The only online publication for women in Greater Cincinnati
Health

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Love wine? We do too. Don’t forget though, that too much of anything can be a bad thing. However, we’re here to let you know why you can enjoy a couple of glasses of your favorite wine without guilt. In fact, those glasses may even qualify as a healthy addition to you regular routine.

Research has recently provided support to the notion that wine has real health benefits. Much of this research came from trying to explain the French paradox. The French diet consists of regular red wine drinking and eating of foods high in saturated fats. Despite this diet, the French have very low rates of cardiovascular disease.

This research has led to the discovery of an antioxidant called resveratrol in the skin and seeds of grapes. Resveratrol is believed to help prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce cholesterol and prevent blood clots. It has also been shown to be beneficial in the production of nerve cells that could help in preventing and/or treating Alzheimer’s. It also has anti-inflammatory properties.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, resveratrol is also known as a phytoestrogen. This means it has similar properties to estrogen. This finding has researchers believing that including red wine in a diet or taking resveratrol supplements could help with conditions where estrogen is depleted, such as menopause, breast cancer or osteoporosis.

The bad news for white wine lovers is that the majority of the antioxidants, including resveratrol, is found in the skins of grapes. For this reason, it seems that most of the health benefits of wine are found in red wines, not whites. White wine is made from crushing the pulp of the grape, whereas the skin is crushed along with the pulp when making red wine. In light of which, white wine drinkers should perhaps begin testing their palate’s fondness of reds.

Remember, this research still needs to be considered further, and does not give us the green-light to begin binge drinking. A few glasses a week to one or two daily is all you need.

*all research in this article was found on WebMD or MayoClinic.com

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Question: Hi Rocco, I am in a total rut when it comes to working out. I work out regularly four times a week, doing intense cardio kickboxing. After doing this routine for over 12 weeks now and eating healthy (eating the smaller meals four to five times a day), I've lost very little body fat, and very little weight. I am currently 5'5, 160 lbs and have 26 percent body fat (which seems way more than my body actually looks). I have always been an athletic girl and I personally still feel good about myself. It just seems I am trying hard and not getting results. What should I be doing different, if anything?
-Shanna

Answer: You may be trying too hard. I know it sounds crazy, but you may be doing too much cardio kickboxing. This is a very common problem and can be quite frustrating for many people who are motivated to exercise, but their bodies just don't respond well to aerobic activity. Too much aerobic activity can actually be detrimental to fat-loss goals. Your body is great at adapting to any stress, and although you may not know it, exercise is stress. The more aerobic exercise you do, the more efficient your body becomes at utilizing fat as an energy source.

This means that after 12 weeks you would have to work twice as hard to burn the same amount of fat calories as you did when you first started your exercise program. That means you would have to take two classes a day to burn the same amount (which I don’t recommend). I would recommend, however, that you vary your aerobic activity from a cardio kickboxing class to spinning to interval training on a treadmill (walk for 2 minutes, run for 2 minutes) and anything else you feel comfortable doing.

Please talk to a qualified fitness professional and get a strength training program so you don’t lose the muscle you already have. And no, cardio kickboxing does not maintain muscle, resistance training does. So don’t get discouraged and keep on keeping on. Consistency is the key to effective fat loss, and you will see fat loss, don’t you worry. 

 

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When Cincy Chic's assistant editor, Veronica Rolfes, went on her major overhaul diet six months ago (read all about it in her blog), one of the first things she did was take a look at the nutritional facts of her frequent fast food visits. To her surprise, even fine dining experiences were fraught with high-caloric and over-proportioned meals. But now, 20 pounds lighter, Rolfes makes a habit out of checking online nutritional facts before stepping foot in a restaurant.

Cincy Chic developed this online nutrition guide for you to keep on hand so you can keep off the unwanted pounds! Print it out, bookmark it, e-mail a link to yourself. Whatever you need to do to keep this guide around so you can shed the pounds like Veronica did, with the power of nutritional knowledge!

American Dietetic Association's Nutrition Fact Sheets
http://www.eatright.org/cps/rde/xchg/ada/hs.xsl/nutrition_350_ENU_HTML.htm

Daily Needs Calculator
http://www.nutritiondata.com/tools/calories-burned

Nutrient Search Tool
http://www.nutritiondata.com/tools/nutrient-search

Krispy Kreme (for all those office breakfasts you forget about)
http://www.krispykreme.com/nutri.html

Dunkin' Donuts
https://www.dunkindonuts.com/aboutus/nutrition/

Starbucks (for all those yummy drinks you don't factor in your daily calories)
http://www.starbucks.com/retail/nutrition_info.asp

McDonalds
http://www.mcdonalds.com/usa/eat/nutrition_info.html

Subway
http://www.subway.com/applications/NutritionInfo/index.aspx

Wendy's
http://www.wendys.com/food/NutritionLanding.jsp

Johnny Rockets
http://www.johnnyrockets.com/themenu/nutrition.php

Don Pablos (under "menu" option, click on "download nutritional info")
http://www.donpablos.com/

Olive Garden (only a portion of their menu has online nutrition information available)
http://www.olivegarden.com/menus/garden_fare/

Papa John's
http://www.papajohns.com/menu/index.htm

LaRosa's
http://larosas.com/site_content/9.2.html

Skyline
http://www.skylinechili.com/nutrition.php

Gold Star Chili
http://www.goldstarchili.com/menu/nutritional.php

Graeter's (click on each flavor to view nutritional facts)
http://www.graeters.com/flavors.cfm

Montgomery Inn (gives an e-mail address of someone you can contact for nutrition information)
http://www.montgomeryinn.com/contact.html

Many other national chains have nutrition information available at dietfacts.com
http://www.dietfacts.com/fastfood.asp

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Do you remember your first encounter with height/weight tables? Like most, mine was in high school; I recall looking at the height and weight tables in health class and fearing that I would be force-fed by the PE teacher. The problem with any of the standard yardsticks that have been used to establish what is average, normal and, more importantly healthy, is that they cannot assess, in total, what may be the ideal weight and configuration for your body.

Height and weight tables have been used since the 1940s to give insurance companies statistical information about their clients. This information was then used to project mortality rates. This is important for two reasons. First, we need to recognize that these tables weren’t created to guide us in our health maintenance; they were devised to predict our demise.

Secondly, they did not address other factors such as a person’s frame size. The charts have improved over time, and at some point, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) added another tool, the Body Mass Index (BMI), as another way of determining appropriate and healthy body size.

There's a one-stop-shopping Web site for all of these charts and comparisons at www.halls.md/index.htm. The chart below is from this site. If you visit it, read what Dr. Halls writes about the imperfections of all these measurements. He has a great deal to say about the BMI. But for now, let’s look at the height and weight charts.

Height & Weight Table For Women:
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This chart above is great (I may be prejudiced because it tells me that I can have dessert tonight), but how do you know for sure what your frame size is? To calculate your “frame size” Metropolitan Life, the insurance company credited with creating the original charts, came up with this method:
1) Bend forearm upward at a 90 degree angle.
2) Keep fingers straight and turn the inside of your wrist toward your body.
3) Place thumb and index finger of other hand on the two prominent bones on either side of the elbow.
4) Measure space between your fingers on a ruler. (A physician would use a caliper.)
5) Compare with tables below listing elbow measurements for medium-framed men and women. Measurements lower than those listed indicate small frame. Higher measurements indicate large frame.

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BMI
The BMI formula was developed by Belgium statistician Adolphe Quelet (1796-1874), and was known as the Quetelet Index. BMI is also referred to as "body mass indicator" and is an internationally used measure of obesity.

I first heard about the BMI a few years ago, when a bit of a fuss was made about beauty pageant contestants and their freakishly low BMIs. Based purely on those numbers, commentators deemed nearly all of the contestants dangerously thin. They even went on to say that it confirmed the American ideal as “rail thin” because the BMI had consistently descended over the last 40 years.

The BMI is a reliable indicator of total body fat, which is related to the risk of disease and death. The problem with this particular measurement, however, is that it only calculates mass, in other words how much space a human being occupies. It in no way measures what inhabits that space. Given that a bulky body could be filled to capacity with muscle or fat and still have the same BMI, it simply cannot give us a complete or even accurate picture of an individual’s true physical configuration.

The BMI is useful, however, when it is used in conjunction with other charts, measurements and additional information.

To calculate your BMI you can use the Imperial BMI formula which accepts weight measurements in pounds and height measurements in either inches or feet.

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If you prefer a bit of technological assistance in the calculation, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has a great BMI calculator: www.nhlbisupport.com/bmi , as does www.halls.md/index.htm. This Web site combines the BMI charts (below) with quite a bit of insight.

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When it comes to the use of BMI he makes several points including:
“In adults, using a BMI threshold of 25 as the definition of 'overweight' will classify over half of the American population as overweight. Thus, it is entirely possible to have a weight percentile at the 50th percentile, and be considered overweight. You could be average weight and overweight at the same time.”

Many health experts have started pairing waistlines measurements with BMI to view the equation of the body from yet another angle. Since body fat that accumulates around the waistline has become an accurate indicator of several specific health risks, this numerical combination can be helpful for certain individuals. The bottom line is that all of these tools are much like your bathroom scale, in that they offer fair, but incomplete, gauge in determining where you stand in creating and maintaining a healthy body. When used together, however, they will render a complete assessment.

 

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Question: Rocco, I just turned 32 and after having my fourth child last year I have noticed that my vagina is really loose and both my husband and I do not enjoy sex as much as we used to. Are there any exercises that I can do to tighten my vagina? All I do now is attend a spinning classes 3-4 times a week and chase down four kids.
-Sue

Answer: It’s obvious to me that you are doing no exercise whatsoever to tighten the area you are asking about. In order for any part of the body to get back in condition (or tightened, as you so eloquently put it), you would need to contract and release the muscle throughout its range of motion in specific repetition range. What has happened to you is something very similar to that of salt water taffy. Although salt water taffy is pliable (can bend and twist), once it is stretched it has a hard time coming back to its original shape, unless forced back though human hands. Please, I know what you’re thinking with the salt water taffy reference…don’t even go there.

The muscles of the vaginal canal don’t have a wide range of motion, it’s actually several centimeters. The most efficient way to “train” your vaginal muscles is by doing an exercise called “Kegals” (pronounced “kay-gills” named after Dr. Kegal). These exercises are done by concentrating on clenching and unclenching your pubococcygeal muscles, a.k.a. your PC muscles, otherwise known as your “pelvic floor." It takes some hard concentration to get it right, especially after four kids. (I don’t know if I can write this, but I’m going to anyway) I would ask your husband to help out and insert his fingers into your vagina and have you try to apply pressure or squeeze them. After several weeks of this training, the pressure should be significant and then you will know that you’re properly "tightened." Just a little side note, the side effect of performing “Kegals” in rhythmic moments are longer and more controlled orgasms. This concludes the “Dr. Ruth portion" of askROCCO.

 

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Question: For someone who's considering bodybuilding, or at least training like it, what are good resources or tips? I already devote a lot of time to working out, weights and cardio, but would like to maximize my time and results.
— Sarah

Answer: This is a tough question to answer because I believe that bodybuilders spend way too much time in the gym. On the other hand, I do admire their commitment to their craft.

I prefer to train more like an athlete and, in turn, create more of an athletic body. Body builder’s bodies tend to be more exaggerated and almost cartoonish in nature, therefore I try to stay out of that realm because it takes a totally different mindset to stay in a gym for hours at a time and perform a million repetitions for a million sets. I have too much other s**t to do than spend half my life in the gym.

If you perform some of the same movements that many of my bodybuilding peers advocate, but at a higher intensity – and by that I mean shortening of the sets to one or two sets and increase your repetition range – you will get out of the gym much quicker and get the same results. An example of this would be: instead of 4 sets of 12, 10, 8, 6, perform two sets of 15-20 to almost failure*) In the book Designing Resistance Training Programs, author William J. Kraemer found that 1-2 sets to failure and multiple sets provided the same benefit for strength training and muscle hypertrophy (muscle building). This coming from a "huge" multiple set and explosive training advocate tells us that it is possible to get positive muscle building benefits without spending most of your life in the gym.

*Almost failure pertains to needing help on the last five repetitions to finish the movement with correct form and technique.

 

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When it comes to getting a full check-up, consult with your doctor about when and how frequently to take these tests.

  • Thyroid test (TSH) – Begin at age 35, then every 5 years after.
  • Blood Pressure test- From age 18 on, at least every 2 years
  • Cholesterol- After age 20, if you have high risks discuss with your doctor when to have this checked. Have it regularly checked after the age of 45.
  • Bone mineral Density test- After age 40 you can begin discussing with your doctor if you need this test. Age 65 and older; have this test done at least once.
  • Diabetes (blood glucose test)- Age 45, then every three years
  • Mammogram- From age 40 on, every 1-2 years.
  • Papa test and Pelvic exam- From age 21 on, or once you become sexually active, every 1-3 years.
  • Chlamydia test- If you are sexually active, annually until age 25. If you are pregnant have this done. Older than 25, get tested if you have new or multiple partners.
  • STDs (including HIV)- You and your partner should be tested before having intercourse, this goes for all ages.
  • Fecal Occult Blood test- After age 50, annually.
  • Flexible Sigmoid-oscopy- After age 50, every 5 years (preferably done with above test).
  • Double Contrast Barium Enema (DCBE)- After 50, every 5-10 years
  • Colonoscopy- After 50, every 10 years.
  • Rectal exam- After 50, every 5-10 years. This should be done along with sigmoid-oscopy, DCBE, or colonoscopy.
  • Eye Exam- If your vision is problematic, have at least one exam in your 20s and at least 2 in your 30s. Age 40-64, every 2-4 years. After age 65, every 1-2 years.
  • Hearing test- At age 18, then every 10 years. From age 50 on, every 3 years.
  • Mole exam- At age 20, then every 3 years. From age 40 on, every year.
  • Dental exam- From 18 on, one to two times a year.
  • Immunizations:
  • Meningococcal- Discuss with your doctor.
  • Tetanus- 18 and on, every 10 years.
  • HPV- Discuss with your doctor.
  • Pneumococcal- once after age 65.
  • Influenza- Discuss with your doctor. After age 50, annually.


This guideline is just that, a guideline. All information was provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Don’t forget, of course, to keep doing monthly breast and mole examinations. If you don’t do this already, you should start! Also, if you notice anything strange, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor about any concerns you may have.

Remember ladies, being healthy is not just about seeing your doctor regularly; it’s also about lifestyle choices. So, don’t smoke (especially if you're on birth control), eat a healthy and balanced diet and exercise regularly!

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Question: Rocco, what can you do if you're on medication that slows down your metabolism to pretty much a dead turtle? For the last six months, I have worked out six days a week, three days a week with a personal trainer doing weight training and three days a week doing cardio. I saw some improvement, but not enough to show all the work I really did. I should have been a size six after all the workouts and healthy eating. My trainer couldn't explain it either. I plan on going to a seminar that addresses this situation, but what can I do in the mean time?
– Gina

Answer: I have to tell you, a dead turtle is, well, dead and doesn’t have a metabolism. I think we humans still have something that resembles a metabolism, even though it may not feel like it. If the medication you’re taking is an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor), the answer is no!  There is pretty much nothing you can do about the weight gain. Some of the research that’s out there suggests that the weight gain is not fat but water. The medications trigger a hormone that is considered an anti-diuretic or water-retaining hormone. The problem is no matter how much exercise you do you can’t burn water. If you can’t get off the medication, I suggest you try to build as much muscle as you can to be able to handle the extra baggage.  How much were you paying your trainer, anyway? 

 

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Vegan Dining Tips
Don’t be afraid to veganize a restaurant’s menu options. It doesn’t hurt to ask if substitutions and omissions can be made; if you don’t ask, you’ll never be able to be a functioning vegan in this city. Also, if you don’t see any vegan items on the menu, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t exist. For example, many places have veggie burgers upon request, but for whatever reason, they don’t list them on their menus. So ask…and you might receive!

Be informed. A lot of ethnic cuisines such as Indian, Thai, Japanese and Chinese, use animal ingredients that aren’t well-known, so it’s easy to be misled by the wait staff regarding the integrity of some dishes. If you plan on going to a certain restaurant, just make sure you are familiar with the menu’s glossary. It’ll make things easier on you and the restaurant staff. This also applies to fast food restaurants, knowing ahead of time what is vegan friendly, before you are in front of the drive-thru box, will be less frustrating for you and the others behind in line.

I always carry vegan non-dairy creamers in my purse, just in case if I need a cup of coffee and the establishment where I am doesn’t have any, I won’t be screwed. I also always have some vegan chocolate with me, so that I don’t feel left out when I need something sweet to eat.

I’ve found, when I am in the company of “layman people” who have no comprehension of the definition of vegan, that in order to save time and me from pulling their hair out and so that things can go smoother, when instead of saying “I can’t have any animal products, I’m a vegan,” that it’s best to say, “I’m allergic to…” (insert whatever animal product you’re trying to avoid). For whatever reason, people get the concept of food allergies and not the concept of humane food choices. Go figure.

Vegan Shopping Tips
Kroger carries a lot of vegan products in its special health-food sections (both frozen and dry goods). Check to see if your location does and if it doesn’t, most stores will try to get products in, if you just ask management. The Hyde Park location has an excellent olive bar that has exotic vegan options by the pound, such as curried couscous, wheat berry salad and hummus. Multiple locations.

The Clifton Natural Foods store carries vegan groceries, vitamins, beauty products and even has homemade vegan baked goods such as cookies and a killer carrot cake that you have to try. 169 W. McMillan St., Cincinnati, OH 45219. (513) 961-6111.


Wild Oats Marketplace carries a wide variety of vegan products and even has a deli case that has vegan options great for potlucks, or just for a quick dinner at home. Wild Oats also makes a decadent vegan chocolate cake. Multiple locations.

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I became a vegan* over a year ago. Before that, for 27 years of my life, I was what they called a “hardcore omnivore,” eating anything and everything (except lamb, veal and lobster), as long as it tasted good and I was hungry.

But I decided to become a vegan for ethical reasons, because I love animals so much that I’d rather see them alive and running around, rather than dead on my plate.

And while I may have changed my lifestyle, I didn’t change my geographic location. Cincinnati isn’t really synonymous with being a vegan’s playground, so I had to work with what I had; thus, the purpose of this guide.

These are my go-to-vegan-friendly places in the city. So, if you are thinking about becoming a vegan and feel like there aren’t any dining options for you in Cincinnati, or you already are one and haven’t ventured to see what’s out there, then give my picks a try and see if you can be a happy and content humane foodie in the ‘Nati as well. (Note: this guide applies to vegetarians as well, but mainly focuses on the vegan options in the city, since most places are vegetarian friendly.)

1. Melt, Eclectic Deli
Located in the heart of Northside, Melt is one of a few places in the city that offers café-style vegan options. According to Lisa Kagen, owner and general manager, Melt opened to provide healthier casual eating for mainly vegetarians and vegans, but also caters to its carnivorous clients by providing meats which are raised humanely and produced with a higher level of quality (meaning antibiotic- and hormone-free).

Melt ensures the integrity of its vegan foods by always placing them away from the regular orders so that animal products don’t contaminate them. Staff is instructed to cut sandwiches in the order of vegan first, vegetarian second and meat last. Knives are sanitized between every meat/vegan order.

Sandwiches are made on Shadeau Bread’s preservative-free, vegan bread. Dressings, condiments and soups are all made in-house. Sandwiches come with your choice of Sunchips, purple slaw or mixed greens w/choice of dressing (maple balsamic, lime cilantro, ginger hoison, curry yogurt and Greek vinaigrette.)

Picks:
Salad: Get the Spinach Orzo Pasta ($4.50). Baby spinach, Kalamata olives, chopped red onion, Roma tomato and feta tossed with orzo pasta in a Greek vinaigrette…without the feta of course.
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Sandwich: The Yeehaw BBQ Seitan* ($6.75): sliced red onion, Roma tomato and banana pepper rings drizzled with lots of BBQ on a whole-wheat hoagie. Typically served with melted smoked mozzarella, you can swap out the mozzarella for the Rinotta, Melt’s spicy spreadable blend of tofu*, cashews, herbs and spices.

Soup: Try the African Peanut, when it’s available; the soups change daily, with vegan chili as a constant. It’s the perfect blend of mild, smoky Indian spices with tomatoes and a hint of peanut butter; perfectly light and delicious. Trust me, it’s good. Usually soups are only $3.25 for a bowl.

Highlights: On Sundays from 11 a.m.-2p.m. (or until the food runs out), Melt offers a vegan brunch. The menu changes every month, but typically there’s vegan waffles, a main vegan dish such as breakfast burritos or vegan “quiche,” and vegan biscuits and gravy. Either go early or go later, the place is usually standing room only on Sundays and who wants to have a brunch order to go?

Gripes: I understand that Melt’s “foodosophy” is all about using whole, unprocessed ingredients, but they really should consider using some good ole “junky” vegan cheese, such as the Vegan Gourmet line by Follow Your Heart. The Yeehaw would be perfecto with some ooey, gooey vegan mozzarella!
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Also, have more baked vegan treats available daily! They have the whole savory department squared away, now they just have to get some vegan cupcakes and cookies stocked up in the dessert case! Melt usually has desserts from the Take the Cake bakery (a few blocks away) for customers every day, but nothing vegan. They typically make their own vegan desserts and their reason for only having sporadic offerings is due to being super busy, but c’mon people! Make time for the baked goods! Vegans have a sweet tooth as well; at least I sure do!

Melt
4165 Hamilton Ave
Cincinnati, OH 45223, Northside
(513) 681-MELT (6358)
Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Prices: Inexpensive
Grade: B+

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2. Apna India Restaurant
My home away from home, at least in relation to food. In my opinion, Apna has the best Indian food in the city; the way my mom cooks and the way my grandmother used to. So, right off the bat, it’s off to a good start. Located on Ludlow Ave in Clifton, the staff is warm, friendly and attentive and service is relatively quick. The dining room has a open, roomy feel and is clean and bright.

The key to eating vegan in any restaurant – ethnic or not – is special requesting that animal products are omitted in pre-existing menu items. A lot of the dishes at Apna are vegetarian but may contain heavy cream or butter, so by requesting that your dishes are made without those items, a vegan option can be ensured.

Picks:
Appetizer: Vegetable Samosa. Deep-fried, crisp pastries stuffed with mildly spiced potatoes and green peas accompanied with a trio of chutneys. Two pieces for only $3.25. These are absolutely delicious.

Entrée: My absolute favorite is the Aloo Saag ($9.49), spinach and potato curry without any cream or butter, “spicy six.” (Apna’s spice scale ranges from one to six, six being the hottest.) I also get the Bhartha ($9.99), eggplant curry cooked with vegetables, also spicy six. I also get the plain naan ($2.19) to sop up the yummy curries.

The trick is to mix the two curries together for the perfect combo! Yum, yum! All curries are served with their fragrant and moist basmati rice garnished with peas.

Another tip: even though Apna’s buffet is sufficiently good, order from the menu instead. They serve more food and since you won’t be able to eat it all, you’ll have leftovers to last you at least two days, depending on what a glutton you are! A great way to get your money’s worth.

Highlights: Hands down, Apna makes the best plain naan ever. I can say this because I’ve eaten a lot of Indian food in my 27 years. I don’t know what they do differently from the other restaurants in town, but fresh from the Tandoor oven, their naan is the fluffiest baked Indian dough I’ve ever had.

The samosas. Again, other places have them as well, but Apna’s key to superior veggie samosas lies in the batter, light and crispy, creating a perfect purse of golden fried goodness. Also, their rice is never dried out and is always freshly made.

Gripes:
Prices are higher than most other restaurants with a $7.99 lunch buffet and a $10.99 buffet for dinner and menu entrees as high as $14.49. I’m afraid people will shy away from the pricier options, so maybe management should reconsider their prices.

