I’ll admit – I put a lot of effort into being healthy. And although I wouldn’t have it any other way, it is not necessarily easy (or inexpensive) to do so. It takes time to read through every nutrition label, it takes money to buy whole unprocessed food and it takes discipline to get the wilted salad with tasteless tomatoes and lettuce because that’s the only “healthy” option on the menu.
But this year, I got to experience a place that taught me a very important lesson:
There are places in this world that make being healthy EASY.
Where real vegetables are abundant on most menus (and iceberg lettuce is not); gluten-free and vegetarian options are readily available; labels like “grass-fed,” “organic” and “gmo-free” are almost as standard as “diet,” “low-fat,” and “sugar-free;” and there’s more joggers, bikers and cross-trainers on the streets than there are walking pedestrians.
That place is San Francisco. And holy shit. Tony Bennett wasn’t lying. Because I totally left my heart there.
Here is what San Fran is doing for its people:
From the Farmer’s market to the sandwich shop to the convenience store; gluten-free was almost always available. And it wasn’t the crappy sugary processed gluten-free stuff. It was just real food, with more veggies, more protein and without gluten. What a concept.
This made me laugh. This picture was taken at La Boulange. You all might recognize the name from your pink Starbucks coffee cup sleeve. But before they sold out to Starbucks, they were a cute little café and bakery that originated in San Francisco. Just in case you were concerned, they reassure you: They use ONLY organic flour, filtered water and sea salt. Thank GOD.
Juice bars galore
You can’t go a block without running into a seaweed-salad-carrying, vegan baked-good-making, organic juice bar. My body could not get enough of these. If Chicago had as many of these as they have Starbucks, I wonder if we would all have clearer skin and flatter stomachs?
The most beautiful, nutrient-filled, fresh-food, “fast food” chain I have ever seen (AKA Plant Organic)
My first encounter with Plant Organic was at the airport. I didn’t realize that, once inside San Fran, they are EVERYWHERE. This is a good thing. Believe me. The quality of the food and abundance of healthy whole options here beats fancy vegan restaurants I’ve paid twice as much to eat at in Chicago. I got to enjoy this homemade plant burger on the pier while people watching roller-skaters, elderly couples and cute kids as they ate the fresh fruit they just picked up from the Farmer’s Market. Heaven.
Farmer’s markets that will put Chicago’s to shame
Imagine a place where the freshest, greenest and sweetest produce lives in big straw baskets and wooden crates, tended to by enthusiastic growers who know their customers by name. They generously hand out unlimited samples of their tomatoes, nectarines, plums and jam that really do taste like candy. The produce tastes even better than Whole Foods, but it costs half the price. Thirsty? No worries. They’ve got kombucha, wheat grass shots, green juices and lattes made with the creamiest freshest milk you’ve ever tasted. Throw in a few pillowy soft waffles, fresh-berry-filled scones, and crunchy granola for good measure, and you’ve got a San Francisco Farmer’s Market. Boom. Drop the mic.
Constant outdoor activity
It may be a city, but it doesn’t have be an all concrete jungle. Golden Gate Park is, by far, the biggest park I have ever seen. I’m not even sure if park was the right word. More like vast rainforest in the middle of a city. It was filled with people doing yoga and tai chi, jogging and biking, walking their dogs, or just walking and breathing in the gazillion tons of oxygen that emitted from the humongous trees.
On the way back to my hotel, I stopped at a convenience store to pick up a bottle of water. To my surprise, an entire row of my favorite drink – Synergy Kombucha – lined the refrigerator shelf. Kombucha? In a convenient store? What?! Best part, it was only $2.99. That just doesn’t happen. I soon opened my eyes to the other food options in the store and I grew even more excited. Shelves that were normally stocked with Cheetos, Doritos, Little Debbies and Twizzlers, were replaced with Kale Krunch, plantain chips and hummus bowls.
THIS, my friend, is what grocery shopping should be like everywhere. Not just at Whole Foods.
I only hope one day, Chicago (and eventually lesser-developed cities) will catch on. Or maybe I should just move to San Francisco so I can be with my other like-minded crazy health nuts.
Thoughts? Agreements? Arguments? Comment below.