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The word of the year on the Sarasota dining scene is “clean.” And we’re not talking about a restaurant acing its state restaurant inspections. Rather, “clean” represents a philosophy of serving fewer processed foods, delivering smaller portions and cutting down on meat.

When Tableseide Restaurant Group, for example, announced in March that Lemon Tree Kitchen would replace Louies Modern on Palm Avenue in downtown Sarasota, the company pledged to offer “truly clean eating” to its guests. That means a menu that caters to vegetarians and vegans, as well as diners who avoid gluten and others who follow ketogenic or paleo diets. (The ketogenic diet, or “keto” for short, is a low-carb, high-fat plan, while paleo emphasizes ditching grains, dairy and legumes.) The same month Lemon Tree opened, State Street Eating House + Cocktails overhauled its dinner menu, adding diet-friendly options like seared cauliflower.

What’s driving this? In decades past, dining out was an occasion to indulge, but as visits to restaurants have become more frequent and fitness and wellness regimens become stricter, diners are increasingly hunting for options that won’t spoil all that time they put in at the gym. Add in worries about the dangers of the industrialized food system and the environmental damage wrought by meat production, and restaurants are facing a growing movement to go clean. We bet other Sarasota restaurants will follow suit.

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