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Feb 20, 2008 07:25 PM

Cooking Light names top 20 cities

Big shocker for me was Austin TX being ranked lower than St. Louis MO. Having lived in both cities, I can say that it is far easier to find organic produce and vegetarian foods in Austin than it is in St. Louis. St. Louis has improved by leaps and bounds since I moved there but it is still a heavilty meat and potatoes town, with lots of heavily suaced pasta houses and German inspired restaurants.

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  1. Interesting--thank you for the link. Glad to see Minneapolis at #4, above San Francisco, shockingly. But, not all the measures are food-related. The criteria are defined to identify cities where residents can eat smart, be fit, and live well--and includes things like available green space, how well-maintained city parks are, and how walkable it is. Also, ickily, the more Trader Joe's and Whole Foods your city has, the higher your city ranks. I think the average quality of grocery stores in town went down when Whole Foods moved in, and will go down another notch when TJ's moves in. We have really fantastic locally-focused grocery stores and co-ops here.


    1. Bogus. Cooking light should not be the authority on anything. Their reason behind Atlanta is:

      "Approximately 55,000 people gather on the Fourth of July at the Peachtree Road Race, the largest 10k in the world."

      Get the whole lifestyle smooze- but this reason has nothing to do with the food/eating right.

      2 Replies
      1. re: charlottecooks

        No, that reason doesn't....but the one that has to do with food has to do with food:

        "Search for gourmet goods at the world-class DeKalb Farmers Market (404-377-6400,, a 140,000-square-foot "United Nations of fresh food." Here, city residents and top chefs alike squeeze, poke, and examine seemingly endless varieties of fresh fare."

        As TDQ pointed out above, the article didn't only focus on food but also on other factors....and having that many people turn out for a 10K says something about the city. Not sure what it says...but it says something. The article didn't claim to be only about the food.

        1. re: ccbweb

          But 35,000 people run or walk the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon every year (it's the USA's largest half-marathon), but I wouldn't exactly give Indy a healthy-living nod. It's still one of the fattest cities.

          Out of curiosity, what are the Cooking Light criteria and how do they rank them? Do they actually use some algorithm?

          EDIT--I see my question has been addressed later on. I've got to learn to read entire thr3eads before posting--sorry folks!

      2. I can see SF lagging into 5th. Richer food, less "granola" then Seattle and Portland. DC however is a little nutty but I've never been.

        4 Replies
        1. re: ML8000

          Washington is a "little nutty" yet you've "never been?" Why would you have the impression that this is not a healthy city or that there would not be the same resources available here as in San Francisco? Or that the percentage of population (highest percentage of college degrees of any city in America) which exercises isn't among America's highest? Or that D. C.'s restaurants aren't among America's Best? (Michel Richard won the Beard Award for best chef in America this year and the Beard award for wine service was here also). From wineries in the foothills of the Blueridge mountains to farm stands on the eastern shore of Maryland to the Chesapeake Bay and the Shenandoah there is as much available in the D. C. area as anywhere in America.

          What is interesting are the comments of many on this thread and their perception of the various cities of this country. It also tells me that some cities need to promote themselves much more than they do.

          I was not surprised to see D. C. (where I live) or Seattle and Portland. But I was also not surprised to see Minneapolis ranked so high. All four of these cities have not only excellent food sources available to those who live there, but they also represent well educated, athletic and relatively affluent populations.

          1. re: Joe H

            Okay so put DC up there. It has a well educated, athletic and an affluent population. If that's what it takes to be ranked as a eating city by Cooking Light, good for DC. DC should be proud.

            1. re: ML8000

              "Ranked as a eating city?" What do you mean?

              The "rankings" aren't only about or even necessarily primarily about food. I don't think the rankings mean much in general, but they lay out their terms and their criteria pretty clearly.

              1. re: ccbweb

                Okay, it makes the rank for whatever the criteria. I agree.

        2. This seems pretty silly. Their criteria are pretty random, and I'd be willing to bet that the residents of Los Angeles have more access to fresh fruits and vegetables and organic food, better restaurants and are fitter than the residents of Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Baltimore, just to name a few.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Chowpatty

            But they have nowhere to walk. And how much green space is there in LA? (Note, serious question, I don't actually know).

            1. re: ccbweb

              There are plenty of places to walk in L.A. if you actually want to walk (and you can do it pretty much 365 days of the year), it's just that it's not always convenient to walk to do your daily errands or for dinner. As far as green space, there are great places like the beach, the Santa Monica mountains and Griffith Park, and then there are large parts of the city without good parks. But in general people in L.A. are known for being in pretty good shape. It's just like anywhere else -- the people who want to buy organic food and walk will find a way to do it, and the ones who don't, won't.

              1. re: ccbweb

                Los Angeles has the largest urban park in the nation smack dab in the middle of the city -- Griffith Park, which has 50 miles of hiking trails.


                It also has miles and miles and miles of biking and walking paths along the coast, and a bike path that traverses the city along the Los Angeles River, and a bike path that goes from the Inland Empire to the Sea.


                All of this is not to mention the fact that you can ski and surf in the same day in Los Angeles, and that the LA basin is surrounded by National forests.

                It doesn't make sense that Los Angeles is not on that list, when places like Vegas are.

                1. re: DanaB

                  Funnily enough, another survey I read recently named Las Vegas as the fattest city in America. And in a different survey, Wisconsin was listed as the most-abusing-of-alcohol state, which would seem to challenge Milwaukee's right to an appearance in Cooking Light's top 20 cities for "eating smart, being fit, and living well."

                  These kind of lists are fun, and I always love to see where MY city ranks (it never ranks, actually, they always rank Minneapolis and never St. Paul), but I think you really have to take most of them with a grain of salt.


            2. 1. Does the city have critically acclaimed food professionals? Source: James Beard-nominated restaurants

              Well, that knocks out a lot of small-to-medium sized cities right there.

              2. How do its restaurants rate? Source: Zagat Survey

              3. Is organic dining a part of the local dining scene? Source:

              Same point - most smaller cities can't support something as niche as organic dining

              4. How many chefs work in the city? Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

              Once again - not a big city, fewer chefs. Does this make them less talented?

              5. Do they earn more than a living wage? Source: BLS

              6. How many farmers' markets does the city have? Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmer's Markets Directory;

              That one I actually agree with.

              7. Do residents make use of fresh produce? Source: CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS)

              Not to be flip - but WTF is the BRFSS? Sounds a bit like some new part of the Patriot Act.

              8. Are gourmet ingredients available via national chains? Source: Trader Joe's and Whole Foods locations

              This one I definitely object to. Since when did TJ's and WF become the only sources of "gourmet" ingredients?

              The rest of these make sense to me:

              9. Are residents in good health? Source: BRFSS

              10. What are the cities with the lowest rates of diabetes? Source: CDC and BRFSS

              11. What are the cities where residents maintain healthy weights? Source: CDC and BRFSS

              12. How often do the city's residents exercise? Source: CDC and BRFSS

              13. How much green space does the city provide? Source: The Trust for Public Land

              14. Are parks and recreation areas well maintained? Source: The Trust for Public Land

              15. Is the city easy to explore on foot? Source: American Podiatric Association

              All in all, I'm not sure how much credence I give to this rating system. Too many criteria that I think are more than a little irrelevant.