
  • Plumeria
  • Burger Lounge
  • Jimbos….Naturally!
  • SOL CAL Cafe – HAS SINCE CLOSED

Vitality Tap

650 1st Avenue, San Diego; 619-237-7625; www.vitalitytap.com

vitality tap

The Vibe: If you don’t know what to look for, you could easily miss this place. It’s inside of a nutrition store. They had a list of dozens of superfood boosters, including chaga mushrooms, chlorella, goji berries, and lucuma powder, that you could add to any smoothie. They encouraged us to post a review on Yelp to get a free detox shot. Free? Sign me up 🙂

What We Ate

  • Green Ingredient Smoothie (I was warned this was a pretty “intense” smoothie, due to the lack of sweetness, but I was ready for it). With a blend of greens, mango, lime, lemon, hemp seed, cucumber and spirulina, I knew it was an anti-inflammatory, detoxifying concoction that my body would love. Remember, medicine doesn’t always taste good, but people take it anyway 😉 This is true when food is medicine, too!
  • Flexin’ Smoothie (This was Bill’s favorite)
  • Avocado Bliss Smoothie
  • Undressed Greens Juice
  • All Day Energy Shot
  • Detox Shot

Cafe21

802 5th Avenue, San Diego; 619-795-0721, www.cafe-21.com

cafe21

The Vibe: Farm-to-table restaurant in the heart of the Gaslamp district that sources its food from local farmers and distributors and is committed to crafting creative, seasonal, and delicious dishes and drinks. There’s a Mediterranean vibe that I loved about this place, but their menu is eclectic and offers something for everyone. The chef was accommodating and creative when it came to my dairy and gluten-sensitivities, and any dish our servers recommended was a winner. We liked it so much that we went for dinner and brunch.

What We Ate

Dinner

  • Lentil, Cauliflower & Chicken Soup
  • Avocado, Mushroom & Eggplant Fries with Mediterranean-inspired Red Pepper Dip & Avocado Mousse (They made it dairy-free and gluten-free for me!)
  • Sangria-Marinated Short Ribs (Bill had these and they melted off the bone)
  • Black-Eyed Peas, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Onions & Peppers with Spaghetti Squash 

Brunch

  • Garden & Vegetable Omelet Skillet with a Strawberry & Mixed Greens Side Salad
  • Mango Sweetie Hot Tea (you have to try their homemade teas!)

You Have to Try…the Avocado, Mushroom & Eggplant Fries. Our minds were blown (hence Bill’s face in the pic above)!

Also, if you sign up for their newsletter, they’ll send you special deals, including a free meal on your birthday!

Peace Pies

4230 Voltaire Street, San Diego; 619-223-2880; www.peacepies.com

peace pies

The Vibe: I was super excited to check out this place when I saw their menu online. It’s a Bohemian café with a locally sourced menu of raw, vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free dishes. I’m pretty sure we went to Peace Pies three times for some combination of lunch/dinner/dessert. We loved it!

What We Ate

  • Magical Mango Curry Wrap with Kale Chips
  • Mediterranean Sampler
  • Voltaire Street Tacos
  • Majestic Mediterranean Wrap
  • Banana Chocolate Coffee Pie
  • Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwich
  • Stuffed Date with Maca Cashew Butter

You Have to Try…Mango Curry Wrap & Kale Chips (yum x100)…and the Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwich!

George’s at the Cove

1250 Prospect Street, La Jolla; 858-454-4244, www.georgesatthecove.com 

georges

The Vibe: Talk about a view. Wow. Not only was our rooftop table overlooking the Pacific picture perfect, but so was our meal. After multiple people recommended we check out Georges, we knew we had to make it part of our trip.

What We Ate

  • Scallop Ceviche
  • Seared Yellowtail with Asparagus, Mushrooms and Red Pepper Puree
  • Fresh Fish Tacos (Bill ate tacos every day :))

You Have to Try…Scallop Ceviche. My co-worker, Gina, turned us on to this appetizer. She told us we absolutely had to have it, and we’re so glad we took her advice! Light, crisp and refreshing, it was a perfect start to our West Coast lunch on a breezy afternoon.

