Some meals are meant to be savored with little regard to fat, sugar and salt content because we deem them special. But a routine embrace of that thinking, followed by habits that linger for months and years, can cost you your health.
The spring version of Local Restaurant Week starts on Monday, and presents both an opportunity and a trap for those who want to eat better but already spend far too many meals seeking comfort from their hectic world without regard to ingredients. Choose poorly, and you risk the sluggish, bloated food hangover that – when ignored or soothed by medication over time – can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes and other debilitating chronic disease. Choose well and your taste buds and sense of satisfaction suffer, or so many think.
It’s best to live in the moment, right?
That was 1900s Buffalo thinking, leading regional nutritionists say. Today we want – and can have – good taste and health. Food can be both solace and medicine. It can fuel your body, including your mind. It can help you sleep better, move more easily and satisfy your cravings.
“It’s important to find healthy options if you’re eating out more than once a week – and the reality is that most of us are going out more than once a week,” said Brianna Bartholmew, Healthy Options nutritionist with the Independent Health Foundation.
WNY Refresh asked three registered dietitians and the leader of the Healthy Options program to provide some ideas to help you enjoy every bite of Local Restaurant Week while nourishing your well-being.
Diners don’t have to go out for meals – or have Independent Health insurance coverage – to take advantage of dozens of tips on the Healthy Options website, healthyoptionsbuffalo.com, which includes a section on how to make a variety of ethnic foods healthier, whether cooking at home or dining out on the town. The site also includes information on more than 170 restaurants in the region that include one or more healthy options. Many of those restaurants will participate in Local Restaurant Week (localrestaurantweek.com).
Under Healthy Options guidelines, a full entree should be 600 calories or less, have 22 grams or less fat, 7 grams or less saturated fat, and less than 750 milligrams of sodium and added sugar. Fried foods never make the cut. The Independent Health program also can help restaurants tweak recipes within guidelines for appetizers, desserts and kids meals.
Food Truck Tuesdays, the Taste of Buffalo – and other smaller regional taste events – and New Era Field concessionaires have joined the growing legion of restaurants looking to help customers balance their tastes and wellness, said Carrie Meyer, executive director of the Independent Health Foundation.
“Who knew Buffalo could be so healthy,” Meyer said.
($26) Mangia Ristorante & Caffe, 4264 N. Buffalo Road, Orchard Park
Carol DeNysschen, chair and professor of the SUNY Buffalo State Department of Health, Nutrition and Dietetics, recommends this this dish, a filet of salmon, pan-seared in limoncello liqueur sauce served with Mediterranean rice and asparagus. She also recommends the Arugula Beet Insalata ($10) with arugula, fresh roasted red beets, mandarin oranges and half the regular portion of goat cheese – with citrus and white balsamic vinaigrette on the side, and without the candied pecans.
($7 or less) House of Hummus at 502 Elmwood Ave., 1150 Hertel Ave.
Nicole Klem, director of nutrition and dietetics at Trocaire College, recommends all of the items pictured above, along with sage tea – black tea topped with sage from Palestine. In season, owner Ahmed Hamideh grows his own mint to steep in one of his teas. All of these dishes are vegan. “Move over Mediterranean Diet,” Klem said. “Middle Eastern food also focuses on beans, vegetables, fresh herbs, whole grains and healthy fats but features exciting flavors like pomegranate, za’tar and tahini. I made a commitment to explore more Middle Eastern restaurants in 2018 and House of Hummus has the best hummus and falafel in the area.”
($8.90) Homegrown Kitchen, 650 Main St., East Aurora, and coming to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus later this spring.
This Healthy Options dish is made with kale, spinach, wild rice, chickpeas, roasted chicken, red onion and raw corn with a spicy carrot curry dressing. Accompanying it is a Protein PB&J smoothie ($6.85) made with peanut butter, blueberries, banana, vanilla protein powder, and unsweetened almond milk.
Grains & Greens Salad
($10 for the salad, $7 for the salmon) The Filling Station, 745 Seneca St., Larkin Square
Believe it or not, Fat Bob’s Smokehouse (Smoked wings and Memphis Pulled Pork Pasta Salad) and Ru’s Pierogi (Asian Pork and Jerk Chicken pierogis) fall into the Healthy Options guidelines when many salads do not. Ingredients count. The Grains & Greens Salads at the Filling Station include salads that arrive at your table inside the guidelines, too, including this squash and citrus salad, with ginger vinaigrette on the side.