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Healthy, Hungry and Wise

We've got eating-out tips for those hopping on the 2008 health train.
Wednesday Jan 09, 2008.     By Alicia Eler
Centerstage Chicago Nightlife City Guide Arts

photo: Clifton Henri; Chef Mehmet Ak (left) and General Manager Hatice Yavuz showcase the Triple Taco.
Did you eat too many holiday cookies last month? Skip one too many days at the gym? Treat yourself to pizza and beers a few times a week? If you did, we understand; we did, too! If you resolved to get healthy in 2007 but fell short, don't repeat the same mistakes this year. Eating out can be fun and low-cal; just replace some of your old junk-food habits with these health-conscious eats.

Chuck the fat-filled milkshake for a protein-i-fied smoothie at Kramer's Health Foods
Unless you've been living under a rock, you've probably heard about protein's health benefits. Not only is it a critical nutrient that everyone needs on a daily basis, but it's made up of essential and non-essential amino acids, also known as your body's "building blocks." And it's a great source of energy—and a tasty one—when slipped into a vitamin-filled shake. Head to Kramer's upstairs juice and snack bar, and you'll find the healthiest shake in the city: Source of Life, chockfull of apple juice, protein powder and, if you're lucky, a banana.

Trade in deep-dish pizza for Karyn's Cooked vegan pizza
Don't cringe at the thought of vegan pizza, my friend; think of it as a learning experience, and a delicious one at that. Karyn Calabrese's whole-wheat vegan pizza comes covered in homemade soy cheese, tomato sauce and good-for-you veggies. It rings in at a pricey $9.50, but whole wheat is a million times better for you than the refined-flour, white-crust pizza. According to, not only is it richer in fiber, protein, minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, it also lowers the incidence of obesity and diseases like cancer and diabetes. Now isn't your health worth the extra bucks?

Trade in greasy tacos for the Triple Taco at Cousin's Incredible Vitality
After Chef Mehmet Ak went through a life-changing detoxification program and lost a ton of weight, he realized that his diet needed to change for good. His new findings inspired him to create a concept entirely different from his first restaurant, a Turkish spot called simply Cousin's. Now you can hunker down with a tasty taco that doesn’t deliver the greasiness associated with your neighborhood taqueria or Taco Bell. Ak serves up his Triple Taco—made with "refried beans" (aka sesame tahini), mango salad, guacamole and Mexican spices—all on a baby romaine serving as the tortilla.

A whole new take on meat, potatoes and gravy at Blind Faith Cafe
Vegetarians swoon over Blind Faith's innovative meatless dishes, but how about meat-eaters looking for healthier options? Even hardcore carnivores will enjoy the cafe's delicious macrobiotic plate, the guilt-free answer to a meat-and-carbs feast. Replacing white rice with brown, regular gravy with shitake gravy, meat with beans and potatoes with butternut squash cuts calories and gives your body a boost of what it really needs. But this is only the beginning: You'll also get your greens with steamed—not fried or sauteed—kale and a sea veggie salad. And did we mention a tasty bowl of not-too-salty miso soup? With food this tasty, you won't even realize how healthy you're being.

Ditch Coco Puffs for uppama at Victory's Banner
You've read this much of the guide, so we're guessing that you are ready to make some serious life changes. Now for the biggest one yet: Toss your sugar-infused cereal for a super-healthy alternative, uppama. Victory's menu claims it's "India's answer to cream of wheat;" the savory hot cereal comes loaded with peas, tomatoes and onions, and served with yogurt and sweet coconut chutney. Not only have you added veggies to breakfast, but you've also managed to avoid the short-lived sugar spike that comes after gorging on many cereals. Not to mention the calm you'll feel inside this airy corner spot instead of the hectic nature of traditional breakfast spots.


Explore More

Bars & Clubs

Brand-New Bars

Brand-New Bars

Get divey on Grace; go downstairs at River North's Curio.

Food & Dining

New Restaurants

New Restaurants

Go Dutch at Vincent and satisfy a familiar sweet tooth at BomBon.

What's Happening Today
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    $10 mimosa bar with brunch purchase, $7 pitchers of sangria and Smirnoff lemonade
  • C-View
    $5 select Goose Island beers
  • Black Rock
    $2.50 bottles of Miller Lite, MGD and High Life, $4 cherry bombs
  • English
    $10 burger and beer (offered on all football and soccer game days)
  • Union Park
    $13 mix-n-match buckets of Sam Adams
  • Cortland's Garage
    $3 Bud and Bud Light, $5 Tito's bloody marys, $13 pitchers of Tito's vodka and lemonade