3 Types Of Vegan Restaurants

Many of my readers know I’m vegan.  I began the process of eliminating animal-based foods rather abruptly almost 2 1/2 years.  Initially Russ thought it was going to be a short-lived thing but after all this time he seems to have grudgingly accepted my culinary oddity.

Most people know that eating too much meat and cheese and eggs is bad for you.  The reason I became vegan is that there is very good research data suggesting there is NO amount of meat and cheese and eggs that is GOOD for you.  Animal-based foods promote hardening of the arteries which leads to heart attacks, strokes and peripheral vascular disease.  They are also pro-inflammatory, create acid which your kidneys must eliminate, and cause gout.  There is evidence that eating animal protein promotes the growth of cancer cells.

So how do I eat?  I pack a yummy plant-based lunch every day and my staff can vouch that apart from cookies (which I have a real weakness for) and the occasional baked-potato bar or scoop of green beans, I don’t eat the lunches the pharmaceutical reps bring.

My husband and I are foodies.  We LOVE eating and we love trying out new restaurants.  It got a little more complicated after I gave up animal-based foods, but for those who are willing to be flexible and adventurous (and assertive) it is nearly always possible to find a delicious meal containing only plants.  Here are my 3 categories of restaurants for vegans.

1.  Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurants

There are very few restaurants that cater ONLY to those who eat vegan and vegetarian.  I have only ever been to one such restaurant.  That was The Wild Cow in Nashville, TN.  Yum.  If anyone is ever in Nashville and wants proof that vegan/vegetarian food tastes fantastic, PLEASE stop in.  And it’s next door to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream (which carries to-die-for sorbet).  I have high hopes of trying Treehuggers in Berea sometime soon, for those who are tempted to comment that I should go there.  It’s on the list!

2.  Restaurants With Vegan Entrees

Most restaurants have entrees that either already ARE plant-based or can easily be made plant-based with a few omissions.  My favorite local place with lots of vegan options is Aladdin’s Eatery.  At other restaurants, big leafy salads are easy (just hold the cheese) and many burger places have house-made black-bean or chickpea patties.  Two that come right to mind are The Rail in Montrose and Flipside in Hudson.  (Remember I’m an eastsider).

3.  My Number-One Favorite Kind Of Place 🙂

The absolute best kind of place is one that has NO vegan options on the menu but has a chef that likes a challenge.  Take tonight’s dinner for example.  We’re spending a few nights in Columbus over the holiday and decided to go to Columbus Brewing Company.  I ordered my salad without cheese and asked for the grilled eggplant dinner.  The waitress came back to let me know the risotto and the cauliflower gratin were both made with cheese.  I told her roasted vegetables, corn or green beans would be fine.  She came back one more time to ask if I liked brown rice (and yes, I do).

OMG.  They brought me grilled eggplant with mushrooms perched on a brown-rice pilaf with sautéed spinach and smothered with tomato-basil compote.  It was heaven.  I.  Was.  Stuffed.

There are a few restaurants that have no plant-based options, nothing modifiable to plant-based, and a chef without imagination.  We don’t go to those types of restaurants 😉

Maybe you’re thinking about eating more plants or, heaven forbid, giving up meat, fish, poultry, dairy and eggs.  Think it would be tough if you like to eat out?  Think again!  If you are adventurous and assertive you can have delicious meals at an enormous variety of restaurants.  Take it from me, I’m a foodie and going plant-based did NOT put any kind of dent in my enjoyment of food and restaurant dining.  Give it a try!

Question:  What is your favorite restaurant?  Would I enjoy eating there?  Leave a comment, I’m always looking for a new place to eat!


Go Green: Greens Are Good For You!

How many servings of leafy green vegetables did you eat today?  There are so many to choose from, it’s easy to get some every day.  They are soooo good for you and tasty too!  At the end of the post I’ll share my favorite kale recipe 🙂

Why are green vegetables so good for you?  Pound for pound they have the most nutrition of any food on our planet.  They are low-carb, low-calorie and full of good stuff!

1.  Vitamins and minerals:  Vitamins K, E, C, and many of the B vitamins, as well as potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron.

2.  Powerful plant pigments that function as precursors to other vitamins and as antioxidants.  Beta-carotene, chlorophyll, zeaxanthin and lutein are some of the phytonutrients found in dark leafy green veggies.  The brightly-colored pigments in plants help fight cancer by acting as antioxidants.

3.  Green veggies don’t contain as much fiber as, say, beans or lentils or whole grains but they have SOME.  Kale, for instance, has 2.6 grams fiber per 1-cup serving.  They also have a small amount of omega-3 fatty acids.

Nutrition experts estimate that our ancestors ate five pounds of green leaves every day!  They were hunter-gatherers and hunting green leaves was a lot easier than hunting animals.  They didn’t get up and run away, after all!  When game was scarce they simply ate the plants all around them.

So what is the best way to eat your greens?  The same way our ancestors did!  Raw 🙂  You can also lightly steam or saute them.  DON’T boil them (it leaches away the cancer-fighting phytonutrients) and don’t overcook them because that begins to destroy the nutrition.

Try adding a big salad of leafy greens every day.  Mix up your leaves or combine them to take advantage of different flavors.  Use just a little dressing and it’s best to make your own dressings fresh.  If you have a food processor it’s easy to whip up a small amount of fresh dressing for your salad.  Combining different oils (like olive, sesame or walnut) with different vinegars (such as balsamic, red wine, rice wine, or apple cider) and different spices is much healthier than using mass-produced bottled dressings.

One of the most nutritious leafy green vegetables is kale.  Kale is bitter and many people don’t like eating it raw (including me).  I much prefer it sauteed.  Here’s my recipe!

