Martin and Carol DeNysschen have busy jobs and two daughters. The Orchard Park family will grab a quick meal at a nearby Panera Bread when really pressed for time – careful to focus on whole grains, lean meats and plenty of vegetables.
There are healthy standards to meet when mom is a registered dietitian.
A special meal out – without daughters Jenna, 10, and Ashley, 12 – is a rarity for the DeNysschens. That’s why they want to savor the ones like lunch earlier this week at Oshun Oyster Bar in the Buffalo Theater District.
“Basic meat, fish, chicken and potatoes are fine” if you eat slowly, enjoy your food and control portions, said Carol DeNysschen, chair of the SUNY Buffalo State Department of Health, Nutrition and Dietetics. “I’m there for the company and the atmosphere, to take it all in.”
It’s a tack DeNysschen hopes others will look to take from Oct. 17 to 23, as Local Restaurant Week unfolds in Western New York.
For more tips, visit the Dining Out section of healthyoptionsbuffalo.com.
Customer questions about healthy ingredients, substitutions and dining practices have become more common since Jim Guarino, owner of Oshun, opened his first Buffalo restaurant, Shango New Orleans Bistro & Wine Bar, a dozen years ago. They helped shaped the concept of Oshun, which opened two years ago. The restaurant features fresh seafood and locally grown vegetables on most dishes – and doesn’t charge a sharing fee for patrons who want to split an entree.
“People are eating healthier than they have in past years and it’s our job to accommodate any requests or needs,” Guarino said. “Our goal here is to really choose sustainable seafood that we can feel good about serving in the restaurant and to highlight the fish as the main ingredient. You don’t find a lot of heavy sauces here. The fish is the star of the plate. We also sell several thousand oysters a week.”
It’s possible to find plenty of healthy options in Western New York dining spots during Local Restaurant Week and beyond, Guarino and DeNysschen said. Here are some rules of the dining road:
1. CHOOSE RIGHT - AT HOME
Most restaurants have menus on their websites. That includes Restaurant Week specials. If not, you can find them at localrestaurantweek.com. “You can get an idea of what you want to consume and what’s going to be healthier, versus making on-the-spot decisions,” DeNysschen said. “It’s easier to determine better choices if you’re not under pressure – and you’re not hungry.”
2. SKIP THE BREAD
“Studies have shown that people can eat up to 500 calories before the meal comes, just from bread baskets,” DeNysschen said. Feel free to tell a server bread, which raises blood sugar, isn’t necessary. “If you really want it that bad, save it for when your meal comes,” DeNysschen said. “Put half your meal in a to-go container and have your bread with your meal.”
3. THINK SALAD
If you hate to the skip an appetizer – another potential calorie minefield – pick salad. Go light on croutons and bacon. Choose balsamic vinegar-based dressings. “The dressings you really want to avoid are the blue cheese, the ranch, the French,” DeNysschen said. “I always tell people a little grated cheese on your salad is not going to add the calories like creamy dressing will.” Ask for dressing on the side so you can control how much goes on the salad.
4. EXTRAS MATTER
Extras you use on both appetizers and entrees can pile on pounds as well. “The following words translate into high-fat, high-calorie dishes,” DeNysschen said: au gratin, scalloped or hollandaise; Parmigiana, scampi or Bolognese; fried or cheese-stuffed; with cream sauce.
5. CONTROL YOUR PORTIONS
“The diameter of the palm of your hand is about 3 ounces. That’s pretty much a portion of meat for lunch but restaurants often serve three times that much,” DeNysschen said. “Pasta also can really pack a punch and most of the pasta dishes, because they’re not really expensive to make, come in a big portion.” Ask your server to bring a to-go container with the main course. “If you take half off your plate right away, you generally eat slower and are more satisfied with the portion that you have,” she said. “The more we see food, the more we tend to eat.”
6. THINK SEAFOOD
RELATED STORY: Why is fish good for you?
Martin DeNysschen , a native of Johannesburg, South Africa, transferred during the late 1990s from a Howden company there to become director of engineering at Howden Buffalo, the former Buffalo Forge. He met his wife while jogging on a Saturday morning at Chestnut Ridge Park. They married in 2003. He likes potatoes, pumpkin, rice and lean meats – and generally chooses seafood or steak on a special night out. “When I go out to a nice restaurant, I’m certainly going to order the seafood,” his wife said. “Seafood is perfect, especially when it’s broiled.”
7. DRINK RIGHT
I don’t want to drink my calories,” Carol DeNysschen said. “It generally doesn’t create satiety for long. You will get hungry quicker than if you consumed those calories from basic, whole foods. Three to 4 ounces of wine or one nice mixed drink is plenty, but if you’re going get into multiple drinks, you can really add calories.” An 8-ounce drink made with fruit juice and vodka can run 200 calories, she said; a Long Island Ice Tea, up to 500 calories. “The more you drink, the more you lose your inhibitions, she added. “You tend to eat more. A lot of times when you come home from dinner, a nice walk would be good, but if you’re going to be drinking you tend not to have the energy.” If you order an alcoholic beverage, ask for a glass of water, too, with a slice of lemon, lime or cucumber, and take turns sipping both.
8. KEEP TRACK
Download MyFitnessPal. “It’s free and it’s easy to use,” DeNysschen said. It will figure out how many calories on average you should eat, and as you eat foods throughout the day and enter them, it subtracts calories. At the end of the day, you see how many calories you have left (or went over), and it tends to help people make wiser choices.”
9. MAKE A DEAL
Those who maintain a healthier weight – especially as they age – make the right eating choices 80 to 90 percent of the time. What does that mean during Local Restaurant Week? Go out every night for dinner if you like – and either spread out your splurges a bit at a time or choose one meal where healthy eating takes a back seat to some of your favorite, less-than-helpful foods.
Is it ever all right to go out for pizza and wings?
“Absolutely, but everybody has to have things in moderation,” DeNysschen said. “When you do it, you’ve got to exercise a little more afterward, and you don’t do it twice a week, you do it once in a while. Six chicken wings is not going to do you in, but when you start dipping them in blue cheese and you have French fries with them, that’s not good. And pizza is not so bad. Just don’t get the double cheese, pepperoni and sausage. Get the basics – and most places give you vegetable options now.”
HEALTHY DINING RESOURCES FROM THE BUFFALO & ERIE COUNTY LIBRARIES
“The CalorieKing Calorie, Fat and Carbohydrate Counter,” Allan Borushek
“The Wellness Kitchen: Fresh, flavorful recipes for a healthier you,” Paulette Lambert
“The World on a Plate: 40 cuisines, 100 recipes, and the stories behind them,” Mina Holland
“The Third Plate: Field notes on the future of food,” Dan Barber
“Serious Eats: A comprehensive guide to making and eating delicious food wherever you are,” Ed Levine
For more information, visit BuffaloLib.org.
Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon