You’re golden Try this healthy alternative to the pumpkin spice latte

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This time of year, it seems like everyone is clutching a hot cup of holiday cheer in latte form. The pumpkin spice latte is a perennially popular choice, but did you know that a certain coffee super-chain’s version packs 49 grams of sugar (that’s 12 teaspoons!) in a grande serving?

We’re keen on a healthier alternative: the Golden Latte ($10) at the all-organic Tonic & Juice Bar at Erewhon Natural Market. While you’ll find it on the menu at the store’s Calabasas location, it’s an “off-menu” item at the Los Angeles location; those in the know ask for it by name.

Drink up this liquid gold for a boost of goodness.

Despite being deliciously foamy, this Ayurvedic tonic actually contains no milk—or, for that matter, coffee. Its golden color comes from two powerhouse herbs: ginger and turmeric. The tonic bar cold-presses these fresh roots and blends them with hot gynostemma tea, ghee (clarified butter that’s low in lactose) and Erewhon’s proprietary chai mix that includes cinnamon, cardamom and clove, lending that satisfying fall spice flavor. Raw coconut oil gives the drink its signature foamy top.

It’s a one-stop-sip for anything that might be ailing you, whether it’s that drippy cold that’s going around or an upset stomach. Ginger, turmeric and gynostemma (a leafy green Asian herb) are all recognized as adaptogens—multi-tasking herbs that help support everything from healthy respiration to smooth digestion. Plus you get healthy fats and antimicrobial action from the ghee and coconut oil. It’s a perfect example of the Tonic Bar’s mission to promote healing with functional foods.

The clean cherry-on-top? The drink is sweetened only with stevia and a touch of raw honey.

Bye-bye, pumpkin spice latte.

Erewhon Natural Foods Market
7660 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles
323-937-0777
www.erewhonmarket.com

Fall’s Green Leaves Pine & Crane's Taiwan-tastic vegetables

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Highs have dropped into the “chilly” 60s, so it’s officially autumn. Ready for some celtuce and a-choy?

Huh?

These fall greens may sound unfamiliar, but they’re staples in Taiwan and now at Silver Lake’s recent arrival Pine & Crane, which serves up seasonal Taiwanese food. Owner Vivian Ku is especially able to spotlight exotic veggies at their peak, because she sources most of the produce from her parents’ Sunfield Farm in Bakersfield, where they’ve been growing pesticide- and fertilizer-free Asian produce for more than 22 years.

The large photograph of a man gently pulling a thin sheet of dough from a machine? Ku’s grandfather, who had a noodle shop in Taiwan.

Picture a super-plump asparagus spear with a mop of floppy green leaves on top and you’ve got celtuce, a potassium- and vitamin C-packed vegetable originating from south China. The crunchy stems—which taste like a cross between celery and asparagus—are where the flavor’s at.

Things get leafier when it comes to a-choy, whose long, romaine-like leaves are pointy enough to have earned it the nickname “sword-leaf lettuce.” Be warned, a-choy has a bit of a bitter kick, but like most dark leafy greens it’s full of vitamins, minerals and disease-fighting phytochemicals.

Ku sautés the celtuce with fresh ginger, soy sauce and wood ear mushrooms, the a-choy in rice wine, garlic, salt and white pepper and serves them as sides ($7.50 to $9.50). You can also buy Sunfield Farm’s produce to cook at home; the restaurant sells limited quantities by the pound.

See? Sunset Triangle Plaza isn’t the greenest thing in the ‘hood anymore.

Pine & Crane
1521 Griffith Park Blvd., LA
323-668-1128
www.pineandcrane.com

The best time to eat butter You can't fake springtime butter

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You can’t fake springtime butter.

In the winter months, dairy farmers keep their cows warm by housing them in barns and feeding them stored food, such as dried hay and grains.

But from late April through September, farmers committed to grass-fed dairy let their cows roam verdant fields and chow down on grass and vegetation. This fresher feed yields milk that is naturally higher in butterfat and beta-carotene than winter milk, resulting in butter that teems with elevated levels of beneficial fatty acids (think conjugated linoleic acid and Omegas 3 and 6) and a rich golden hue.

