Eat healthy, Vegan-style!

Mar 25, 2003 3:50 AM

One of the joys of dining in Las Vegas is all the great, gourmet-style restaurants the city has to offer. Unfortunately, all that rich, gourmet-style food may not be just what the doctor ordered, and could contribute to clogged arteries, obesity and other maladies.

Most people agree they should eat healthier, eat less and eat smart. But how does one do that in a world of high-fat, high-cholesterol, high-risk food choices?

Bob Saladino, founder of the Raw Truth Veggie Café & Juice Bar, has the answer. "Raw and organic foods are the key," Saladino says. "Uncooked vegetables, fruits, sprouted nuts, seeds and whole grains are living foods that nourish the human body. Just about everything else is cardboard."

Of all the eateries in Las Vegas, there are very few purely vegetarian restaurants. And Saladino’s Raw Truth is perhaps the only one that doesn’t use a stove, oven or microwave ”” virtually everything is freshly prepared from raw, natural ingredients.

"Up to 85 percent of the nutrition is lost during the cooking process," Saladino says. "Heat also changes the chemical make-up of food, which creates substances that the body can no longer recognize. This causes unwanted damage within the body."

Saladino opened his first vegetarian restaurant only four years ago. Lauded by his customers as somewhat of a veggie guru, Saladino became a "vegan" by necessity, after experiencing health problems of his own.

Oddly enough, Saladino worked for more than 20 years in the health care industry, mostly hospitals and HMO’s, serving as a patient services expert.

But his own health suffered. "I was overweight, I smoked, drank too much and ate all the wrong things," he said. "As a consequence, my health was poor and I just never felt right."

At the time, Saladino was challenged to try an all-raw diet for just 30 days. Which he did.

Adopting a vegetarian regime changed his life, Saladino says. First, his weight started to drop, and many of his friends thought he had contracted AIDS. But at some point, the weight loss stopped, and he gained new-found energy and lust for living.

With his own life as a model, Saladino decided to try to help others while trying a new venture, a vegetarian restaurant.

"I wanted a place that would educate people in alternative, natural methods of regaining and retaining health and vitality," he says. "Plus, the café is a comfortable place to mingle and enjoy 100 percent organic meals."

For those who complain that organic, vegetarian fare simply isn’t sexy or exciting, they should check out the Raw Truth’s offerings. The menu includes a vast salad bar, of course, but there are dozens of "gourmet" dishes prepared daily.

They include raw taco salad, lentil-curry coconut salad, cucumber garbonzo salad; stuffed grape leaves, vegetarian pizza and lasagna (these are phenomenal!), quesadillas, zucchini angel hair pasta, veggie burgers, superb quiche, and much more.

A highlight of the menu is the desserts: banana split, carrot cake, brownies, coconut cream pie and an innovative apple pie that simply melts in your mouth.

The Raw Truth also prepares a variety of raw juices, smoothies and organic soil-grown wheat grass. Located at 2381 East Windmill in Green Valley, the Raw Truth also sells organic vitamins, food supplements and holistic books.