Apna India Restaurant
341 Ludlow Ave.
Cincinnati, OH 45220, Clifton.
(513) 861-6800
Hours: Lunch: Monday-Sunday, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.; Dinner: Monday-Sunday, 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Prices: Moderate. Grade: A+

3. Green Papaya
If you don’t pay attention, you’re more than likely to drive past one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Located in a mini “strip mall,” caddy-corner from the Hyde Park Kroger, in the old Bebe Kitchen’s space, is Green Papaya, probably the best Thai restaurant Cincy has to offer.

The décor isn’t kitschy like other ethnic restaurants and is sleek and modern. The dining room isn’t that big, but instead of feeling cramped and crowded, a sense of intimacy is created, a perfect place for a first date or you and a friend to catch up.

Depending on your degree of veganism, whether you are strict or vary your commitment when you go out to eat, you have to be careful eating at Thai restaurants, because they use honey as a sweetener in a lot of their dishes and sauces. I always double-check with the servers and management, to make sure something is not tainted with honey. Also, make sure that fish sauce is not used in any of your dishes, since it is the base of many sauces.

Green Papaya has a lot of menu options that comes with tofu as the main protein, but you can order any other dish with animal protein and substitute it with tofu. Don’t be afraid to take a dish that looks interesting and tasty and veganizing it.

Picks:
Sushi: I usually get the avocado roll, usually six pieces for $4. The ingredients are always fresh and crisp.

Appetizer: The Siam Roll, order of three miniature rolls for $3.95, is filled with vegetables and served with a sweet and sour sauce, which I don’t get because it has honey in it.

Soup: Try the Tom-Yum (Hot and Sour) ($3.95). I get mine with steamed tofu and vegetables in a hot and sour soup, spiced with exotic Thai herbs, lemongrass, mushroom and limejuice.

Entrée: I love the Green Papaya Mango Fried Rice ($8.95), spiced hot (scale is mild, medium, hot or 1-4). Fried rice mixed with chicken, shrimp, egg, fresh mango pieces, onion, snow peas and tomato is the original menu offering, but I get my order free of all animal products (make sure to request that the fish sauce is omitted) and with steamed tofu. Definitely the best-fried rice I’ve had and the mango adds the perfect blend of sweetness and tang that is truly unexpected.

Highlights: Green Papaya is unlike other Thai restaurants by offering truly authentic and unique Thai cuisine, when you go, you will want to order more than just the pad Thai.

Management at Green Papaya is very understanding and willing to meet my vegan needs. By just making sure you reiterate that you want no meat, dairy, fish or egg in your dishes, you will definitely get your vegan Thai fix there as well.

Try the jasmine lime tea ($1.95), it’s a great refreshing twist on the usual limeade or lemonade.

Gripes: When Green Papaya first opened back in September of 2006, the portion sizes were hearty enough to have leftovers, but nowadays, the portions have become smaller and smaller, as if management decided to downscale portion size in order to downscale operating costs. Please bring back the hearty portions! At least they haven’t downscaled on their quality, service, atmosphere or taste.

They don’t have a liquor license, and generally, that would put a damper on things; but people don’t seem to mind bringing their own libations of choice, especially since there isn’t a corkage fee, but it’s going to be almost a year and they still haven’t secured a liquor license. Sometimes, when I’ve forgotten to BYOB and I really need a drink, I would like to order it in house.

Green Papaya, Thai, Sushi and Asian Cuisine
2942 Wasson Rd., Cincinnati, OH 45209, Oakley
(513) 731-0107 or (513) 731-0157
Hours: Lunch: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 3p.m; Dinner: Monday-Thursday, 5 p.m. – 10 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 5 p.m. – 10:30 p.m., Sunday, 4 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Prices: Moderate.
Grade: A-

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4. Currito, Burritos Without Borders
Formerly known as Boloco, Inspired Burritos, Currito is located in the new and improved commercial strip near UC on Calhoun Street. According to management, the name change will hopefully evoke a connection in consumers with the word “burritos.”

I was so used to going to other national burrito establishments in the area and having to walk away with a burrito that lacked substantial flair, but Currito offers such a good variety of flavors to keep me interested.

You have two options when ordering burritos, small or regular, or if you are carb conscious, you can skip the tortillas and order all the fixings into a bowl.

If you’re on the run and don’t have time to think too hard, you can choose from seven offerings: the Classic, Summer, Bangkok, Teriyaki, Cajun, Mediterranean, Buffalo or you can build your own, by choosing fresh and healthy ingredients from the assembly station. Carnivores have their choice of grilled chicken and steak, while vegans can choose organic tofu.

Picks: I always end up getting a regular burrito and build my own, with tofu of course ($5.49). The Bangkok flavoring is really a treat with Thai-style peanut sauce, Asian slaw, cucumbers, rice and flour tortilla.

Also try the Soy Smoothie, made with soymilk, strawberries, bananas. Just ask that the honey be omitted.