Spring to it by looking for grass-fed butter at your local farmer’s market or co-op. Below, three of our favorites from around the country:

Everywhere: Like all Organic Valley products, the Pasture Butter (find it in the green-foil wrapper) is produced without the use of antibiotics, growth hormones or pesticides.

California: Seek out Straus Family Creamery European-Style butter. These lucky Golden State cows can spend up to seven months grazing on the sweet grasses of Marin and Sonoma Counties in Northern California.
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Mid-Atlantic: The butter from Trickling Springs Creamery comes in at a whopping 91 to 93 percent butterfat and Celtic sea salt is used exclusively in the salted variety.

Food Talk: Jennifer Esposito

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Do you get bellyaches after eating your favorite pizza or pasta? How about unexplained weight changes, when you haven’t changed your diet? Actress and baker Jennifer Esposito suffered from these symptoms (and others) for years before discovering she has celiac disease. But going gluten-free turned out not to be enough: packaged “gluten-free” foods were still making her ill. So she’s opened Jennifer’s Way Bakery, which is also free of refined sugars, non-GMO and organic. We asked about her diet:

Q. Is it not enough for a gluten-sensitive person to just eat “gluten-free?”

A. Gluten, a protein mostly found in wheat, rye, and barley, is everywhere and in an astonishingly high number of foods, as well as vitamins, drugs, cosmetics and other items in which we come into contact. It’s also important to be aware that even products that claim to be “gluten-free” can be contaminated with microscopic amounts of gluten from another part of the factory or kitchen. Cross-contamination can happen very quickly and easily in restaurants or at markets (organic or not). Fresh meals are being prepared with the intent of being gluten-free but are contaminated during preparation with a knife or cutting board that was exposed to gluten. I keep my bakery safe from all gluten contamination.

Q. Do you have any favorite treats?

A. Some of my favorite treats at the bakery—besides everything—is the fresh baked bread. Yes, you read right—bread that tastes like bread!  Also, I made bagels that sold out in 45 minutes last weekend. But my new banana vegan cupcakes and vegan devil’s food cake cupcakes really make me smile, as well.

Q. Are there any local restaurants and dishes you enjoy?

A. I can’t really say a particular restaurant since I cook for myself a lot. The best advice I can give to a Celiac [sufferer] is take back control and get in the kitchen. Focus on what you can eat and make it delicious with what you can eat. Once you create something for yourself, you will start to feel like the disease doesn’t “have you.” You can still eat well.

Q. Any yummy recipes you can share with us?

A. Yes! Here is a vegan, gluten-, soy- and dairy-free sweet potato scone.

Jennifer Esposito's Healthy Sweet Potato Scone

In this recipe, I decided to use quinoa flour which is a wonderful fiber and wonderful grain—and almond flour because it is full of protein and fiber.

Sweet Potato Scones

Ingredients:

1/2 of 15-oz. can of sweet potato purée
3/4 c. rice milk or other milk (if rice milk, Clean Plates recommends unsweetened)
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 c. almond flour
1/2 c. quinoa flour
1/2 c. brown rice flour
1/2 c. arrowroot starch
3/4 tsp. xanthan gum
1/3 c. grapeseed oil
1/3 c. maple sugar (or can use coconut sugar, date sugar, or lastly brown sugar just has less nutritional value)
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt (Clean Plates recommends sea salt)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. fresh dried vanilla, or 1 tsp. liquid vanilla
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 c. chopped pecans (optional)
1/3 c. maple syrup (for brushing on top of scones)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Whisk together sweet potato, rice milk and lemon juice (if using liquid vanilla, add here). In a separate bowl, combine all flours, starch, xanthan gum, maple sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, vanilla and cloves (and pecans if you choose); whisk out lumps. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine with a wooden spoon. On a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper, drop batter in tablespoons. Place in oven for about 15 to 17 minutes (look for firm texture and/or slightly browned bottoms). After about 11 minutes, or when tops of scones get a bit firm, brush maple syrup over top and then continue to bake.

