Eating Raw Doesn’t Mean Abandoning Lasagna

“Everyone should remember that eating raw is not just eating salads. You will get bored and you won’t stick to it,” says Karyn Calabrese, a health advocate, author and owner of three restaurants, a beauty center and day spa, all in Chicago. “I would have never made it this long if that is all I had to eat. I grew up cooking with my grandmother on Sundays and I wanted to incorporate all those recipes in the raw world. My cookbook, Soak Your Nuts, Conscious Comfort Foods, has both cooked and raw recipes from all of my restaurants that are delicious and simple to make at home.”

Calabrese isn’t new to the raw food scene. She’s often the “go-to” person when someone is considering a change in their diet or lifestyle to include raw foods, both in the Chicagoland area and nationally. She’s appeared several times on The Oprah Winfrey Show, in national ads and was awarded the inaugural Raw and Living Foods Golden Branch Award in 2002 for introducing the idea of raw and living foods to the greatest number of people in the mainstream.

“It is my belief that the human body is intended to eat a raw foods diet,” says Calabrese. “When we eat raw foods, we do not use our body’s natural enzymes to break down the food as we do with cooked foods.” While recommending a raw food diet, she doesn’t counsel making a drastic diet change overnight to maximize health benefits. “You cannot go from A to Z overnight,” she explains. “Even just adding more raw foods to your everyday diet and eliminating animal products will improve your health drastically.”

Using fresh produce is preferable, she adds, and using organic is even better, but Calabrese doesn’t want the lack of access to organic or fresh foods to stop us from eating better. “It is more important to do what works for you,” she advises. “If keeping frozen veggies and only buying conventional produce is what will work for you and allow you to be consistent in eating better, then do that.”

Calabrese is quick to note that while she’s happy to provide people with the resources to help them become healthier, she’s hardly an evangelist, preaching the benefits to anyone that will listen. Rather, she prefers to be a source once someone is ready to make those types of changes, if they get to that place at all.

“Approximately 80 percent of my customers at Karyn’s on Green are non-vegans,” she says. “The food is just that delicious. My cooked restaurants are dedicated to be a bridge for people looking to better their eating habits. It is proof that you can have flavorful, health-conscious meals.”

Calabrese’s cookbook includes recipes from all of her restaurants specifically because she kept getting requests for recipes by those that had come to enjoy her meals. “You don’t bring people into the health world by making them drink wheatgrass,” she says, laughing. “But by giving them maybe some pancakes or cookies, they won’t even know its vegan!” For those too busy to prepare their own meals, she also offers a Meals at Home program they can use to facilitate eating healthy.

Being healthier isn’t just about eating healthier. It is also about cleansing the body and ridding ourselves of the waste and toxicity that we have accumulated over years or decades, according to Calabrese. “I have created a world where you can cleanse, heal and improve your inner and outer beauty,” she says. “I can’t pick just one thing that everyone loves because everyone does what works for them, but the most important thing I would recommend are my enzymes. Enzymes are the essence of life, and if you take them, especially when you eat cooked foods, you will allow your body to maintain its natural enzymes.”

She admits that some people come to her restaurants not at all interested in a lifestyle change, but because they enjoy the meals. Others seek her out specifically because they are looking to make changes in their life. Calabrese welcomes them all. “If people are not ready to listen to their own bodies, they will not make any changes or improvements, no matter what information we present to them,” she says. “We are all on our own wellness journey and go at our own pace. When they are ready, our doors are open.”

For those of us that know we want to become healthier or make a change for the better, Calabrese has only one piece of advise: Listen to your body. “We all intuitively know what is best for us,” she says. “Do some research and see what works for you. The hardest obstacle is you.”

To learn more about Karyn Calabrese, Karyn’s Inner Beauty Center and O2 Day Spa, Karyn’s Fresh Corner, Karyn’s Raw Bistro, Karyn’s Cooked, Karyn’s on Green or her new cookbook, Soak Your Nuts, Conscious Comfort Foods, call 312-255-1590 or visit

Megy Karydes is a professional writer who is looking forward to the changing seasons. Keep up with her at

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