Whether you’re looking to slim your waistline, improve your overall health or just challenge yourself to try something new, veganism, eating gluten-free, raw foodism and the paleolithic diet are all alternative ways of eating that offer various health benefits. And, despite being famous for funeral potatoes, Salt Lake City has many resources and restaurants to make for a simple switch to a new lifestyle choice. As Ian Brandt, owner of three popular vegan restaurants (Sage's Café, Vertical Diner, Café Supernatural), and a local grocery store (Cali’s Natural Foods), notes, “Denver has a population three times Salt Lake City, but does not host a completely vegan restaurant, while Salt Lake City has nine vegan restaurants and cafes.”
Veganism is a diet that excludes the use of any animal products; meat, dairy and, for some vegans, even honey. Many choose veganism because of their compassion for animals, though some also choose to be vegan to reduce their eco-footprint. Eating a vegan diet can also decrease one’s likelihood of getting such diseases as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers, since a well-balanced vegan diet is rich in vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber and low in cholesterol and saturated fats.
Besides a wide variety of vegan restaurants, Salt Lake City boasts two vegan bakeries: City Cakes, which also has gluten-free bread, and Cakewalk, which has vegan goodie baskets for holidays. Food carts are also becoming popular and many local food trucks such as Lewis Bros., Tiffin Bus, The Curryer and Chow Truck have vegan options.
Glad to Be Gluten-Free
Nearly 3 million people in the United States have intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Although people with celiac disease must avoid gluten in order to prevent gastrointestinal problems, many choose a gluten-free diet for health benefits, as going no- or low-gluten can improve digestive health and cholesterol and energy levels.
Asian and Mexican restaurants tend to be good gluten-free choices in general. Gluten-free pizza can often be hard to find, but many of Salt Lake City’s pizzerias, including Pier 49, Litzas Pizza, Spedelli’s Pizza and Vinto, offer gluten-free crusts.
Bakeries with gluten-free options include Sweet Cakes Bake Shop, Eleanor’s Bake Shop and Grain of Hope Bakery. Cleverly named grocery store Against the Grain, as well as Gluten Free Foods, carries a variety of amenities for the gluten intolerant. A free downloadable gluten-free guide can be found at Sprouts Farmers Market, while the Oriental Food Market and Kitchen Kneads both have cheap, gluten-free flours in bulk.
Raw Raw Raw
Eating “raw” consists of consuming only raw foods and foods not heated above 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Proponents of this diet believe that after food is heated above this temperature, it loses the natural enzymes and immune-boosting nutrients needed for optimum health. Many who incorporate more raw foods in their diets notice an increase in overall energy level.
Omar’s Rawtopia is an all-raw-food restaurant with unique dishes such as raw pizza with a sprouted buckwheat, flax and apple crust. Omar Abou-Ismail, the owner, is friendly and always willing to talk to patrons interested in raw foodism. Agi’s Raw Food also has buffet style raw cuisine and is pay by the pound. Other raw options include Sage’s Café, which offers an entirely raw menu on the last Friday of each month, and the raw veggie and fruit juices at Blue Star.
Local farmers markets have a huge variety of produce at low costs, which is important for raw foodists. The Downtown Farmers Market offers the biggest variety of vendors and even has a mostly raw food cart, The Rambling Rose, which serves specialties such as raw peach cobbler.
Also known as the “caveman diet,” the paleolithic diet is based on foods that existed before agriculture introduced the grains and dairy products that have become staples in many human diets.
Many people who go to CrossFit gyms (a high-intensity, multi-sport conditioning brand) follow this diet plan, as it’s recommended by CrossFit trainers who believe that muscle growth is stimulated by eating proteins and that grains only slow the body down. Proponents of the diet say that eating paleo will lower blood pressure and help you lose weight.
Paleo expert Melissa Hartwig, local author of It Starts With Food, says: “Eating Paleo is easy—start with some protein, add lots of veggies and fruit, and round out your taste buds with healthy fats.” The Paleo diet emphasizes fish, grass-fed meats, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and local eggs and excludes grains, beans, dairy products, potatoes, refined salts and sugars and processed oils.
Hartwig recommends local farms such as Christiansen’s, Canyon Meadow Ranch, and Clifford Farms for the best meat and eggs. As part of their Sustainably Farmed Food program, Liberty Heights Fresh also offers a weekly Paleo share basket.