Jennifer’s Way Bakery
263 E. 10th St., New York, NY 10009
646 682-9501

Food Talk: Raw Food Chef Ani Phyo

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While many of us only recently heard about “raw foodism,” chef, author, and well-being expert Ani Phyo actually grew up eating raw. She’s since built a lifestyle around healthier eating…that isn’t quite like what her parents taught. We asked for her fresh outlook on raw food:

Q. What was your parents’ diet like?

A. My dad would eat a whole raw bell pepper because it was healthy. You know, just blend whatever vegetables are good for you from your organic garden, and it didn’t matter about flavor or color or anything. You just blended whatever was ripe and just drank it down and held your breath. My dad ate this extreme way because of a health issue. He ate raw food to extend his life. It’s what I call “Raw Food 1.0.” Back then, there weren’t any raw food restaurants, and no one considered the combination of foods or plating. It was done completely for health reasons or for moral ones.

Q. What’s different about your raw food style?

A. What I call “Gourmet Raw 2.0″ is more like a food movement. Just because something is raw, it doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily healthy. Some raw food restaurants use too many nuts and don’t worry about food combining. And people that are only eating functional raw foods are actually being so strict that they may be creating more stress—like it’s another form of anorexia. I’m all about longevity, detoxing, community, giving back to others, vitality, fitness. It’s more than just eating a bowl of raw vegetables because it’s good for you.

Q. A lot of people are intimidated by the idea of prepping raw food. Is it very involved?

A. I [teach] Ani’s Raw Food Certification Course – Level One . . .I’m just using a food processor and a blender and that’s it. Super fast and super easy recipes and the complexity is in the plating. You can make a dressing and water it down to make a soup, or make a smoothie and using less water, you can make a creme. A handful of ingredients can be handled and blended in different ways to create complexity on the plate. (Scroll down for recipes!)

Q. Where do you go to eat?

A. I love Whole Foods‘ salad bar. They have good quinoa salads with different vegetables and they have undressed greens and organic wild mixes, spring mix and spinach and stuff like that. Today, I’ll grab a kombucha, probiotics (Bio-K) and an organic green salad topped with roasted beets—not everything they have in the salad bar is raw, obviously.

I love Juliano’s Planet Raw in Santa Monica, especially their Medicinal Salad. LifeFood Organic in Hollywood I love, too. They have a great burger made out of mushroom. I also love this place called Moon Juice in Venice where they have fresh vegetable juices.

Q. Do you have any yummy recipes you can share with us?

A. Yes! This is a raw BLT sandwich made from sunflower bread, aioli mayonnaise and coconut bacon. (Recipe courtesy of Ani Phyo and Da Capo Press, from Ani’s Raw Food Essentials.)

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Makes 9 servings

“This hearty yet soft bread is made with sunflower seeds, flax meal, and celery.”

1 1⁄2 c. chopped celery
3 Tbsp. sunflower seeds
1 1⁄2 c. flax meal
1 to 1 1⁄4 c. water, as needed

Place the celery in a food processor and process into small pieces. Add the sunflower seeds and process into small pieces. Add the flax meal and water, and mix well, using only enough water to make a spreadable batter.

Spread the batter evenly on one 14-inch-square lined Excalibur Dehydrator tray. Dehydrate for 4 hours at 104°F degrees. Flip and peel off the ParaFlexx, then place back on the liner and score into nine slices with a butter knife. Be careful not to cut through the mesh. Dehydrate for another 2 to 4 hours, or to desired consistency.

Aioli Mayonnaise

Makes 1 cup

“This creamy, rich, smooth mayonnaise with a garlic kick can be used in sandwiches, burgers, and wraps—you won’t even miss the version full of animal products!”

1 c. macadamia, cashew, and/or pine nuts
3⁄4 c. filtered water, or as needed
1 tsp. minced garlic, or to taste
1⁄2 tsp. sea salt

Blend all ingredients into a smooth mayonnaise, adding more water as needed to produce your desired consistency.

Store for 4 to 5 days in a tightly lidded glass jar in the fridge.

