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At Greenleaf Every Meal is Healthy, Every Bite Delicious

Jul 11, 2012
If you've spent any time in L.A., you may have had the chance to wander into one of Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop's three locations. They're described as "modern farm stands" that dole out gorgeously healthy takes on classic staples, from the Cobb salad to the grilled cheese. (If you'd like a recreate one of their dishes yourself, check out their recipe for the Antioxidant Orchard Salad.)

Jonathan Rollo, the self-professed "Commander-in-Leaf," is the healthy-eating guru mastermind behind Greenleaf. With a sterling restaurant pedigree stemming from his time at the Patina Group, Rollo is joined by Executive Chef Kristi Ritchey, also of the Patina Group. Together they aim to spread their gospel of losing weight and eating well.

One of their first converts? Chef Ritchey herself, who lost 100 pounds. FitDay spoke to Rollo and Ritchey.

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FITDAY: What was your diet like prior to your 100-pound weight loss?

KRISTI RITCHEY: Horrible. [I] Barely ate all day long while working 16 hours a day. Then I would eat fast food late at night on my way home from work.

FD: What precipitated the change in your lifestyle to want to lose the weight and get fit?

KR: I collapsed at work and my prep cook had to take me to the emergency room. I was 24 and weighed over 260 pounds.

FD: How did you go about losing the weight? Was it hard to stick with the lifestyle change?

KR: Barry's Bootcamp workouts five days a week, a personal trainer, and Jon Rollo helped me to create a new way of eating that I could maintain while working crazy hours.

FD: How hard is it to eat healthy? It seems so much easier to go through a drive-thru on the way home-how do you alter this mindset?

JONATHAN ROLLO: It's one of those things that sometimes you can't fight against-the way to make the most of it is just to make the right decisions when you're in a rush, and have your healthy "go to" [options]. That's what we do at Greenleaf-with your grab-and-go items and easy pick up, we make sure to have healthy options for those who are always busy but still want to eat right.

FD: It's pretty easy to eat healthy in a place like Los Angeles-but what about in places where there isn't as much access to amazing, healthy options? Or places where buying fresh fruits and vegetables is much costlier? How do people eat healthy on a budget?

JR: Farmer's markets are the best-they are located in most cities across the country, let you buy fresh produce in bulk, and are cheap because you eliminate the middle man (grocery stores)... And by visiting frequently, you can start to create relationships with vendors, who could potentially offer you deals! Also, making things in large batches--such as dressings and soups--and storing them in the fridge/freezer is a great way to save money and save time when it comes to meals.

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FD: How did you go about planning the menu for Greenleaf? Do you look at foods calorically or based on what nutrients they contain?

JR: We definitely looked at foods based on calories and on nutrients, but more than anything, it was based on flavor. Many of our dishes started with a flavor profile or concept profile (i.e. a Chinese chicken-style salad, Cobb salad), and we then began experimenting with different combinations, and found substitutes for less healthy ingredients that would still produce great tasting dishes.

FD: Do you ever have cravings for fatty or unhealthy foods? How do you combat those?

KR: Absolutely. I create healthier versions. I use the craving as motivation to be creative as a chef. If I want to really eat it, I find a way. A healthier way.

FD: What are your tips for healthy eating?

JR: [Find] a balance. Reduce the amount of sugar, eat whole grain carbs if you're going to eat carbs, eat all natural protein if you're going to eat protein, and eat cleaner, fresh foods.

FD: And what about tips for getting in shape?

KR: Don't be afraid to eat, drink plenty of water--not soda, coffee, or juices--and stay active.

Photos by Luis Mendoza.

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