By Jacqueline Runice

Your parents’ only option was the “diet” plate which consisted of a gray hamburger patty, scoop of watery cottage cheese and maybe a sad slice of mealy tomato on the plate accompanied by a look of pity from your waitress. Since then, scores of athletes, film stars and suburban moms have opted for the high protein low carb tilt toward more energy, leaner bods and even warding off diabetes and heart disease. In Chicago, you can find crave worthy low carb dishes at an array of eateries from a French bistro and a legendary Chicago pizzeria, to a modern breakfast joint, a fast food favorite and a culinary oasis of wellness.

Retro Bistro
1746 W. Golf Road
Mt. Prospect, IL 60056
(847) 439-2424

Owners and Kendall College grads, Lorraine and Chris Barth, offer French and Tuscan bistro fare with an extraordinary number of items that qualify as low carb and high flavor. Starters like tuna tartare deviled eggs and beef tenderloin carpaccio followed by wasabi crusted seared Hawaiian Ahi tuna, served rare, with soy and Asian veggies would thrill food fans of any ilk.  Flamed Steak au Poivre is a 10 oz seared New York Strip Steak with a black pepper cognac sauce served over a gratin of the low carb lover’s fave – cauliflower. while the Confit Leg of Duck and Duck Sausage dish sided with baby arugula with a light Dijon dressing allows you to indulge in something very French. So-light-on-the-carbs salad selections are dizzying from a grilled Gulf shrimp brochette salad to to a confit of duck number. After 25 years in Mt. Prospect, the bistro now has la soeur location in Crystal Lake, too.

Kanela Breakfast Club
502 E. Illinois St.
Chicago, IL 60611
(312) 380-0071 

Who doesn’t like breakfast for breakfast or lunch? With five locations in Chicago – Andersonville, Lakeview, Old Town, Wicker Park and Streeterville –  Kanela Breakfast Club is that old Greek diner reinterpreted and elevated for the 21st century. The choices that qualify as  low carb are myriad especially when you opt for a side of fruit (healthier carbs) rather than potatoes or toast. You won’t miss the starch when flavor peaks on your plate of Spicy Feta or Goat Cheese Omelette, Egg-White Omelette (with mushroom, avocado, tomato, onion, broccoli, green pepper and salsa verde), Chorizo and Eggs, Kale Cobb Salad (that includes roasted chicken, bacon, tomato, avocado, bleu cheese, hard boiled egg, creamy bleu cheese dressing) and  a Lorraine Scramble. In addition, you’re getting Eggland’s Best Cage-Free Organic Eggs, Bow Truss coffee and ingredients from local farms and markets.

Buona Beef
6745 Roosevelt Road
Berwyn IL 60402
(708) 749-2555

What? You can have low carb fast food? Certainly – if you get to one of the 18 Chicagoland locations of Buona, The Original Italian Beef. The largest family-owned Italian beef restaurant group (and official Italian Beef of the Chicago Cubs, 2016 World Series Champions), offers a “Skip the Gym” menu. You can still savor Chicago’s best Italian beef via a Naked Beef Bowl: lots o’ Buona Beef, peppers and cheese. There’s also a Naked Combo Bowl that adds Italian sausage to the bowl. We would suggest adding one of the eight or so salads but they’re sizable buckets of veg and protein. Try the Old Neighborhood House Salad (mixed greens, arugula, Roma tomato, cucumber, parmesan cheese, banana peppers, Italian vinaigrette dressing – just tell them to skip the croutons), a chopped or a Cobb salad.

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Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria
4340 N. Lincoln Ave.
Chicago, IL 60618
(773) 654-4000

What? You can have low carb Chicago style pizza? Lou Malnati’s, the only deep dish pizza that matters, can be a dieter’s downfall with that authentic Buttercrust.  The “Crustless” pizza, however,  is prepared just like a deep dish pie but uses Lou’s lean sausage as the base. and then it’s constructed in the traditional way – topped with fresh mozzarella cheese, then chunky tomatoes and finished with a dusting of Parmesan and Romano cheese. Of course, you can load it with other low carb ingredients like mushrooms, onions, peppers, black olives, basil, garlic, hot giardiniera, anchovies, etc. and not have to ingest another thing for 24 hours. There are 47 Chicagoland locations.

True Food Kitchen
1 W. Erie St.
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 204-6981

Spacious, sunny and oozing health, True Food Kitchen is the brainchild of wellness visionary, Dr. Andrew Weil and although the new River North eatery does not necessarily label menu items by carb or calorie counts, there are quite a few dishes on the anti-inflammatory food pyramid that are naturally low carb. Brussels sprouts are prepared with Jerusalem artichoke, sultana, shallot and toasted hazelnut. Runner up in trendy veg is charred cauliflower and here it’s served with harissa tahini, dill, mint, pistachio. Order some crisp Farmer’s Market crudites to dip into  tzatziki and black olive dip or shitake lettuce cups which are  protein emboldened by tofu and made interesting with exotic extras.  It not all about the garden, though, as protein rich entrees like Grilled Chicken or Seared Albacore Tuna Salad and Scottish Steelhead Salmon satisfy bigger appetites.

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