The Vegan’s Guide to Chipotle

I haven’t eaten fast food since I was a kid. As I got on my health conscious path that kind of stuff just appealed to me less and less (even before I was the weirdo Kombucha brewing vegan that I am today…)

But when I got to college, and was faced with the challenge of living in a rural farm town with a measly five blocks of chain restaurants and retail stores, I discovered something wonderful, I discovered Chipotle.

The argument of whether Chipotle can be considered a “fast food” restaurant is longer than time, but Chipotle’s commitment to sourcing the most sustainable and local ingredients possible makes me believe they know what they are doing.

These days, as I have become more in tune with my body and how different foods effect it, I usually judge a restaurant by how I feel 30 minutes after I’m done eating. After eating Chipotle, I feel light on my feet, not bloated or weighted down, satisfied and happy.

Some may give Chipotle flack for using soybean oil to cook their vegetables or being too high in sodium, but there’s not many restaurants out there that can provide me with a quick, cheap, relatively healthy vegan meal that I feel great eating.

Of course what I have gotten over the course of my love affair with Chipotle has changed since becoming vegan, but here is my go-to basic Chipotle order:

“May I please have a salad with…”

Shredded lettuce

Chipotle_Mexican_Grill__Romaine_Lettuce_salad_754765_i0This is a Gray Eats Green insider secret. Ask them to use the taco lettuce instead of the usual salad lettuce. It’s the exact same romaine, just chopped up so you don’t have to do the work. I recommend starting with a salad base instead of rice so you make sure to get your greens in.

Brown rice

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Now we add the brown rice. Brown rice is like white rice’s healthy, unrefined brother, the grain still has its bran and hull intact. Be sure not to ignore complex carbs, as they are full of fiber, vitamins, minerals and nutrients. Chipotle adds cilantro and lime so they’re healthy and delicious.

Both beans (black and pinto)

1378484723_1Beans are my favorite vegan protein source and high in a ton of nutrients, and Chipotle just happens makes some of the best beans of all time. Choose one or choose them both, the pintos used to be cooked with bacon but as of 2013 they are 100% vegan.

Fajita veggies 

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Sautéed peppers and onions add a nice crunch and some color. While sometimes scrutinized for being sautéed in soybean oil, they are a much better option than the meat toppings so I tend to let this slide.

Mild salad a.k.a. “pico de gallo” 

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Made from tomatoes, red onion, jalepeño, cilantro, and lime, this classic, chunky mild tomato salsa is a great way to add some raw veggies to your Chipotle bowl. Sometimes I even ask for an extra scoop.

Corn salsa

17I always get corn for a sweetness and color boost. Some people may claim corn is too high in carbs. But I say, pile on the vegetables.

Hot salsa 

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Did you know spicy foods are said to speed up your metabolism? I love spicy foods and Chipotle’s hot sauce  definitely adds a great kick to my meal.

Guacamole 

Chipotle_Mexican_Grill_Guacamole_754603_i0Avocados are my favorite source of “good fat.” Loaded with fiber and nutrients, avocados are a great way to get a dose of healthy fats. And who doesn’t love guacamole? Especially Chipotle’s guacamole. I always get mine on the side on the side.

Optional: 

Sofritas 

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If I’m in a city where it’s offered, I get the “Sofritas;” shredded organic tofu braised with chipotle chills, roasted poblanos and a blend of aromatic spices.

“…I’ll have a cup for water. Thank you so much, have a great day!”

And there you have it, the official Gray Eats Green Chipotle order.

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Even though I get a salad,  I skip the Honey Cumin Vinaigrette. Not because I don’t eat honey, because I do, despite the fact that it is not officially vegan. I just don’t need the extra added oil, I get my dose of healthy fats from the guacamole and all of the salsas add so much flavor. I also love the chipotle flavored Tabasco sauce that’s offered at the drink stand, it adds a great smokey flavor and a nice kick.

Over all, I think Chipotle is an excellent once-in-a-while option for time, budget and health conscious vegans!