Coconut Bacon

Makes 4 servings

“Thai baby coconut is a favorite raw food for its electrolyte-rich living water. Plus, the inside of each coconut is lined with the coconut meat used to make this recipe. The thickness of each coconut’s meat varies from thinner, more translucent in color, and gelatinous in consistency to harder, whiter, and thicker—sometimes up to ¼-inch thick. The thicker meats make for better bacon, only because it shrinks a lot during dehydration. Adding a few drops of liquid smoke will give your bacon a barbecue flavor.”

2 c. coconut meat (from 3 to 4 Thai baby coconuts)
3 Tbsp. Nama Shoyu or Bragg Liquid Aminos
2 Tbsp. olive oil
a few drops of liquid smoke flavoring (optional)

When scraping the meat out of your coconuts, try to keep pieces as large as possible. Clean the meat by running your fingers over its surface, picking off any pieces of hard husk. Rinse with filtered water as a last step, and drain well.

Place the coconut meat in a mixing bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Toss to mix well. Lay the meat in a single layer on two 14-inch square Excalibur Dehydrator trays.

Dehydrate for 6 to 8 hours at 104°F. The length of time will depend on how thick your coconut meat is. Check it and dry it to your liking. Don’t overdehydrate, because the more you dry it, the more it will shrink, and you’ll be left with only a small amount of bacon.

Options: Replace the smoke flavor with herbs and spices to make different flavors. Try chipotle powder, garlic, dill, or oregano.

Check out Ani’s Raw Food Certification Courses or join Ani online on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

5 Food Freebies

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Whether you’re low on dough or just enjoy a good bargain, it’s fun to get something for nothing. We’ve foraged the web for five freebies that will inspire you to eat cleaner.

  1. An Apple a Day. Roger Ebert called it “a film that could save your life.” If you missed the widely popular documentary Forks Over Knives, now is your chance to watch it at home. We always recommend bio-individuality (there’s no one “right” diet), but it’s inspiring to see how a plant-based diet works for the MDs and patients in this film.
  2. The Kind Diet. Want to be sure your milk is hormone-free, and that the cows who supplied it are treated fairly? With the Certified Humane app, you can locate stores and restaurants in your area selling food from animals with the space, shelter, nutrition and care they need. Plus, foods with the Certified Humane label contain no antibiotics or hormones.
  3. Sweet Relief. Admit it: you sometimes crave sugar. Next time you need a fix, here’s a nutrition-packed treat that will leave you feeling satisfied, rather than empty and craving more. Our Chocolaty Superfoods Smoothie recipe, from the new Clean Plates Cookbook, is packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and just the right amount of chocolate.
  4. Spice it Up. Did you know that spices can fire up your health as well as your food? Watch this cooking demo using organic spices, and whip up a rich, vegetable curry flavored with homemade garam masala (we recommend using organic produce, sea salt, and either ghee, coconut or grapeseed oil).
  5. An App a Day. Ever find yourself in a new neighborhood, hungry, tired and wishing for something other than donut shops and cheap burger joints? Recharge the right way with the Clean Plates app, a handy iPhone app that allows you to find the healthiest restaurants nearby (available for NYC, LA and Austin).

Feel free.

Money image by TaxCredits.net

Dear Clean Plates: How Can I Prepare Beans to Avoid Discomfort?

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Dear Clean Plates,

I recently read a study saying that women who ate four or more servings of beans per week were 33% less likely to develop colon cancer. The good news: I love beans! The bad news: I don’t love their, er, side effects. Is there any way for me to prepare legumes that won’t cause intestinal distress?

Thanks,
Bummed About Beans

Dear Bummed,

Not only do beans help prevent colon cancer, but they can also decrease the risk of heart disease. So yes, they’re important, but we understand your concern. Here are a few techniques to reduce the chances of post-legume discomfort:

Soak ‘em. Beans should be cleaned, rinsed and soaked in cold or warm water during preparation—soaking helps release oligosaccharides, which cause gas. (Soaking also reduces cooking time, which preserves more nutrients.) Soaking times vary (chickpeas, for example, should be soaked overnight), but the beans should swell to at least double their size. Use a 1:3, bean:water ratio.

