By Andrea Steedman
There are seeds of change sprouting up around the country, and even the world. People are no longer content to eat whatever is offered, whatever their neighbor is eating and they are making choices based on what they think is best for themselves. In some cases, the reasons are old, but more and more accepted and celebrated, like kosher and halal. In other cases, they are responses to diseases that are growing in numbers, as in the cases of diabetic diets, lactose intolerance and gluten-free diets. And in some cases they are choices made for ethical reasons or health-based reasons, as is the case with organic choices, vegetarianism, raw and macrobiotic diets and even veganism.
Like any change, this one is moving more quickly in some areas than others, but these trends have become so big no corner of the country is safe, and the Inland Empire is no exception. People no longer have to order ingredients online and cook at home all the time to enjoy their dietary preferences, and we’re going to show just how easy it is to have an alternative diet in the IE today.
Clare Albarado, general manager of La Sierra Natural Foods in Riverside says, “the most common lifestyles in the IE tend to be gluten-free and vegetarian, but that many people have adopted ‘Meatless Mondays’ or other healthy eating patterns throughout their week, following mounting scientific evidence that indicates the healthfulness of whole foods, plant based meals.”
As more and more people turn to these dietary choices to cure diseases, honor their religious beliefs, or live in accordance with their ethical beliefs, the market for these products will grow. Hopefully entrepreneurs in the Inland Empire will realize this market is growing and will offer more options for people with dietary preferences that diverge from the mainstream.
So, what are all these diets?
- Kosher and halal are probably the best known, simply because they are the oldest. Kosher, or kashrut, refers to the religious law of Judaism. Those who practice the faith (not all Jews keep kosher) often find it difficult to keep kosher because finding kosher certified as kosher can be a challenge. The laws for eating a kosher diet include not eating certain types of “unclean” animals such as shellfish and pork, certain combinations such as dairy and fish, as well as limiting the way the food is prepared and how the animals eaten are killed. It is essential to keep dairy products and meat completely separate, and never touching or sharing the same surfaces, and to treat the animals or meat consumed with respect.
- Halal is the Arabic word for “lawful” or “permissible,” which would cover all things following the law of Islam, including the dietary guidelines. These include forbidden foods such as pork, blood, carrion, alcohol, as well as animals slaughtered improperly. As with kosher, eating in restaurants can be difficult if they’re not halal-certified. However, due to increasing sensitivity with a growing Muslim population in the United States, halal options have grown and many more options exist now than in the past.
- Seventh-day Adventists practice a vegetarian diet that is said to include the generous use of whole grain breads, cereals and pastas, a liberal use of fresh vegetables and fruits and a moderate use of legumes, nuts and seeds. It can also include low fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheeses and eggs.
- Diabetes is fairly well known; it is a condition where the body fails to process glucose properly. This could be due to lack of the hormone insulin or because the insulin that is available is not working effectively. A diabetes safe diet is known as medical nutritional therapy (MNT) and is basically a very healthy diet, based on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, as well as being rich in nutrients and low in fat and calories. However, oftentimes when people speak of catering to those with diabetes, what they really mean is products using artificial sugar to create a similar food to one that would originally be high in sugar, such as sugar-free candy. This is not part of a MNT diet per se, as much as it is a treat diabetics normally would not be able to enjoy.
- Among food allergies two of the most common are dairy (lactose) and gluten. These allergies can be quite severe and serious; many people live with pain for years before discovering a food allergy is at the root of their problems. Many people can have intolerances as well as full-blown allergies to these products—some people also avoid these food items for a more healthy diet. Dairy (main properties being lactose and casein) is present in milk products, but also in less-obvious ingredients such as whey and other dairy byproducts and derivatives, which are always listed in ingredient lists. Gluten, on the other hand, is fairly ubiquitous and is very difficult to avoid. People who are allergic to gluten have what’s called celiac disease, other can just have intolerances. It is present in wheat, rye and barley, but the great news for gluten-free people is that because it is becoming much more widely known, alternative options for many products are now available.
- Raw, vegan or macrobiotic diets are also a newer development on the scene, although they are quickly gaining steam as people discover their nutritional benefits. While sometimes these diets are adopted to treat diseases or disorders, generally they are adopted simply to preserve health and prolong life. Raw diets come in a few different types, including raw vegans who consume only raw foods that do not contain any animal byproducts focusing mostly on raw fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Raw vegetarians also consume raw milk (un-pasteurized), cheese, yogurt and honey. Raw omnivores consume raw meat as well as the other raw vegetables and fruits. For these purposes, raw is considered anything not heated above 40 degrees. Macrobiotic recommends grains as a staple of the diet, but also advocates for local produce, and the avoidance of highly processed or refined foods. Macrobiotic diet and lifestyle emphasizes the use of whole foods such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, as well as building more natural and ideal amino acid combinations for better digestion and living.