Restaurant Review: Hu Kitchen

When I travel to different cities, I love experiencing their health food scenes. New York was recently name the Most Vegan Friendly City by MindBodyGreen. So while in this health food mecca on some interviews and to visit my sister, I couldn’t help but do some health food exploring.

Between its popularity in the health food blog and social media world, friend’s recommendations and my own research, Hu Kitchen has been on my “list” for a long time. Hu Kitchen’s mission is to “get back to human,” the way people ate before the large processed food industry took over. Hu emphasizes unprocessed foods, minimal grains, natural sweeteners, healthy fats and lots of vegetables, as well as non-GMO, grass-fed and organic meat. With a cross-fit gym right down the street and bulletproof coffee featured on the menu (coffee with grass-fed butter and coconut oil), it appears as if Hu targets a largely paleo crowd, but there was still plenty of veggie options on the menu.

I am sure my fellow healthy foodies out there know the feeling when you walk into an awesome health-food restaurant, market or store. I’ve recently dubbed this feeling as “healthfoodgasm.” This was definitely the feeling I got when I walked into Hu Kitchen.

First of all, the physical restaurant was awesome. The decor was cool, natural and rustic, there was a coffee, juice and smoothie bar, KOMBUCHA ON TAP, different food stations, a little market place with Hu snacks and desserts, and awesome café style seating upstairs with wifi and outlets.

There was plenty of prepared food options, but I definitely wanted to try something hot and fresh for my first experience. I decided on a bowl, where I choose the root vegetable mash base, the wild mushroom medley topping and finely chopped vegetables and cilantro for garnish. The bowl was served with a small grain-free Hu bread.

After paying for my meal and sitting down at the bar to eat it, I sampled the three types of Kombucha on tap, Lemon Drop, Blueberry Cinnamon and Jasmine. I decided upon the Jasmine and they served it to me in a clear glass, mason-jar style mug. For a Kombucha and mason jar aficionado, this was like a dream come true.

There was also various taps of “5-Stage Ultra Filtered Water” to fill your own glass from. As a big water drinker, I absolutely loved this.

My bowl was truly delicious. The flavors, textures and portion size were precisely on point. And of course, nothing is better than drinking Kombucha straight from the tap. After I finished my bowl, I headed upstairs with my Kombucha to take advantage of the wifi in between interviews.

Overall, I loved my experience at Hu Kitchen. The food was delicious, the vibe was awesome and its so great to dine amongst and be served by like-minded individuals. I will definitely be returning to Hu Kitchen upon my next visit to NYC!

Day 1: Inn Season Café

It took a few days to start my 21-days-in-a-row blogging challenge, but here we go with day one.

Today I had lunch with one of my fellow healthy foodie friends at one of my favorite vegan/vegetarian restaurants in town, Inn Season Café. This little spot in Royal Oak, Michigan has been around since the 1980s. It’s still one of the few vegetarian restaurants around.

Since going vegan, this is my second time dining at Inn Season. The menu is awesome and extensive with so many great options that it’s hard to choose. I loved what I had so much the first time I was there this summer, that I decided to order it again! I went with the Macro Combo; which is a huge platter of brown rice, steamed kale, sea vegetable, and your chose of tofu, tempeh or adzuki beans (chose tempeh) served with coleslaw and shiitake-miso sauce (which I subbed tahini dressing for.)

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Once again, the Macro combo did not disappoint. The tempeh is perfectly crusted with garlic and herbs, the brown rice is some of the best I’ve tasted in my life and where can I buy that sea-vegetable!? As our waitress said, “this is our healthiest dish, but certainty does not lack flavor.” The café has such an awesome vibe. The staff is friendly (unlike many vegan places around town) and knows their stuff!

This plate got me interested in the concept of macrobiotics, exactly what “macro” means and how to make my own macro plate so I’ve been doing some research. I found a couple macro bowls that I’d like to make myself so perhaps I’ll make one within the next week or so.

Until next time!