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Congressman Ted Deutch on Going Vegan and Dining Out in South Florida

When you’re a United States congressman, you can pretty much count on the best table at any restaurant.

South Florida has no shortage of amazing places to eat, so why would an esteemed member of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee be grabbing eats at Whole Foods Market?

For the tofu take-out, of course.

Vegan for three years, Boca Raton’s own 21st District congressman, Ted Deutch, is excited about the increasing availability of scrumptious vegan fare throughout his district, which includes a substantial portion of both Palm Beach and Broward counties.

Deutch began thinking about healthy eating when he was a state senator in Tallahassee from 2007 to 2010, getting hooked on the vegan “chicken” salad from the food co-op at nearby Florida State University.

Fast forward to three years ago when Deutch found himself browsing through a bookstore in New York and randomly picked up a copy of Michael Pollan’sThe Omnivore’s Dilemma.

“It raised a lot of questions about what we eat and where it comes from,” Deutch says.

After subsequently reading The China Study and Eating Animals, Deutch watched the movie Forks Over Knives and made what he refers to as “an intellectual decision” to give up meat.

Deutch says the most difficult part of his original decision to become vegetarian (a diet devoid of meat but inclusive of dairy) was his own ridiculous idea that he could get by at business dinners eating nothing but cheese cubes.

“I thought, before I started paying attention to nutrition, that has a lot of protein, it’ll probably keep you from being hungry, and I don’t know what else they’re going to have, but there is always going to be cheese,” he laughs.

After learning the troubling facts about the cruelty involved in dairy production and dairy’s adverse effects on human health, Deutch took the leap from vegetarian to vegan, which meant he would no longer eat animal byproducts, including dairy or eggs.

Deutch is in good company, following in the steps of former President Bill Clinton, who credits his vegan diet for his very survival after multiple heart surgeries. Deutch admits, however, to having been a little worried about what would be available to eat.

“It was easy to give up meat. It was harder to give up fish. A few years ago when I’d ask if could just bring me some vegetables, they were very accommodating,” he recalls.

Deutch says many restaurants today understand what it means to be vegan and often offer tasty options beyond just vegetables.

“It was a transition, but because it’s not uncommon anymore it wasn’t that difficult,” he says of the creative dishes he is able to find today.

Deutch plans to celebrate the big 5-0 with his family at one of his favorite places — Zagat-rated, award-winning Sublime Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale.

His favorite dish? Everything.

“When I go into a vegan restaurant I’m so excited that I can order everything on the menu, that I will go out of my way to not order the same thing twice just because I love the variety,” he says.

A big fan of Darbster in West Palm Beach and Farmer’s Table in Boca Raton, Deutch says he likes anything with “grains, greens, and fake meat.”

“Because I’ve been spending so much time in Fort Lauderdale, I’ve been to Green Bar a few times,” he adds. “I actually like that place a lot.”

But between jetting across the country advocating for human rights, playing tennis with his son, and watching the Miami Heat dominate on the basketball courts, Deutch finds himself collecting a lot of to-go bags.

“For take-out, I like 4th Generation in Boca. I am a big fan of the eggless egg salad,” he says.

Deutch says one of the best parts about becoming vegan is that it has opened his mind to a variety of issues he hadn’t thought much about before.

“I work on a lot of animal-rights issues. I started taking a larger interest in food policy issues. There’s no question I feel better. I think a lot more about what we eat and the impact that it has not just on our bodies, but on our environment and on our world — and that’s a direct result of my decision to become a vegan.”

Wendy Rhodes is a freelance writer and award-winning author. Follow her onFacebook and on Twitter @WendyRhodesFL.