Eating Out: Health Crisis?
Six years ago, Timi Gufstafson, a registered dietician and founder of an online health network offered a solution to America’s obesity crisis. And it didn’t involve specific workout or diet plans.
Her advice was simple: Americans need to eat at home.
Her argument was not new; for years, experts have echoed the sentiment that restaurant meals tend to be higher in calories and lower in nutrients.
In fact, the same year Ms. Gufstafson offered her advice, Dr. Mark Hyman took it a step further: eating at home, he said, “could save your life”.
The problem? Six years later, the obesity crisis has only worsened: the CDC estimates that three quarters of Americans will be at least classified as overweight by 2020.
Personal and Private Chefs Offer a Solution: If they Understand the Problem
Americans still are eating out more than they should, citing lack of time or cooking ability. A more surprising finding? They’re also bored with the meals they cook at home.
Personal and private chefs then, cannot only market their ability to save time for clients, but must emphasize their ability to cook meals rich in both innovation and variety.
So it helps to know: what are Americans tired of eating and what can you offer instead? A Countdown to the top ten over cooked dishes:
Unadorned “Healthy” Sides
There’s little healthier than a side of steamed green beans or a bunch of grapes. But they are also incredibly boring for some, and may actually discourage consuming more fruits and vegetables. Sides with little finesse also run the risk of clients feeling they could have made it themselves.
Punch it Up: If the meal is on the heavier side (think prime rib, etc), there’s nothing wrong with something simple and fresh to cleanse the palate. But you do want to make an effort to bring flavor and thought into the sides. Instead of plain steamed vegetables, add citrus, fresh herbs, and seasoning. For a bit more pizazz, try elegant combinations, like honey butter roasted carrots, zucchini corn salad, or roasted asparagus with tomatoes. Fruit can be made into parfaits, broiled, or fine diced into a salsa.
Chicken is a stand by: it’s affordable, subtle, and versatile. But baked chicken dishes can become bland after a while.
Punch it Up: Go beyond traditional seasoning and transform your chicken. If you do go the drumstick route, keep it interesting with an array of dipping sauces: thai peanut, salsa verde, chimichurri, hot honey mustard, or harissa, to name a few. Stuffed breasts create an elegant touch: play with spinach, peppers, feta, and other speciality cheeses. For a hearty option, opt for oven fried chicken and coleslaw. Special occasion? Chicken crepes will leave an impression.
Soup with Salad
There’s a reason the soup and salad combo is a classic: it hits the perfect contrast between temperature, texture, and aesthetics. But it also can be very overdone.
Punch it Up: Reinterpret what soup and salad means. Instead of lettuce salads, serve an unexpected pasta salad (think: Hawaiian Macaroni Salad; Mexican Pasta Salad in Avocado dressing), an unexpected fruit salad, or even a quinoa or wild rice salad. Soup doesn’t have to be hot: try a cold version, like cucumber and dill. For a more conventional but unique route, look to a variety of cuisines: Thai coconut, chicken tamale, Cuban black bean, or Korean spicy beef.
Steak and Potatoes
No doubt will this combination remain a classic comfort standby, but there’s a lot to say to making it both lighter and more unique.
Punch it Up: Instead of a t-bone or fillet with a spud or mashed potatoes, consider a fresher take. Steak and sweet potato hash is a healthier and unexpectedly sweet option. Serve steak salad with homemade potato bread or lean flank steak over whole wheat gnocchi. The key: make sure lean steaks have some element of fat so they do not dry out, and make sure to balance fattier cuts with lighter and fresher accompaniments.
Personal and private chefs can keep preparing classics, but making them both healthier and more flavorful can prevent client burnout: and help work towards a healthier nation at the same time.