Highlights: The fact that Currito offers flavorful and unique tofu burritos and soy smoothies for under $10, is a plus in itself. If you’re tired of eating at the other burrito place that lacks your tofu fix, or a variety of flavors, then go to Currito. They also have brown rice, which other places don’t offer. Their pinto beans aren’t made in any animal fat either.

And if you’re in the mood for a salad, you can try the Chinese Chicken Salad Bowl, sans the chicken ($3.99). Lettuce, rice noodles, almonds, sesame seeds, scallions and Chinese dressing make for a truly unexpected flavor option at a burrito place. You can even get it wrapped up in a burrito if you want.

Try the Berry Blitz smoothie, also vegan.

Gripes: I really don’t have much to complain about a burrito joint that has tofu and soy smoothies!

Currito

222 Calhoun Street Marketplace
University Heights, Cincinnati, OH 45219, Clifton
(513) 281-1500
Prices: Inexpensive
Grade: A+

 

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5. Tokyo Japanese Restaurant
Located in Sharonville on Chester Road, Tokyo Japanese is an unexpected gem of a surprise on a busy stretch of road littered with hotels, small businesses and restaurants.

Picks:
Sushi: The vegetable maki roll ($4.50, six pieces) is filled with the freshest avocado, daikon (Japanese radish), wakame (seaweed), asparagus and Japanese squash. Also try the avocado maki roll ($4, six pieces).

Entrée: Get the Vegetable Yakisoba ($6.50), pan-fried, ramen-style wheat noodles stir fried with broccoli, zucchini, onions, red and green peppers, carrots, butternut squash and bean sprouts, all tossed with a sosu sauce (Japanese Worcestershire sauce, which is made out of fruit and vegetables.) You can also get either steamed or pan-fried tofu added to the dish, for an extra protein kick. All dishes can be ordered as “spicy,” for the strong-stomached.

Gripes: Most of the soups are made of chicken broth and include Bonita fish flakes, definitely not cool for us vegans. Management should consider revising the recipe for their vegetable soup to exclude the chicken broth!

Also, business tends to be slow towards then end of the night and if you happen to stop by to get some food, you’ll be met with an impatient, jittery staff that makes you feel bad for ordering any food an hour before they close.

Highlights: Tokyo Japanese offers what no other restaurant in the city does, an all-you-can-eat sushi bar for only $19.95, Monday-Saturday. It’s a great deal if all you want to do is stuff your face with rolls and rolls of vegan sushi. For the non-vegans who order sashimi, the only requirement is that you finish all the rice and not just keep ordering pieces of fish.

They also have a hibachi grill lunch special with a vegetable order for only $6.95.

Tokyo Japanese Restaurant
11481 Chester Rd.
Sharonville, OH 45246
(513) 771-4488
Hours: Lunch: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. – 2:30 p.m., and all-you-can-eat sushi bar; Dinner: Monday-Thursday and Sunday, 4:30 – 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 4:30 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Prices: Moderate
Grade: B

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6. Myra’s Dinonysus
Open since 1977, except for a few months in 1985, Myra’s has been a Mecca in the city for homemade, vegetarian and vegan food. Myra Griffin, owner and founder, opened the restaurant in her townhouse in University Heights, originally because no gyros were available in the city; but nowadays, her menu has evolved to be what can be best described as global vegetarian.

It’s not hard to find the vegan dishes amongst the numerous menu options at Myra’s, because all dishes void of animal products are underlined and if something has cheese in it, it can be omitted.

Picks:
Soups: A bowl of the Thai Pumpkin soup ($3.75; $1.75 for a cup) is my favorite, as well as the restaurant’s top-seller. It’s absolutely delicious.

Sandwiches: The Falafel Sandwich ($4) with spiced garbanzo patties in pita bread garnished with tomato, onion, pickle and romaine lettuce with a tahini lemon sauce, is also a winner; filling and tangy.

Gripes: The service can be very slow at Myra’s and sometimes when queried about the ingredients of the menu options, the staff usually takes time consulting one another to make sure something is vegan or not. The way I look at it is, if your menu is predominately vegetarian and there are only a few vegan options, then those items shouldn’t be too hard to memorize!

Highlights: Much props for Myra’s for being the longest-standing restaurant offering vegetarian and vegan foods. Others have come and gone, but Myra’s has been the constant and that is reassuring on so many levels.

Check the deli case to see which vegan desserts are available daily; typically, they have vegan mousses ($2.50) and cakes ($3.50).

They have an extensive catering menu available, so that you don’t have to worry about what to cook for the next vegan dinner party you’ll be throwing. With dishes like Saag Tofu, Tofu Bourguignon and Vegetarian Cincinnati Chili, etc., you won’t be shy of tasty vegan options. Plus, Myra’s is willing to work with you to customize a menu according to your preferences.