Cook ‘em: Before cooking, strain the soaked beans and discard the used water, since it still contains some of the gas-inducing compounds. Cook the beans in fresh water, which will again loosen the skin and release gaseous chemicals. Simmer until tender.

Flavor ‘em: Avoid salt while cooking (or beans won’t soften properly), but add spices to help reduce intestinal distress. Bay leaf, dill and cilantro have been known to help, as well as cinnamon, cumin, ginger, oregano, fennel and lemongrass.

Finally, drinking water helps aid digestion, as does regular exercise. If it’s been a while since you’ve eaten beans, your body may take some time to adjust. But follow these tips, and discomfort will be a has-bean.

Photo by Max F. Williams

Dear Clean Plates: Why Do I Get MSG Reactions from MSG-Free Food?

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Dear Clean Plates,

I know that not everyone reacts to MSG, but I’m one of the unlucky ones. My nose, chin and cheeks flush, I get lightheaded, and my throat tightens. Even when the label doesn’t list monosodium glutamate, I sometimes get the unmistakable reaction. It’s even happened to me at a restaurant that claims not to use MSG. Why is this, and how can I avoid it?

Thanks,
Red in the Face

Dear Red,

The frustrating truth is that although the FDA requires that monosodium glutamate (MSG) be listed on product labels when added to food, processed free glutamic acid—a.k.a. MSG—is usually a component of another ingredient, and therefore doesn’t have to be labeled.

Discovered in Japan in 1908,  MSG was originally created by extracting glutamic acid (an amino acid) from seaweed, as a way to bring out savory, “umami” flavor. The US began producing it in large quantities during the 1950s, and today, up to 50% of Americans may be sensitive to it. For some, all it takes is a small amount, while others won’t be affected unless they have an MSG-saturated meal. Sufferers describe headaches, flushing, sweating, facial pressure or tightness, numbness, heart palpitations, chest pain, nausea, weakness, and tingling or burning in the face, neck and other areas.

To avoid it, you’ll also need to steer clear of additives containing MSG. These include hydrolyzed protein, textured protein, plant protein extract, sodium caseinate, hydrolyzed plant protein, yeast extract, autolyzed yeast, calcium caseinate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, and hydrolyzed oat flour. Additives that often contain MSG include malt extract, malt stock, “flavoring,” “spices,” “seasoning,” bouillon broth, and “natural flavoring.” Plus, some food ingredients, such as malted barley, may not contain processed glutamic acid on their own, but when added to certain proteins during processing, they do. Glutamic acid also appears naturally in some whole foods such as tomatoes and mushrooms, but reactions aren’t usually noted.

Though there isn’t a definitive study proving that MSG is unsafe, some researchers claim associations with of a host of diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s.

Trust your body, and if you feel any sensitivity when eating certain foods, always be mindful of the ingredients you are consuming. And remember that the more whole, unprocessed foods you choose, the easier it will be to avoid MSG.

Photo by Andrea Nguyen

Budget Bites: dineLA Restaurant Week

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We get it: January can be a little rough on your wallet. In the aftermath of holiday shopping, there’s not a lot of room to splurge on quality dining.

Enter dineLA’s Restaurant Week, January 21 – February 1, when Angelenos can indulge in prix fixe lunches and dinners at some of LA’s finest eateries, for a fraction of the price. The following Restaurant Week recommendations have all earned the coveted Clean Plates seal (awarded to restaurants that promote healthy, sustainable ingredients, and have undergone an extensive chef’s survey and a nutritionist’s audit):

