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Tasty Resolutions for Chicago in 2020

Are you one of the many people making the New Year’s resolution to eat healthier in 2020? Whether you’re adapting to a brand new diet or just cutting back on the late-night sweets, watching what you eat can be a challenge. To help you get a jump start on your resolution, we asked Chicago’s top health-focused chefs and restaurateurs about their own commitments and how they incorporate health-forward offerings at their restaurants. After all, eating healthy is a whole lot easier when someone else does the cooking.

Chicago Raw {multiple locations}

There is no better way to kick off 2020 on the right foot than with a meal from Chicago Raw, the health-forward café serving freshly prepared raw vegan food to-go. Choose from a plethora of delicious menu options like superfood smoothies, veggie-packed entrées, and açaí bowls. Raw even sells its most popular specialty items like Kale Chips and Coconut Macaroons in convenient snack-size packages so you can stock up on all your favorites. When asked about her 2020 outlook, Raw Co-Owner Margo Gaza had some truly inspirational words to share: “The food we feed ourselves is the energy we have. Eat more living, plant-based foods to feel alive and your energy will be contagious!”

Brightwok Kitchen {21 East Adams Street, 312.583.0729 and 631 North State Street, 312.366.2999}

Fast-casual Asian restaurant Brightwok Kitchen is passionate about making everything from scratch to ensure they are serving clean, healthy, and flavorful food to their guests, says Director of Sales Giuseppe Infusino. At Brightwok Kitchen, they believe that eating a veggie-forward diet is the way to go, which is why the menu is 100% gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan-friendly. Pick out any dish at random — like the Umami Mushroom Bowl, Dreamy Tahini Ginger Salad, or Loaded Sweet Potato Fritters — and it is guaranteed to be bursting with big flavor and nutritious as well.

LYFE Kitchen {multiple locations}

According to LYFE’s Director of Marketing and Sales, Emily Paulsen, the excitement of the New Year can sometimes lead to big goals that feel daunting and frustrating by January 31. Thankfully, LYFE Kitchen is here to stop those feelings from taking over by being your neighborhood spot for balanced dining all year long. Offering healthy options like Cauliflower Grilled Cheese, Roasted Mushroom Ricotta Flatbread, and the Ancient Grains and Salmon Bowl, LYFE promises something delicious for everyone to enjoy — without the guilt.

Althea {700 North Michigan Avenue; 312.525.3400}

Ever since vegan restaurant Althea’s opening on Michigan Avenue one year ago, Chef Matthew Kenney has become what some would call a local authority on healthy eating in Chicago.

“Quick fixes and fads come and go, but eating lots of unprocessed, whole plant foods is a time-tested and proven way to feel better and more energized,” Kenney says. Sticking to a healthy diet can seem like a daunting task at times, but Kenney believes that it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing. “Even switching up one meal a day to something vegan will positively impact your sense of well-being,” he says. Althea certainly has you covered for that daily meal with vibrant and nourishing dishes like the Kelp Noodle Cacio e Pepe and the Plant Bowl.

Beatrix {multiple locations}

“It’s important to find the right balance between what is good for you and what makes you feel good,” says Beatrix Executive Partner and Divisional President Marc Jacobs. “I think Beatrix provides just that.”

This motto goes hand-in-hand with the casual and friendly atmosphere of Beatrix’s multiple locations throughout Chicagoland where guests not only have a good time, but enjoy good-for-you food. Yes, Beatrix has a handful of healthy meets delicious specials that are unquestionably healthy, but go ahead and order what makes you feel good, too – like their signature Chocolate Chunk Cookie. All things in moderation, right?

Graze {648 North Clark Street, 312.944.3333 and 1632 West Division Street, 773.904.8722}

Yes, the menu at this plant-based café is entirely dairy, meat, and gluten-free, but that doesn’t mean free of flavor. From protein shakes to superfood salads, every item at Graze is nutritious and delicious – and beautiful. For those individuals starting 2020 with a healthy goal in mind, Owner Mason Edelson suggests Graze’s famous Açaí Pt. 2 Bowl, a thick blended base of organic açaí, banana, and blueberry, topped with creamy almond butter, fresh fruit, and a ton of superfoods. Join the rest of Chicago and seize your New Year’s goals at Graze.