Myra’s Dionysus
121 Calhoun St.
Cincinnati, OH 45219
University Heights, Clifton
(513) 961-1578
Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Sunday, 5 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Prices: Inexpensive
Grade: B+

 

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7. Mac’s Pizza Pub
Who would have thought that Cincy would have an eatery that served vegan pizza? Located on W. McMillan in Clifton, Mac’s is the typical college hangout that just happens to be right across the street from the Clifton Natural Foods Store, where it gets its supply of the Follow Your Heart vegan mozzarella cheese.

Picks:
Amongst the regular college bar food offerings, you will find the Vegan Pizza (small- $11.75, medium- $17.99, large- $19.75). Topped with mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, green peppers, black and green olives and smothered with that shredded vegan mozzarella cheese. You can omit or add any toppings to your preference.

They also have a Veggie Burger ($7.49), just your regular Boca burger that’s grilled and topped with vegan cheese and comes with waffle fries. You can also get the Garrrrrlic Mushroom Burger ($7.49), with waffle fries.

Highlights: If you’re a vegan and end up at Mac’s and you don’t get the vegan pizza, then shame on you!

Gripes:
It’s absolutely fabulous that Mac’s offers the only vegan pizza in town, but they really need to learn the art of dealing with vegan cheese. The key to get vegan cheese to be all ooey and gooey, is all in the broiling. According to the manufacturer Follow Your Heart, vegan cheese melts the best when covered and broiled at a high temperature. Mac’s failed to get that memo and their vegan pies always just seem to be topped with cheese that hasn’t melted completely. So, if they take the time to do this one step, they’ll have the perfect vegan pizza on their hands. This tip applies for their veggie burgers as well.

Also, they only carry the vegan mozzarella and haven’t invested in getting any of the other vegan cheese flavors such as cheddar, Jack, or nacho. It would behoove them to do so!

Service could be quicker. Also, they have a all-you-can-eat pizza lunch buffet for $7, but it doesn’t include the vegan pizza! They should definitely reconsider and include it.

Mac’s Pizza Pub
205 W. McMillan St.
Cincinnati, OH 45219, Clifton
(513) 241- MACS
Prices: Inexpensive
Grade: B-

Honorable Mentions

Pacific Moon On the Levee
Newport On the Levee, 1 Levee Way, Suite 2125, Newport, KY 41071. (859) 261 MOON (6666)
Prices: Moderate
Grade: B+
Highlights: Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps, Vegan Kung Po “Chicken” made with seitan and Vegan Orange Ribs.

Johnny Rockets
Multiple locations
Prices: Inexpensive
Grade: A-
Highlights: The Streamliner Burger, delicious vegan Boca burger voted by PETA as the Best Veggie Burger in a Restaurant Chain.

Nothing But Noodles
Hyde Park (513) 396-6800 and Mason (513) 770- 0020 locations.
Price: Inexpensive
Grade: A+

Highlights: You can get the Thai Lettuce Wraps without the chicken and substitute with tofu instead. Their Asian pastas, ordered with tofu and no egg, are delicious “semi-fast food” options.

Moe’s Southwest Grill
Multiple locations
Price: Inexpensive
Grade: A+

Highlights: Another burrito joint with a twist that offers tofu as a protein choice. The main draw, they offer domestic and import beers and frozen margaritas!

Maki Express
209 W McMillan St., Cincinnati, OH 45219, Clifton. (513) 721-6999
Price: Moderate
Grade: A-
Highlights: Literally, a mom-and-pop-hole-in-the-wall restaurant that has excellent service and food. They offer a Tofu Teriyaki that makes you feel like you are really eating good, healthy food and a great Tofu Udon Soup.

*Vegan Glossary
Vegan (pronounced vee-gun): A strict vegetarian who doesn’t consume meat, dairy products, eggs, honey, or any product derived from an animal. A vegan diet can (and should) be full of a wide variety of delicious, nutritious foods, including vegetables, grains, nuts, soy, legumes, seeds and fruits. Vegans don’t wear leather, fur, silk, or wool. Many refuse to use products that are made with animal ingredients, products that are filtered using animal parts (such as some wines, beers and white sugars) and products that have been tested on animals.

Seitan (pronounced say-tahn or say-tehn): a form of wheat gluten made from whole- wheat flour, which is mixed with water and kneaded and then simmered in a stock of tamari soy sauce, that gives it a brown color. Also known as “wheat meat,” it is a meat substitute in many recipes and works so well that many non-meat eaters avoid because its texture is too “meaty.” Seitan can be used in sandwiches, casseroles and is used in a lot of Chinese cooking in “mock meat” dishes such as sweet and sour seitan and seitan stir-fry.

Tofu ( pronounced toe-foo ): is soy bean curd, the whitish substance made from pressed soybeans. It has a variety of uses in vegan and vegetarian cooking because of its neutral taste that soaks up other flavors. It comes in either in a soft or firm style. Soft tofu is often used to make frostings for cakes and dips for chips and vegetables, while the firmer style is generally used in stir-fries and soups where it will hold its shape.

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