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January 19, 2017

Philly chef Rich Landau's advice for eating more plants in the new year

Landau and his wife, Kate Jacoby, co-own Philadelphia restaurants Vedge, V Street and Wiz Kid


The start of a new year can bring about a renewed focus on health and a desire to overhaul our diets. But incorporating new and unfamiliar foods into our daily eating regimen can be intimidating.

To guide you toward success and help you navigate the sometimes daunting produce aisle, we asked Philadelphia’s renowned and award-winning plant-based chef Rich Landau to weigh in on where or how to begin building a diet involving more food that grows in dirt.

Landau and his wife, Kate Jacoby, are the co-owners and chefs at Philadelphia restaurants Vedge, V Street and Wiz Kid, the latter of which recently opened its first location as a stand set up in the Whole Foods Market at 22nd and Pennsylvania Avenue. The two will open a second Wiz Kid, this one a bit bigger, next to their V Street casual eatery in Rittenhouse sometime soon. As of now, the anticipated opening is next month.

Landau's main advice to lean closer to a veg-centric diet: 

Drop the rules and labels and just do as much as you can.

“Do everything you can do without feeling any pressure whatsoever,” Landau says, adding that labeling yourself under a certain diet, like vegetarian or vegan, can backfire with a single slip-up. 

Instead, he advises taking a more relaxed approach. For example, he suggests buying and trying just one unfamiliar grocery store find per trip, like an exotic vegetable or plant protein (think tofu, tempeh or seitan) you're not used to eating regularly.

What he sees and hears from friends who go crazy with buying a bunch of unfamiliar food items is that they often sit in the pantry or, worse, go to waste.

What should go in your shopping cart now?

Root vegetables and citrus fruits are good choices in the winter months, Landau says.

Landau recommends picking up a rutabaga, in particular. He says the winter root vegetable is gaining a lot of attention right now and is one that he endorses as both good for you and fun for culinary exploration. 

Landau also advises taking the simplest approach to eating and cooking with seasonal vegetables, which is to eat them raw when possible or roasted with a bit of oil and simple seasonings. 

There's a recipe for a shaved rutabaga salad in his and his wife's cookbook, "Vedge: 100 Plates Large and Small That Redefine Vegetable Cooking."

Why move toward a veg-friendly diet?

Landau and Jacoby are proponents for eating a plant-based diet for a variety of reasons: for the benefits to animals, the earth and for our health, which Landau recently discussed in great detail on the documentary series "Prescription Nutrition."

Landau noted a recent report that claims that for the first time in two centuries, the current generation of children in America may have shorter life expectancies than their parents, and obesity is reportedly to blame.

The answer, he believes, is to eat more veggies.

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