The Table at Crate {35 Oakbrook Center; 630.590.9444}

Crate and Barrel’s first-ever full-service restaurant opened in 2019 at the Oakbrook Center. The Table at Crate was originally designed to showcase the company’s various kitchen products in action, but has since made a name for itself as a modern, vegetable-focused eatery that just happens to be in the middle of a furniture store. When designing the menu, Chef/Partner Bill Kim (who is dairy-free) drew inspiration from how he and his wife Yvonne (who is gluten-free) eat at home to accommodate their different dietary restrictions. As a result, The Table features plant-based dishes that are herbaceous and light, making it a “must” experience whether you’re on a diet or not.

Ingrained {108 West Chicago Avenue, Chicago}

Sydney Verwilst, founder of Ingrained, a vegan and gluten-free health foods bar, is on a mission to implement healthy versions of nostalgic favorites while maintaining a commitment to functional and mindful food. Ingrained specializes in adaptogenic blends, which are herbs and superfood powders that help restore your body’s vitality, immunity, and hormone balance. These blends can be found in Ingrained’s daily-changing menu of protein truffles, granola, tonics, and baked goods – all 100% vegan and gluten-free. For 2020, Verwilst is looking forward to reaching more customers by expanding the shop and its ethos into the broader Chicago area, because, as she says, “When you know better, you do better.”

Kurah Mediterranean {1355 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago; 312.624.8611}

One of the most important rules when it comes to keeping a healthy diet is moderation – but that can be difficult to follow when portions are decided for you at restaurants. At Kurah Mediterranean in the South Loop, the tapas-style plates allow you to be in control of your own servings. Specializing in elevated Middle Eastern dishes like Stuffed Eggplant, Grilled Kebabs, and Falafel, Kurah delivers traditional flavors in an open setting. So invite your friends and sample Kurah’s cuisine together; just remember you can always take home leftovers.

Roots Handmade Pizza {multiple locations}

According to Roots Handmade Pizza Founder Scott Weiner, the most important thing when it comes to following a healthy diet is that you’re eating wholesome ingredients from the best possible sources. Not only does Roots have some of the best healthful pizzas and salads in the city, but they also make sure to include menu options that feature both vegetarian and meat-based proteins that won’t leave you hungry.

And as for Roots’s 2020 plan? Scott is looking forward to introducing more healthy and wholesome options while maintaining the standard set by Roots’s original menu. “Health doesn’t have to mean boring,” he says, which we’ll take to mean that we can still eat pizza on a diet.

Eat Purely

Make 2020 the year of new experiences by ordering from Chicago’s healthy meal delivery service, Eat Purely. Just like a restaurant takeout service, Eat Purely delivers on-demand chilled meals that are fresh and ready to eat. Chef-made and prepared with wholesome ingredients you would cook at home, Eat Purely dishes have quickly become some of Chicago’s faves, making the concept a top-performing start-up. Now you don’t even need to leave your house to eat healthily – order dishes like the Pan-Seared Chicken Breast with polenta and the Grilled Cauliflower Steak with pistachios right from your phone.

Texas de Brazil {201 East Upper Illinois Street, Chicago; 312.595.0913}

We know what you’re thinking – steak as part of a healthy diet? Well, according to Texas de Brazil Corporate Executive Chef David Castro, “Moderation and variation are the keys to living a well-balanced life.” As an upscale Brazilian steakhouse, Texas de Brazil is famous for its mouthwatering tableside carved meats, but they also have plenty of wholesome options, many of which can be found at the extensive salad bar. When creating your own salad, Chef Castro’s recommends the bell peppers — which are packed full of antioxidants — folate-rich asparagus, and salmon. Going into the New Year, Chef Castro has just one piece of advice when it comes to healthy eating: “Focus on balancing out the good and bad habits and not going overboard in one direction or another.”

By Audrey Rompon