[FOOD]: Healthy Eating Resolutions for 2012

Amber Gibson and Amber Gibson

Your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier may have already gone bust during Sunday’s dining hall hot cookie bar. If it hasn’t, I’m impressed with your self-discipline. However, just because you have one gluttonous day does not mean the rest of the year is lost. You can definitely make healthy dining choices, even when eating out, without sacrificing taste.

In Chicago and Evanston, restaurants like Union Sushi, Hota, and yes, Edzo’s Burger Shop, can help you ease the guilt of that cookie binge.

If you’re out for sushi at Union Sushi + Barbecue Bar (230 W Erie St., Chicago), try black instead of white rice in your maki roll. There’s a dollar upcharge per roll, but it’s totally worth it. Black rice doesn’t quite have the nutty taste of brown rice, but it’s firmer than white rice. At Union, Chef Chao cooks his black rice with a little vinegar to enhance the flavor. With fewer calories and carbohydrates and more protein, fiber and antioxidants, black rice wins easily in nutrition. In my none-too-scientific taste test, black rice tasted better too. Here, flavor and health go hand-in-hand. Evanston sushi joints like Koi, Kansaku and Sashimi Sashimi don’t offer black rice yet, so you’ll have to head to Union in River North.

Newly-opened Hota (2545 Prairie Ave., Evanston), which used to be Jacky’s on Prairie, offers healthy gourmet dining at a college price point. The priciest lunch entree is steak with arugula at $16. I’ve got my eye on the barramundi with a cured lemon-tahini sauce and couscous-chickpea salad ($14). Sandwiches, including the Mediterraneo ($11) with oyster mushrooms, smoked squash, fresh mozzarella and parsley-oregano salsa, are served on either a Bennison’s baguette or sourdough that Chef Jonadab Silva makes himself. Silva says he carefully considers the nutritional content of all his dishes, trying to craft a well-rounded meal full of flavor. You’ll eat well at Hota, but not at the expense of your waistline or wallet.

You can even find healthful items in the least likely of places. Take my perennial favorite, Edzo’s Burger Shop (1571 Sherman Ave., Evanston). Sure, I generally get an eight ounce charburger, truffle fries and a milkshake, but did you know that Edzo’s serves up a really tasty portobello burger ($4.79) too? Skip the bland Morningstar veggie patty for marinated portobello cap topped with roasted peppers, onions and a little herb mayo. You can even ask Eddie to hold the mayo if you must. Granted, going to Edzo’s with the objective of eating a healthy low-calorie meal is a little like handing your AmEx black card to a shopaholic with instructions to window shop. So not happening. I’m not suggesting you go in with the goal of eating healthy, but for those with more will power than me, it is possible.