As I sip my decaf coffee with a splash of soy milk outside my favorite portable office, the Buzz Bakery and coffee shop, I reflect on how difficult it is to find healthy and tasty vegan foods away from my own kitchen. I think about this a lot actually.
Vegetarians and vegans can find a surprisingly vast amount of foods in restaurants and shops, but most of it is ladened with fats, sweeteners, and chemicals. I used to think that the unhealthy food issue was limited to us non-animal eaters, but I now believe it to be a systemic problem.
In the April 2012 Washingtonian Magazine, food-critic Todd Kliman answers this reader question: “Our country is facing a health crisis. Why aren’t many chefs changing their menus to reflect that?” Great question Reader! I want to know the answer too.
Here’s what Todd replied:
“Restaurant food isn’t constructed to be eaten four times a week — it’s constructed to be an indulgence. The problem is that people eat out more than ever. I suppose chefs could make a symbolic stand by lightening their dishes and making them less decadent. But would that really have an influence?
“Chefs are generally wary of making their food lighter. Even Italian chefs, such proponents of using olive oil, slather on butter to give dishes a finishing richness. They’re not much concerned with people’s diets. They’re concerned with getting people in the door and keeping them coming back.”
Because of my generally incredibly healthy diet as well as the fact that I no longer have a gallbladder and only have half a pancreas, when I eat something with too much fat in it, I immediately feel uncomfortable and sometimes even quite nauseous. And nine out of ten times when I eat food prepared outside of my own kitchen, I feel pretty lousy. My social life suffers because of it. I’d love to join friends for dinner at a restaurant, but I can only do so if I’m prepared to feel crummy afterwards.
There are two places in the DC metro area where I’m guaranteed a tasty meal that won’t make me feel sick: the healthy Indian food truck Rolls on Rolls and the chain Le Pain Quotidien. If I can find others I plan to start a running list on this site — part healthy food honor roll/part information for people who want to eat well.
I wonder if we’re approaching a tipping point in America. Will we as a nation become so unhealthy that even the most gluttonous will discover the need to eat healthier foods and choose home-cooked produce over butter-ladened foie gras? The cynic in me says Never! But as Rolls on Rolls and Le Pain Quotidien seem to have loyal followings, perhaps the market for healthy eating is brightening. A girl can dream.