Juice Crafters

Multiple Locations; 935 Silverado Street, La Jolla; www.juicecrafters.com

juicecrafters

The Vibe: We stumbled upon this place when we were wandering around La Jolla and looking for something hydrating and energy-boosting before dinner. Juice Crafters is a family-owned cold-pressed juice and powerhouse smoothie bar whose approach is to “live well and be well.” That’s my kind of place!

What We Drank

  • Green Juice Plus

You Have to TryAnything on the menu! We only stopped by for something to hydrate us before dinner, but all of their smoothies looked good, especially the Chunky Monkey Smoothie they were advertising outside that day. 

Hillcrest Farmer’s Market

3960 Normal Street, San Diego, www.hillcrestfarmersmarket.com

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The Vibe: Held Sundays from 9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., this was our favorite of the three farmer’s markets we checked out while in San Diego. There are over 175 vendors there, so give yourself some time to explore. Take a look out all the awesome eats below!

What We Ate:

  1. Taste of Africa – This was one of our favorite meals of the whole trip…and the cheapest. For $11, each of us ordered a bowl served with jasmine rice and vegetables topped with rich and creamy (and dairy-free!) curried lentils and chopped and sautéed collard greens. Bill ordered the jerk chicken instead of the lentils, and both of us took our first bite, looked at each other and made “the face” we make whenever we’ve just tasted a little bite of heaven.
  2. Green Fix – They sell juices and smoothies that highlight vegetables as the star, unlike many smoothie places that load up on the sweet stuff. They have options that accommodate a wide range of taste preferences with varying levels of sweetness, so if you’re gungho, try a jug of the “Raw” version.
  3. Asana FoodsThey have lots of unique paleo options from granola to almond butters and are known for their killer acai bowl. We bought a jar of their cardamom goji berry almond “buddah”. They ship, too, so we can order online here.
  4. Happy Pantry – Best sauerkraut around. Fermented foods like sauerkraut (something I used to hate until about a year ago!) are excellent for our digestive health, skin, and overall immunity. We loved the variety of combinations and ended up with a jar of the Power Krautage. Bill loved the kimchi as well. Definitely check out this place. The people who work there are super friendly, too.
  5. B*tchin’ Bars & Dips – I’m not one to swear on this site, but that’s the name of the company! Their paleo-friendly bars, and gluten and dairy-free dips are OUT OF THIS WORLD. They’re made with almonds instead of beans, so people who have trouble with beans might want to try out this as an alternative. My favorites were the Pesto and Bombay curry flavors, but they are all amazing! You can’t help but laugh as the guys taking your order tell you to “have a b*tchin’ day.” Here’s to not taking life too seriously 🙂

Plumeria

4661 Park Boulevard, San Diego; 619-269-9989; www.myplumeria.com

plumeria

The Vibe: Described by Janna as her “favorite Thai restaurant in all of California,” we knew we had to check it out. On our last night in San Diego, we ventured to Hillcrest to check out this vegetarian restaurant. You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy the food there though, so don’t let that stop you.

What We Ate

  • Spearmint Tea, Spicy Ginger Tea
  • Zen Soup
  • Ginger, Tofu & Vegetable Stir Fry
  • 5-Spice Duck Stir-Fry

You Have to Try…Zen Soup (one of the most delicious, flavor-packed dishes I’ve ever tried!) 

Burger Lounge

Multiple Locations; Coronado Island, www.burgerlounge.com

burger lounge

The Vibe: Before we left for San Diego, we asked people about “must-see” places, and almost everyone suggested Coronado Island. We spent the morning at the beach and wandering around the island and worked up an appetite. When we saw the line in front of Burger Lounge and the signs for 100% grass-fed beef, we were sold. If only other fast casual chains would get on board with having higher integrity, quality ingredients that taste delicious like Burger Lounge. I’m hopeful it will happen the more we ask for it!

