Food & Drink

Saul Good restaurants help diners make healthier choices

Most restaurant menus don't cater to the dietary needs of their customers, but Saul Good Restaurant & Pub is making it easy for its customers to make healthier choices.

Executive chef Jeff Mayer worked with US Foods and MenuMax, a company that assists restaurants with cost and nutritional analysis for menu items, to standardize ingredient measurements and portion sizes to establish consistency in meeting the guidelines set by MenuMax's nutritional analysis.

Nutrition information on all of the permanent menu items is available in the restaurant and on a PDF file on the restaurant's Web site, Included are counts of calories, fat, cholesterol, sodium, protein and vitamins.

"We want to cater to our guests who are concerned with dietary needs, and the information that we developed will assist these guests in making choices that are consistent with their nutritional objectives," owner Rob Perez said.

Unlike many restaurants that simply post nutrition information, Saul Good lets customers craft meals to meet their dietary needs. "Our goal is to serve people the way they want to be served," Perez said.

"You can share a meal or take one of two major things off," he said. Asking the server to remove the bacon from the bacon cheeseburger will take away 141.8 calories and 11.8 grams of fat.

"It's amazing what taking off half the dressing does to the salad," Perez said. (Asian dressing for the Asian crunch salad contains 295.3 calories and 26 grams of fat.)

Instead of ordering fries with a burger, you can ask for a serving of fruit.

"When you eliminate the fries and dressing, the meal is pretty doggone healthy," he said.

Saul Good has restaurants at 3801 Mall Road in the Plaza at Fayette Mall and 1808 Alysheba Way in Hamburg.

Know before you go shopping

Sticking to your diet for the new year also means you must make smart decisions at the supermarket.

In her new book Lose Weight Without Dieting or Working Out, nutritionist and certified weight-loss expert JJ Smith has some helpful tips for a healthier diet.

■ First, avoid certain "diet" foods. Sugar-free baked goods can have the same or even more fat than the original recipes. For example, you might be fooled into eating so many cookies because they were labeled as "diet" that you exceed your daily goals without realizing it. Try graham crackers instead. They have less sugar than other cookies and very little fat, about 2 grams per serving.

■ Most fat-free dressings are really higher in sugar, which defeats the purpose of eating a fat-free food. Read the label carefully. Select a reduced-fat dressing that contains olive or canola oil, which has 2 to 4 grams of fat per serving.

■ Diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners that can cause health problems and have no nutritional value. When the body finds nothing recognizable as nutrition, it continues to crave something nutritional, increasing cravings and appetite. They can create food cravings for sweets. Drink water or green tea instead of diet soda.

■ Some fruit snacks are packed with added sugars and artificial ingredients that have little or no nutritional value. Read the label for the amounts of sugars, carbohydrates and fat. Eat real fruit, which is rich in fiber, phyto nutrients and cancer-fighting antioxidants.

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Spotting the trends for 2012

Here's what the experts who entice us with trend predictions are saying about 2012.

■ The Food Channel, along with CultureWaves, the International Food Futurists and Mintel International, says we can expect to see more, and more expansive, outdoor kitchens, with covered patios, granite- counter prep areas, sinks, mini fridges, rotisseries, stove tops and big screen TVs.

They also say the next hot ethnic food is the cuisine of Peru. The South American country hosts one of the world's biggest annual food festivals and is home to many new culinary schools, and Peruvian restaurants are opening up all over the United States.

■ The National Restaurant Association surveys nearly 1,800 chefs from the American Culinary Federation for its annual "what's hot" list.

Local sourcing of everything, including meat, fish, produce and alcoholic beverages, is a big trend for 2012. Joy Dubost, director of Nutrition and Healthy Living for the association, said, "Local farms and food producers have become an important source of ingredients for chefs and restaurateurs wishing to support the members of their business community and highlight seasonal ingredients on menus."

Nutrition, especially for children, is another major focus for restaurants today, reflecting increasing interest in healthful eating, according to the chefs.