Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nutrition at your fingertips

TMI. Too much information can be frustrating thing no matter what the topic.
Calorie counts on menu items can certainly help dieters quickly decide between the chicken fried steak and grilled chicken. But, a lengthy list of nutrition facts can be mind numbing when charts downloaded on smart phones or from restaurant websites reel off everything from cholesterol and fiber to vitamin and mineral content. What was I having for lunch again? Can’t someone just telling which choice is better for me? Well, that depends. Are you looking for a burger or pizza? And do you care more about calories or sodium?
Providing choices within categories and putting them into perspective is what Usable Health kiosks aim to do for restaurant diners with an eye on their diet and health. Here’s how it would work. Say you’re at Chic-Fil-A and you’re watching your sodium intake. Punch in chicken sandwich and the kiosk would reveal you can save 250 milligrams of sodium by swapping the fried chicken sandwich for the char grilled. Care about calories? The kiosk would alert you to swap the McChicken sandwich for a hamburger and save 110 calories. Right now, Atlanta based Usable Health, has interactive kiosks placed in the midtown location of Atlanta restaurant chain, Tin Drum.
Chad Bonner, co-founder of Usable Health says, “People are loving the experience and we’re tracking over 150 individual orders per day.” The health-based menu ordering service developed by Georgia Tech researchers prompts customers to select personal health goals including management of diabetes, blood pressure or weight. Then the kiosk suggests a customized menu. Bonner predicts technological support of menu guidance will be even more in demand as regulations take effect requiring restaurants, airport food outlets and even vending machines to provide nutrition information, “We’re really excited about taking this to the next step of personalization including more detailed health information and food preferences.” Currently, users can sign up on to create a profile and be a part of this growing company’s consumer research. While we wait for more technology to help translate nutrition numbers into healthy menu choices, here are some word clues to help you cut calories by decoding common menu terms.
Fat by any other name
Aioli-mayonnaise with garlic
Au Gratin- topped with cheese, butter and breadcrumb mixture
Beurre--butter’s French name
Bisque-most often a cream based soup
Béarnaise--watch the “-aise,” which indicates egg based mayonnaise
Crispy-code word for fried!
Crusted or Encrusted--coated with nuts, bread crumbs or potato, pan fried until crispy

Leaning toward leaner….
Au Jus--pan juices often reduced with no fat added
Braise--slow cooked to tenderize meats or fish, often little added fat
Broth-fragrant water based sauce with infused flavors ie. chicken & lemongrass broth
Coulis--all hail the coulis, often a no-fat-added puree of vegetables or fruit
Primavera – Italian for “spring”; indicates vegetables are major ingredient
Provencale- South-of-France style sauce with tomato and other vegetables

Ask Questions If It Says:
Grilled--watch out for butter or oil slathered on during grilling
Roasted--watch out for extra fat used in roasting, ie.butter basted
Poached--not always in water, watch out for poached in oil or butter
Sautéed -- butter or oil are used, chefs can limit amount if asked
Steamed- watch out for butter or oil added after the steaming

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