What We Ate

  • Turkey Burger on a Fresh Vegetable Salad with Basil Dressing
  • The Lounge Burger (100% Grass-fed Beef Burger)

You Have to Try…Turkey Burger with Basil Dressing (YUM!) The best turkey burger I’ve ever had. Period.

Jimbo’s…Naturally!

4S Commons Town Center, 10511 Commons Drive, San Diego, www.jimbos.com

jimbo

The Vibe & The Eats: Okay, so it’s not technically a restaurant, but I’m a sucker for cool grocery stores. I went to this place about every other day during the trip for drinks, snacks, immune booster packs (the time change wasn’t loving me), and even toiletries I had forgotten to bring.

It’s always nice to have a trusted grocery store to go to when you’re staying in a new place.

SOL CAL Café I just learned that this place has closed, unfortunately! 

Check out Cafe Gratitude instead!

910 J Street, San Diego; 619-255-2927, www.solcal.com

solcal cafe

The Vibe: With a tagline of “Healthy. Happy. Yummy,” I knew this place was for me 🙂 They serve cleanse-focused juices, smoothies, elixirs and modern vegetarian eats in a cheerful, contemporary setting. One morning we ran there for breakfast and walked home. The free cucumber water was refreshing and thirst-quenching after our run.

What We Ate

  • Lively Liver Elixir (detoxifying combo of dandelion, burdock root, red clover and cinnamon)
  • Happy Greens Juice
  • Om Sweet Om Smoothie
  • Lean Green Smoothie
  • Kelp Pesto Noodles with Mushrooms & Sundried Tomatoes
  • Waffle with Berries & Cream. Deliciously dairy-free and gluten-free, Bill had these for morning one day. Don’t they look amazing?! He cleaned his plate.

We could have eaten every meal there for breakfast, lunch and dinner for two weeks and eaten something different every time. I would love to go back and try the Cacao Oatmeal, Loaded Baked Sweet Potato, and the Sol Kale Salad.

And last but not least, here are a few honorable mentions worth checking out!

Honorable Mentions

Seasons 52 (Focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients)

Cafe Gratitude (I’ve heard great things!)

Puesto (Bill’s favorite taco place. Amazing guac and yummy tacos)

BarleyMash (Not exactly known for their healthy food, but their baby kale salad with lemon vinaigrette and chicken on top was deeeelish!)

So, that’s my list! We went to a few other places, too, but those were my top 10. Have you been to San Diego? What are your favorite healthy places to eat? Feel free to leave a comment below! 🙂

Baltimore’s EmporiYUM: My Top Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Eats

If you love food, Baltimore is a great place to live.

I was born and raised here, and only in the past few years have I come to appreciate all that this city has to offer.

This weekend’s EmporiYUM event downtown was a great showcase of dozens of local vendors and companies who put love and passion into their food.

emporiyum

I volunteered at the event with a company that my husband and I have used for the past year and a half or so – Hometown Harvest.

They’re a doorstep delivery service of local fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, poultry and other foods from local vendors, including fresh pressed juices, granola, hummus, nut butters, and salsa.

It was fun telling the dozens of people who came through the booth about how much I love their service and how convenient it is for us to wake up on Friday morning with a bag full of produce and cage-free eggs for the coming week.

Hometown Harvest

After hanging out at the Hometown Harvest booth for a couple of hours, I ventured out to visit the rest of the vendors to see what dairy-free, gluten-free goods I could find. (If you’re new to this blog, I eat dairy-free and gluten-free because of what I’ve learned helps my body feel best!)

I also look for foods that are completely in sync with how I prepare my own food and don’t use ingredients like refined oils or sugars.

Here are my favorites from yesterday!

Some are familiar faces that I’ve mentioned before on this blog, but others were newbies and are worth checking out.

Plantbar

Daniela Troia, the owner of Plantbar, is one of my favorite food people in Baltimore and I’ve been a fan of her restaurant in Towson (Zia’s Café) for years.