- Lastly, vegetarianism differs from veganism in that vegetarians simply do not eat meat, whereas vegans do not consume or use anything that contains animal byproducts. Vegetarians generally do this for ethical reasons, believing the consumption of animals is wrong. Vegans take this to a farther state, making the point that if eating the meat of dead animals is wrong, eating or using any product that comes from animal is also wrong. Furthermore, eggs are also left out because they are from an animal, and would become an animal if incubated properly. This also prohibits honey (from bees), gelatin made from the hooves of animals, isinglass (fish bladders) oftentimes used to filter beer and many other animal byproducts that have made their way into our food. Veganism also extends beyond diet to lifestyle, meaning vegans do not wear leather, fur or any animal derived products, or use any cosmetics or personal care products, which are tested on or contain byproducts from animals.
Eating Out with Dietary Requirements:
In the past, people with alternative diets would eat at home most of the time, but today restaurants exist to cater to every dietary preference, even in the Inland Empire. For some diets it is possible to find options at major chains, while for others dietary-specific restaurants are necessary.
These restaurants and businesses only represent some of the places that the Weekly was able to confirm as offering various dietary options. Check online for other options/places, and always double check menus/ingredients in person and ask a lot of questions. It is better to be annoying and sure than sick, unhappy or unsure.
Sherman’s Deli & Bakery
401 E. Tahquitz Canyon Wy.,
Palm Springs, (760) 325-1199
The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
3712 Mission Inn Ave.,
Riverside, (951) 684-3803
1752 E. Lugonia Ave.,
Redlands, (909) 389-1500
1201 University Ave.,
Riverside, (951) 274-4700
Not completely halal, but offer a positively reviewed halal pepperoni pizza.
1490 University Ave.,
Riverside, (951) 686-6800
718 N. Main St.,
Corona, (951) 898-5400
Vegetarian and Vegan:
Oasis Vegetarian Café
11550 Pierce St., Riverside,
Menu is almost all vegetarian, with some vegan options—includes burritos, burgers, breakfast etc; however nothing is labeled as gluten-free, soy free or with any other allergen information.
Bakers Drive Thru
A small-family owned chain, one of the only fast food restaurants to offer vegetarian options: this menu is offered at select locations and it is mostly vegetarian with some vegan-izable options.
40695 Winchester Rd.,
Temecula, (951) 506-8888
Offers both gluten-free and vegan options.
903 W. Foothill Blvd.,
Upland, (909) 982-3882
A mostly Thai, vegetarian restaurant with some vegan options. Check online for more locations.
2150 S. Waterman Ave.,
San Bernardino, (909) 783-8928
Rustico Ristorante and Pizzeria
29940 Hunter Rd.,
Murrieta, (951) 698-5151
Offers gluten-free gnocchi and other options.
2555 Canyon Springs Pkwy.,
Riverside, (951) 697-7666
Delicatessen, with gluten-free menu.
3737 Main St.,
Riverside, (951) 276-7111
American, contemporary, gluten-free menu.
Raw, Diabetic Friendly and Macro:
Restaurants that serve diabetic-friendly dishes, dairy-free dishes and macrobiotic options exist in the Inland Empire, however they are not labeled as such. People following these dietary options should be careful with the restaurants they visit, they will oftentimes have luck at healthy restaurants, especially those serving vegetarian or vegan cuisines are especially good at catering to people with special dietary needs.
Grocery Stores that Cater to Special Diets:
Goodwin’s Organic Food & Drinks
191 W. Big Springs Rd.,
Riverside, (951) 682-2667
Clark’s Natural Foods Market
4225 Market St.,
Riverside, (951) 686-4757
(Two more locations in Loma Linda and Rancho Mirage.)
La Sierra Market
11550 Pierce St.,
Riverside, (951) 785-5763
Offers a large number of resources for alternative diets, including gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan. Easy and quick meal ideas as well as bulk bins and recipe ingredients.
Viva La Vegan
9456 Roberds St.,
Rancho Cucamonga, (909) 941-4495
Largest all vegan grocery store in the world.
The easiest option for people with, or curious about alternative diets is to see what you can find at regular, non-specialty grocery stores. Here are a few chains that offer special guides for dietary choices:
Fresh and Easy:
Gluten-free, vegetarian, kosher, low-sugar and organic.
Gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, fat-free, kosher and low sodium.
Gluten-free, diabetes-safe, blood pressure healthy and weight management.
Gluten-free options, as well as other guides on a variety of subjects, some of which would be useful to vegetarian and vegans.
Other Support Systems:
For people who follow alternative diets, there are many support groups that exist, Meetup.com being one of the best places to find them. The following is but a sampling:
Inland Empire Cooking Club
Have periodic meetups and post lots of helpful tips on their page—not just veganism, but general health advice, advice about organic options, etc.
Inland Empire Vegan Meetup
355 members, according to their page they “organize a wide variety of events such as vegan potlucks, vegan/raw vegan food prep & cooking demonstrations, dinner outings, fundraisers, animal outreach events, circus protests, animal welfare lectures, movie nights, documentary screenings, vegan bake sales, hikes, organic gardening demonstrations, dances, nutritional lectures and more.”
Gluten-free in the IE
A blog that discusses the options for celiac and other gluten-free diet options in the Inland Empire.
Community Supported Agriculture in Inland Empire
CSAs are a great way to receive locally grown produce: this one has pick-ups all over the area, from Palm Springs to Temecula. This is quite an extensive network, and one of the best resources for people interested in local or organic produce, as well as vegetarian and vegans.