Dr. Jen’s Sauteed Kale


  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or sesame oil
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large bunch kale, washed, stems removed, and coarsely chopped
  • golden raisins soaked in hot water to plump them
  • Handful of pecans, chopped


  1. Drizzle a large shallow pan with oil and heat over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute about 5 minutes, until starting to soften.
  2. Add a little water to the pan (for steam) then add the kale.  Cover and steam for about 5 minutes, then drain the oily water out.  Transfer the kale to a bowl and top with plumped golden raisins and pecans.  Enjoy!

Please feel free to play with this recipe.  There are so many fruits that you could use to add a little sweet to balance the bitter kale.  Toasted almonds, walnuts or sesame seeds could also be used for variety.

For more information, check out the top 10 leafy green vegetables, 13 easy ways to eat more greens, and Fitness Magazine’s guide to leafy greens.

QUESTION:  What is your favorite leafy green vegetable, and how do you like to eat it?







Picky Eaters: Some Suggestions

“What should I do about my child, he is SUCH a picky eater!”

I hear this a lot in the office.  Parents are struggling to find foods that their child will eat.  Parents cooking several meals every night, one for their child(ren) and one for themselves.

This is a mistake.  Don’t go there.  Just don’t.

When I have a parent struggling with a picky eater, it is exactly that.  A struggle.  A battle.  A fight for control.  The parent trying to control what their child eats.  And the child fighting to control ANYTHING he or she can.

My absolute best suggestion for this situation is to take the fight out of it.  Give the child choices from the time the child can communicate.  Let your child control SOMETHING.  Do you want the red bowl or the blue bowl?  How about the Mickey Mouse plate or the Cars plate?  Do you want to try eating at the table like a big boy or do you want to stay in the high chair?  Straw cup or sippy cup?

As your child gets bigger let them take more control.  Ask for help with meal planning.  Should Daddy put the corn on the grill or should we cook it on the stove?  Do you think green peas or green beans sound better tonight?  Especially if it’s a special dinner like Thanksgiving, simple tasks give children a role to play and something to brag about over dinner (“Mommy let me stir the soup into the green beans AND I got to put the onions on top!”)  Let them say how much of each item they want on their plate.  Not WHETHER they want it, but how much:  a little or a lot.

Taking your children to a farmer’s market in the summer and exploring all the really cool and unusual foods is a way to trigger interest in food as well.  Ever had muskmelon?  I tried it for the first time at forty-two.  My six-year-old loves it.  We found it at the farmer’s market and it was love at first sample 🙂

What do you do if you have a bigger picky eater?  Suppose your child is twelve and still has only five or six foods on the approved list?  That’s a tough one.  One of the best suggestions I’ve ever read is to have your child take charge of one meal per week.  From meal planning (within limits) to making a list to shopping to cooking (with help), making one meal per week is a great way to expose children to new foods and encourage them to be more adventurous with food.

There are lots of recipe sites and apps out there but my favorite is allrecipes.com. It’s easy to pick an ingredient and search for options.  Sure it’s a lot of work to help a tween plan, shop for and cook an entire meal, but they have to learn this skill sometime!  After a few weeks I think Mom and Dad will enjoy a dinner “off” once a week, and your child will have a new skill they can be very proud of.

PS – I highly recommend the book French Kids Eat Everything and Jim and Charles Fay’s Love and Logic series of parenting books, which have many very helpful suggestions for curing picky eater syndrome.

QUESTION:  Can you add more suggestions for helping parents with their picky eaters?


Influenza Vaccination: Yes or No?

Did you get your influenza vaccination this year?  I did 🙂  And like every year, I had no ill effects from it.

This year I have had quite a few patients come in complaining of bad effects from the vaccine.  This year Parma hospital instituted a policy where all staff must show proof of vaccination or wear a mask during flu season whenever they are within six feet of patients. So this year I’ve had a number of patients get vaccinated for the first time.

I strongly recommend flu vaccination for anyone but especially for those at high risk of exposure to influenza and those who don’t have normal immune systems or respiratory function.  This includes schoolchildren, medical personnel, diabetics, asthmatics, and many other people.

That having been said, there are those who mustn’t receive the flu vaccine.  If someone is allergic to the vaccine, to egg or to latex, they can’t have the vaccine.  A past severe reaction to vaccine would make me anxious about giving it.

What are the possible reactions to flu vaccine?  There are the usual injection-site soreness, body aches and fatigue.  These side effects are direct results of the immune-system stimulation of the vaccine itself and are NOT “bad reactions” to the shot.  In fact, if you haven’t been vaccinated before (or haven’t in many years) these reactions are reassuring that the immune system is robust and responding properly.

There is a very serious, life-threatening reaction called Guillain-Barre syndrome caused by vaccination.  It is a neurological disorder that causes numbness and paralysis.  If someone has a family history of Guillain-Barre, they should not get the flu vaccine.

The risks of vaccination are very low.  Serious reactions happen but they are rare.  Influenza infection, however, is common and can be very serious.  Many people die every year from seasonal influenza.  It is particularly dangerous for the young and the old.

One last thing:  Many people are under misconceptions about influenza.  They think the “flu” is an illness that causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.  In reality, influenza is a pure respiratory illness.  It starts suddenly with a high fever, severe headaches and body aches, and a dry cough.  It generally lasts 7-10 days.  In the elderly and the very young it can cause complications such as pneumonia and respiratory failure.  Even young healthy people can die from it.

If you don’t have to get influenza, you shouldn’t get it.  If there’s no special reason you shouldn’t get the shot, you should get vaccinated.

Question:  Have you gotten the flu vaccine this year?