Now that she’s set up shop with her juice, smoothie and raw/vegan/gluten-free and aptly named Plantbar at Belvedere Market (my favorite place in Baltimore), I’m even more of a fan.

Plantbar had a bright and colorful booth with samples of their coconut bacon and three kinds of fresh, cold-pressed organic juices. Thai The Knot was especially refreshing on a hot day.

Little Baby's

Wandering down a little farther, I stumbled upon a long line for Little Baby’s Ice Cream, which I soon came to find out is an ice cream vendor based out of Philadelphia that will be making its way to the Baltimore market (Whole Foods and MOMs) by the summer.

I was elated to find out that they had a dairy-free, gluten-free option that I could sample called Coconut Tea.

OH MY GOSH IT WAS SO GOOD.

They use coconut milk instead of cow’s milk, and the texture was JUST like regular ice cream.

The only hitch is that they use agave as one of the sweeteners, so I met the owner and suggested it might be worth considering making a version with coconut nectar instead because of the controversy around agave. He was open to it, which was really cool.

Soom Sesame

Making my way across the floor, I saw an eye-catching display for tahini-based dips (made from ground up sesame seeds) from a company called Soom.

I’m a big fan of tahini and use it in my Super Food Kale Salad Recipe as well as this Snickerdoodle Smoothie, so I knew I would be on board with their products.

I sampled a few of their dips and became an instant fan. With flavors like Classic Sesame and Spicy Sriracha to Thai Red Curry and Zesty Mediterranean, these dips were delicious! I asked about the ingredients and found out that they don’t use oils I avoid like canola oil, so that was a bonus! 🙂

They’re not in Baltimore yet but hope to make their way here. You can buy their plain tahini on Amazon though and check out this link for a list of where they sell in the Philly/NYC/DC/Rockville area.

Kate BakesI ventured up the steps to one of the upper levels and met a company I’ve been hearing about from Hometown Harvest for the past year or so – Kate Bakes.

After dealing with years of frustrating health issues herself, Kate was determined to make delicious treats that she could enjoy without gluten, dairy or any animal products. The bars are handmade in small batches using organic ingredients.

She does use agave as the sweetener along with a soy protein powder in the bars, so I emailed her to get more information about that and to see if she has plans for using alternative ingredients in future creations, since I generally avoid those two ingredients. She was prompt, thorough, and honest in her response (all things I really appreciate and respect!):

Currently we’re comfortable using agave for how it behaves in our recipes (texture and flavor profile) as well as it’s low glycemic index. Each bar actually has less than one serving (less than one tablespoon) of agave and the rest of our sugar content comes from the fruit we use in the recipes – bananas, raisins, dates, or cherries.  We use soy for the same reason.  When I was creating the recipes, I actually tried several different protein powders including rice and hemp.  The bars that came out the best (by far) were the ones using soy. Since I personally don’t have trouble with soy (and the list of things I do have trouble with is quite long!) I wanted to use it since I could eat it and felt it created the best tasting product. I know these ingredients may not be for everyone and I really appreciate you asking these questions to learn more.  As someone with a lot of restrictions, I completely understand there are many reasons why people may choose not to consume certain foods.

Click here to buy Kate’s bars online and to read more about her story.

Blind Spot

The next booth on my stop was Blind Spot Nut Butters, who I first found out about through Hometown Harvest. They sell them on their website, but I had never met the owner or tried more than one variety of their nut butters, so I was excited they had a booth at the event.

My favorite flavor is their Birds & Bees Almond Cashew Nut Butter, which is a great add-in to smoothies. Check out the ingredient list: Raw Almonds, Raw Cashews, Sunflower Seeds, Honey, Ground Flax, Millet, Chia Seeds. All real, whole foods. Just the way I like it!

Here’s where you can buy their nut butters in the MD/DC/VA/PA area and online on their website.

Jinji Booth

Tucked away in a back corner (but always with a line) was my favorite Baltimore chocolate maker – Pure Chocolate by Jinji.

I wrote extensively about how amazing her dairy-free, gluten-free chocolates are here and here. She sets up shop at Belvedere Market along with Plantbar and one more vendor I mention at the close of this post – Hex Ferments.

If you like chocolate, you HAVE to know about Jinji. Everything she makes is divine.

Cava Mezze

My second to last stop for the day was Cava Mezze, which makes Mediterranean dips like hummus, tzatziki, harissa, and tapenades. They had a veggie platter and a variety of their dips available for sampling.

I tried the roasted red pepper, spicy and traditional hummus varieties and they were all savory, creamy and reminded me of my semester abroad in Southern Spain. I love that Cava doesn’t use refined oils like canola oil in their products, unlike some other brands of hummus.

Check out all of their flavors on their website here or find them at MOMs Organic Market or Whole Foods.

Hex Ferments

The last stop on my gluten-free, dairy-free, journey brought me to Hex Ferments – a company I’ve known about for just over a year (mainly because they are parked right next to Jinji’s Chocolates at Belvedere Market).

As I’ve been in the process of healing my body and digestive health from years of antibiotics and acid reducers, I’ve incorporated more healing, nourishing foods into my diet, including some things I – as a picky eater – SWORE I would never eat.

Like sauerkraut and kimchi.

Both are fermented foods that support, protect and shield our immune system, digestion and overall well-being.

Hex was sampling their Sea Kraut and Miso Kimchi – both of which were packed with flavor.

Check out their shop at Belvedere Market and remember to “go with your gut!”

And, that’s a wrap 🙂

I do what I can to support local businesses by voting with my dollars and how I spend my money.

As the daughter of two entrepreneurs, I feel particularly compelled to buy local and support small businesses.

I know they appreciate the love and confidence from their customers and that it encourages them to keep doing great work dedicated to helping us be well while at the same time enjoying amazing eats!

Did you go to The EmporiYUM? What were some of YOUR favorite stops? I’d love to hear from you!

Baltimore Healthy Dining Guide {Gluten-Free, Vegan, Paleo Options}

Dining out + healthy choices.

Is it possible to have both?

Fortunately, the Baltimore area has lots of great, convenient, delicious AND healthy dining options. Many of them source high quality, often organic, fresh, and nourishing ingredients from local farms. At the very least, these restaurants offer much healthier, fresher options than what you’d find at a typical fast food joint or deli.

Whether I’m cooking for myself or dining out, a simple food rule I use to guide what I eat is:

“Eat (real) food, not too much, mostly plants.”  

(Thanks to Michael Pollan. To learn more about my food philosophy, click here.) One thing all of these restaurants have in common is that they make eating more plants easier, tastier and even exciting!

Some of the restaurants are geared toward vegetarians, vegans, and those with food sensitivities and allergies, while others are not. I’ve indicated the best options for vegan and gluten-free diners below. Most of these places cater meals, too, so if you’re looking to bring some healthy options to your workplace or event, be sure to check out their websites for catering options!

Don’t live in/around Baltimore? Scroll to the bottom and check out how to find healthy dining options near you!

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sweetgreen (Baltimore, MD – Harbor East; Multiple locations in DC, VA, PA, NY, MA, CA)

I’ve been waiting for almost 7 years for this place to make its way up from DC and open an location in Baltimore. I first found out about them at a client health fair in DC years ago and loved their food. Since then, I’ve made it a point to go there almost every time I’m in DC for lunch.

Started by three guys who were seniors at Georgetown University at the time, sweetgreen now has over 30 locations nationwide and will continue to expand. Their farm-to-table, sustainable, passion + purpose philosophy is totally aligned with how I live my life and what many of strive to do. Their food is second to none, and they rotate their menu seasonally, too. In the fall, my #1 pick is the Roasted Turkey & Brussels Sprouts Salad with roasted sweet potatoes and a cranberry vinaigrette. You have to check them out!