  • Akasha: Organic cuisine defines this Culver City spot, where New American comfort food is made with sustainable ingredients. Try: 1st course – Coastal organic lettuce and flying disk ranch dates with goat cheese, sunflower seeds and balsamic vinaigrette; 2nd course – Farro spaghetti with roasted cauliflower and a side of market broccoli; Dessert – Pink peppercorn pavlova with Greek yogurt, passionfruit curd and blood oranges. Dinner $35
  • Craft: Tom Colicchio’s downtown gourmet outpost is serving up organic meat for the conscientious omnivore. Try: 1st course – Winter greens with citrus and fennel; 2nd course – Beef flat iron with butterball potatoes and shishito peppers; Dessert – Honey pine nut bomb, spiced pear and rosemary. Lunch $25, Dinner $45
  • Culina: The upscale Italian eatery in Beverly Hills is offering an affordable experience for lunch and dinner – so you, too, can dine like a starlet. Try: Antipasti – Culina Caesar with Tuscan kale, romaine, black olive croutons and lemon anchovy vinaigrette; Primi – Tagliatelle pasta with roasted woods ear mushrooms; Secondi – Lemon pepper risotto with seared scallops and basil; Dolci – Rice pudding mousse with fresh berries. Lunch $25, Dinner $45
  • Red O: Rick Bayless’ trendy Mexican hot spot features a pescetarian-friendly Restaurant Week menu. Try: 1st course – Red O Salad with wild arugula, baby mustard greens, grilled pears and apples, Oaxacan pasilla vinaigrette and manchengo cheese; 2nd course – Wood-grilled Mazatian Blue Shrimp with slow-cooked garlic, Bloomsdale spinach, rice and sweet plantains; Dessert – Churros, Mexican chocolate torta and creamy goat cheese cheesecake. Dinner $45

Dine and dash this is not. But with LA’s finest eating establishments suddenly wallet-friendly, it almost feels like getting away with a steal.

Food Talk: Harley Pasternak

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He’s made Halle Berry, Lady Gaga and Robert Pattinson look great—and not just on the outside. We asked LA-based celebrity trainer and nutritional expert Harley Pasternak to share his A-list dietary advice.

Q. How did you arrive at your current food philosophy?

A. I have a Masters in nutrition, was a nutritional scientist for the Department of National Defense, and both my brothers have Type 1 diabetes. In private practice, I have visited the ten healthiest countries in the world (and discuss it in my book, The 5-Factor World Diet).

And I’ve found a million things. People in Sweden eat sandwiches with only one piece of bread and they practice lagom, which means they stop eating when they’re about 70% full. Same in Japan—the Japanese practice hara hachi bunme which means they eat only until 80% full. They use chopsticks in certain countries, which means you can’t shovel food down as quickly. They have multiple courses, like in France, so meals take longer. Italians take walks after dinner—it’s called a passeggiata. They eat a lot of different ingredients in many countries in a way that we don’t here. For example, in the bread in Sweden you can actually see the grains. Many countries use pickling in a way that we don’t, from Korea and kimchi to the ceviche styles of Spain.

Q. How do you recommend people eat?

A. People should eat five times per day—three meals and two snacks—which contain a low fat protein, a healthy carb, fiber, healthy fat and a calorie-free beverage. Low fat protein [can be] anything from fish, seafood, egg whites, Greek yogurt, poultry, beans, legumes. Healthy carbs: whole grains, quinoa, oats, wild rice, vegetables, fruits, fiber. Healthy fat: from olive oil to avocados to fish oil. Calorie-free beverage: sparkling water, tea.

My new book coming out soon, called The Body Reset Diet, is a 15-day reset for your appetite, metabolism, palate and digestion.

Q. Is it another liquid cleanse?

A. Absolutely not. There is a glaring ignorance about how the human body functions and complete absence of science and/or evidence-based knowledge when it comes to cleansing or fasting. The human body is so resilient—we replace every cell of our intestinal lining every 90 days, we replace all of our red blood cells every 30 days. Cleanses tend to eliminate essential food groups and nutrients. They can do a lot of damage to your metabolism, your palate, your energy levels and your mood. No one in the field would ever condone a cleanse unless you’re Jewish and fasting for Yom Kippur.

Q. Are there restaurants in LA that work with your food philosophy?

A. Toast Café does an incredible egg white burrito with black beans and avocado. Kings Road Café has amazing huevos rancheros. Hugo’s has a traditional Moroccan dish called tagine that I like. The shrimp pho at 9021PHO is great. And Amici’s has a delicious herb crusted salmon on a bed of lentils.

Q. How do you define “healthy and fit” with your clients?

A. If you feel good and look good, that’s all that matters. Doesn’t matter what the scale says.

Find more restaurant reviews here!