I recently had the pleasure of attending the Worlds of Healthy Flavors conference at the Napa Valley campus of the Culinary Institute of America. Three days of leading scientists, chef demos, and over 50 company representatives such as me, all focused on one thing – healthy food that tastes great. The CIA has hosted this for several years, and its effort to make sense of the science and trends are admirable and informative. We all want to be healthier. The diet we choose plays a large part in that overall goal.
Many of the seminars covered the disturbing trends of increased obesity, childhood and type 2 diabetes, and coronary heart disease throughout the world. Chart after chart showed these trends are growing at a rapid rate. Processed and sugary foods, saturated and trans fats, corn-based sweeteners and fat free yet carb laden products are all targeted as culprits of an epidemic. The solution was obvious to scientists, if only everyone would just eat daily 3 ounces of fish and lots of whole grains and nuts, with as much leafy green vegetables as possible, all would be well. I agree on paper, but most paying guests would like a little more than that.
I have three kids under 12, and each one is thankfully healthy and active. I understand, though, the challenges a parent faces with enforcing a healthy balance in their diet. Whether it is what they see on tv, peer pressure, or just the fact of parents’ reduced time in this busy world. Even my own kids will trade a plate of healthy food for mac-n-cheese.(Except my daughter, who watches the school menu and on the days she cannot get a salad insists on making her own lunch). My kids like to make their own choices, and often they will choose the fruit instead of the fries, but not always, which is ok.
Translating this to our kids menus, we have long included choices of fresh fruit and vegetables, salads, grilled chicken, and other selections in addition to the obligatory chicken fingers, mac-n-cheese, pizza, and burgers. Let’s face it, traveling with kids is sometimes a challenge on its own, so a balance of menu selections can reduce the stress of both parents and their kids.
Eating healthy while on the road is something that one does not have to struggle with. I eat out a lot, in our hotels, in others’ great restaurants, and in others’ not so great restaurants. Though many menus may seem to be dominated by the top of the food pyramid, it actually is pretty easy to eat well. All of our restaurants have high quality oil and vinegar ready for guests to dress their salads as they wish. Lighter vinaigrettes can easily be substituted for heavier creams and sauces, and there is no special request we won’t strive to honor. More importantly though, chefs are designing menus with selections that are healthier and chef crafted. Whole grains and vegetables, olive oils instead of saturated fats, and other great ingredients play a larger part in menus now and in the future. Bold flavors are prominent, and we borrow from the healthy habits of the Mediterranean and even Southeast Asia for inspiration. Comfort food can be healthy too, because just like our kids, adults can’t get enough of the grown up mac-n-cheese loaded spiked with lobster, but now it can be made with a lighter sauce and cheeses naturally lower in saturated fat. Of course, there is no end in sight of the popularity of a great steak and simply prepared potatoes, maybe even with a side of asparagus slathered in, dare I say, hollandaise sauce, so have no fear, the food pendulum will stay in balance for all!
What’s on YOUR plate today?