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Naked Lunch Cafe (Inside MOMs Organic Market Baltimore, Rockville, Washington, DC locations)

When the new MOMs (My Organic Market) opened in Baltimore City earlier this year, I was stoked to check it out, even though we live within walking distance of the Timonium store. I was most excited about the addition of the Naked Lunch Cafe, which sells a variety of plant-based dishes for lunch, dinner or just a snack! Their butternut squash and chickpea soup is one of my favorites, and their bowls will cover you for two meals. My favorite bowl is the Crowder Bowl, which is made with brown rice, cashews, fresh veggies, tofu and a coconut curry dressing that is divine! You have to try their cauliflower steaks and vegan cauliflower nachos, too, because both are delicious. You’ll never look at cauliflower the same way again. They also sell fresh pressed juices and rotate their specials seasonally.

Stall 11 (Baltimore, MD – Remington @ R House)

You know an eatery is good when you’ve eaten about half of the items on their menu, and they’ve only been open for a few months. I LOVE THIS PLACE. It’s a hot spot for vegetarians and has lots of gluten-free options. Some of my favorites are the carrot bean smash with raw veggies, Korean BBQ Cauliflower (addictive and incredible), Kale Caesar Salad with Black Garlic Dressing, Kyoto Bowl, and any soups they serve.

Everything is fresh, delicious, colorful, and flavorful. You need to know about this place!

Harmony Bakery (Baltimore, MD – Hampden)

I was bummed when I first found out that Breathe Bookstore in Hampden was closing but was excited to find out about this bakery and cafe that has some similar menu items for lunch. Their kitchen and products are 100% gluten-free. They have lots of vegan options and change their menu seasonally, a sign of a true farm-to-table restaurant, which is something I look for when I’m picking a place to eat.

Baba’s Mediterranean Kitchen / ARBA (Baltimore, MD – Locust Point; R. House)

You know you’ve arrived at a cool spot when you meet the CFO – Chief Falafel Officer – on your first trip there. When we’re in the mood for Mediterranean, Baba’s is where we go. Whether you’re in the mood for a hummus platter (order the veggies instead of the pita), kabobs, or platters with a gluten-free base of quinoa, this is the place to go. It’s a hole in the wall, so don’t expect to find a table, unless you’re there off hours, but make sure you check out this place. It’s one of our favorites!

They opened up a second location at R. House in Baltimore, my favorite spot to hang out, so visit them for a platter if you’re there!

Atwater’s (Baltimore, MD – Towson, Belvedere Square, Catonsville, Bare Hills)

If you’re looking for an amazing cup of soup or a beautiful fresh salad, look no further than Atwater’s. I’m fortunate to live within walking distance of their Towson location, so we love walking there for dinner on warmer nights (or on snow days – which we have done multiple times before!). All of their meals are made with fresh, often organic and seasonally local ingredients. They usually have vegan or at least dairy-free soup options, too, which is a huge plus for me and any others with food allergies or sensitivities who still want delicious food.

Zia’s Cafe & Plantbar (Baltimore, MD – Towson, Belvedere Square, Harbor Point)

Zia’s Cafe focuses on local & organic ingredients and has healthy choices for meat-eaters, vegetarians, vegans & gluten-free eaters. They serve fresh fruit & vegetable juices and smoothies, fair-trade organic coffee, and a variety of delicious lunch options, including salads (Moroccan is my fave), soups (SO good), sandwiches, and black bean burgers. Their dairy-free desserts, especially the fruit-inspired dairy-free cheesecakes, are incredible. Zia’s also caters corporate meals and special events

Zia’s opened a sister location called Plantbar in my favorite place in Baltimore – Belvedere Square! Plantbar focuses on fresh pressed juices and smoothies but also carriers Zia’s signature line of delicious gluten-free, vegan eats. (Ideal for vegans, vegetarians, and dairy and gluten-free diners.)

Alma Cocina (Baltimore, MD – Canton)

My friend, Jinji, who owns an award-winning chocolate shop in Baltimore (seriously the best chocolate of your life), recommended this place to us. We’ve been back about 5 times since because we love it so much! They serve authentic Venezuelan food, and their arepas (think pita pocket but not) are gluten-free, so we always get at least one each. Their salads, ceviche, soups, entrees, appetizers and sides have always blown us away and are beautifully and artistically presented.

