Our tour of Lakeland establishments that offer healthy food choices continues with Red Door Lakeland.

Unique and charming, the Red Door restaurant, 733 E. Palmetto St., is situated in the Lake Morton historic district across from the public library and the Polk Museum of Art. Tastefully decorated, the restaurant boasts a spacious and inviting covered porch and a patio in addition to its indoor dining room.

Offerings include a full spectrum alcoholic beverage bar and craft food. Red Door serves dinner, beginning at 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and a Sunday brunch 11 a.m to 2 p.m.

Restaurant manager Valerie Mantz, a graduate of the University of Central Florida’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management, said she enjoys her work “giving people an experience and seeing them make memories.”

The restaurant menu includes some selections which are specifically prepared to accommodate patrons who adhere to a vegan, vegetarian, or a gluten-free diet. Most of the menu items display codes to indicate their suitability for those diets:  Vegetarian (VG); Gluten-Free (G); and Vegan (V). For example: Buddha Bowl, (V) (G); Beet Tartar (V) (G); Pan-Seared Salmon (G); and Door Salad (VG) (G).

The public has become increasingly aware of the role food choices play in overall health. This has inspired millions in our country to seek information about the nutritional needs of the highly complex human body, and to improve their eating habits.

The result has been an explosion in demand for healthier, less-processed and more natural foods when eating out or preparing meals at home. Some diets, such as vegetarian and vegan have been followed by many even before the start of the “Wellness Revolution” a couple of decades ago. Folks following those diets are focused not only on consuming healthier fare; they choose to do so also for ethical reasons, concerns about the health of our planet as well as cruelty and exploitation of animals raised for food. The number of Lakeland restaurants offering vegetarian, vegan, low-fat, and gluten-free entrees has mushroomed in recent years.

Questions are often asked: What is the difference between a vegan and a vegetarian diet, and what is a gluten-free diet?

Persons adhering to a vegan lifestyle abstain from the consumption of animal products, such as meat, fish, fowl, dairy, eggs, and honey, and the use of animal-derived materials for clothing or any other purpose. A vegan diet consists of fruit, vegetables, legumes (beans, lentils, and peas), nuts and sprouts.

A vegetarian diet shuns meat, fish, and, fowl. However, eating restrictions vary among vegetarians. Some are pescatarians, those who do eat fish and seafood. Lacto-vegetarians consume dairy products but not eggs. Lacto-ovo vegetarians are those who do eat eggs and milk products.

A gluten-free diet excludes the protein gluten, which is found in wheat, (including wheat cultivars durum and semolina grown for pasta production), barley, and triticale (a hybrid cross between wheat and rye). More often than not, this diet is prescribed by health care practitioners for managing celiac disease, allergies, and other medical gluten-intolerance conditions.

Not all grains contain gluten, however. Some of those which do not are amaranth, rice, oats, sorghum, millet, quinoa, arrowroot, buckwheat (botanically not wheat), and corn, (cornmeal). A gluten-free diet allows the consumption of vegetables, fruit, beans, eggs, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, non-processed meats, and low-fat dairy products. Some individuals who do not suffer from gluten intolerance elect to limit or completely eliminate foods containing gluten, and they often report overall feeling better.

The healthy food selections at the Red Door Restaurant are proof which debunks the notion that wholesome cuisine is boring and bland – Bon Appétit!


Judy E. Buss is a syndicated food columnist, blogger for the American Holistic Health Association, nutritional cooking instructor, and speaker.

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