Just a few years ago, vegetarian and vegan food options in Philadelphia were mostly found in the grocery store aisles. But over the past few years, the city has seen an explosion of new restaurant options. Philadelphia Magazine now lists more than 20 establishments in Center City offering vegan and vegetarian menus.
Tyler Burgese, who works at P.S. & Co., a rustic vegan restaurant located on Locust Street, believes the vegan diet has grown so popular because people care about the environment and animals.
“We are the only vegan restaurant in Philadelphia that is vegan, kosher, organic and gluten-free,” Burgese said. “I think it’s cool to have that combination, because people know they’re getting the cleanest product possible on their plates.”
These restaurants cater to an array of vegan and vegetarian tastes, which has been the key to their success. HipCityVeg, a trendy vegan takeout in Rittenhouse, are well known for their gardein patties, green tea matcha smoothies and tofu wraps. Their on-the-go, healthy menu is convenient for lunch rushes when consumers are looking for a quick, meat-free diet. Goldie, Vedge and Bar Bombón are some of the more upscale restaurants in Center City that serve veg-centered cuisine.
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However, saving the planet and animals aren’t the only reasons Philadelphians are flocking to a meat-free diet. Weight loss and overall health are also part of its allure.
Various studies have found that a vegetarian or vegan diet can help shed pounds. But Dr. Marissa Cloutier, a Public Health instructor at Temple University and nutrition specialist, warns people do need to plan their diets carefully to ensure they are getting all the nutrients their bodies need.
“People are going vegan for the promise of a healthy lifestyle, but whenever you start to eliminate whole food groups of your diet, you begin to run into problems,” Cloutier said. “Vitamin B12 is important in the human diet and that can only be found in animal-based products. So now people on the vegan diet are constantly looking for other ways to replace these vitamins and nutrients their body is missing with other means.”
The vegan or vegetarian diet is heavy in fiber and protein, which many people assume is a good thing. The more the better. But this is an example of why people on such diets need to “know what they’re are doing,” Cloutier said. Too much of anything isn’t healthy, she said.
-Text, video and images by Nadege Richards.