You have to try the cassava bread (gluten-free) with three dips.

Great Sage (Howard County – Clarksville, MD)

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Celebrating my birthday at Great Sage!

This is the BEST vegan restaurant in the Baltimore area. We stumbled upon this place a couple of months ago, and it has quickly become one of our favorites! The restaurant is located just outside of Columbia in a place called Conscious Corner and serve amazing plant-based meals. Everything from their Israeli hummus appetizer to their seasonal salads, soups, sautéed greens, smoothies, and rich, dairy-free desserts are phenomenal. (Ideal for vegans, vegetarians, and dairy and gluten-free diners.)

Sweet 27 (Baltimore, MD – Hampden)

This cafe, bakery, bar and restaurant combines the best of all things, and they ‘re open late, too. Featuring a completely gluten-free menu and lots of options for omnivores and vegans alike, Sweet27 serves brunch, lunch, dinner and dessert. Their multi-cultural flare means you’ll find a variety of unique options inspired  in South Asian and Caribbean flavors.

Woodberry Kitchen (Baltimore, MD – Clipper Mill)

This is our absolute favorite restaurant in Baltimore when we want to have a date night or are just looking for an amazingly delicious meal. They cater to the gluten-free and dairy-free crowd, labeling their plates with clearly labeled stickers to identify dishes as GF and DF. They partner with local farmers and value sustainability and top notch ingredients. Their head chef, Spike Gjerde, was the first Baltimore chef to win the prestigious James Beard Award.

The atmosphere is super cool, too. If you’re visiting Baltimore, this should be on your list!

Whole Foods (Baltimore, MD – Harbor East, Mount Washington, Annapolis)

Sure, the stigma is that Whole Foods = Whole Paycheck, but they’re trying their hardest to debunk that mentality. They have an awesome salad bar and a prepared foods counter that serves lots of healthy, tasty AND affordable options, including seasonal kale salads, slow roasted sweet potato wedges, and a variety of delicious proteins. The best part? All of the ingredients are natural or organic and as many as possible are locally grown. That means no artificial flavors, colors, sweeteners, preservatives or heart-clogging trans fats. 

Nalley Fresh (Baltimore, MD – Hunt Valley, Downtown, Towson, Timonium)

Think Chipotle in terms of the “make your own” approach…and then think of every salad topping you could possibly imagine, and that sums up Nalley Fresh. I’m a fan of their “SuperBowls” that feature either proteins, sweet potatoes, or brown rice as a base followed by your choice of dozens of veggies and finished off with broth, if you choose, or dressing. Their ingredients are not organic, so be aware of that. I prefer Zia’s, Plant Bar or sweetgreen for those reasons. You can even order online and pick up to avoid the long lines at lunchtime.

The Flying Avocado Cafe (Owings Mills, MD)

I used to live just up the street from this cafe, and it’s my go to spot whenever I meet someone for lunch in Owings Mills. I love their roasted vegetable salad with balsamic vinaigrette and roasted salmon. They also have smoothies, soups, homemade guac and hummus, salads, a variety of vegan dishes and a huge selection of herbal teas.

One World Cafe (Baltimore, MD – Near Hopkins)

With a variety of gluten-free, plant-based options that are both “planet and wallet friendly,” this popular spot near Hopkins’ Homewood Field is a great option for breakfast (yummy smoothies), lunch or dinner, and they’re open late (until 2:00 a.m.), so no matter when you’re looking for a healthy option, you can find one there.

A few others worth checking out:

  1. Grind House Juice Bar in downtown Baltimore
  2. Liquid Earth in Fells Point
  3. The Land of Kush in downtown Baltimore

Don’t live in Baltimore? Check out this post about five apps and websites to use to find healthy options near you!

What are your favorite healthy dining places where you live or have traveled? Feel free to share below!

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