Fortunately for people like Kuhle, enjoying a healthful, lower-carb restaurant meal is becoming a more likely prospect. The number of Americans following low carbohydrate eating plans is on the rise, and so is the percentage of consumers who dine out on a regular basis. The National Restaurant Association reports that Americans spend 45 percent of their food dollar on meals prepared away from home; this is expected to grow another 5 to 10 percent by 2010.
Noting this trend, restaurants are catering to the low carb crowd. In a whirlwind of culinary creativity, test kitchens all over the US are whipping up new and innovative items and introducing signature low carb menus.
Barbara Beradi-Wolfe, a mother of two from Fairport, New York, agrees. She heard the same advice on the Oprah show -- and says that the tactic helps keep her on track. Remembering that bread is neither exotic nor a novelty helps. "We all know what bread tastes like!" she laughs, quoting fitness guru Bob Greene.
At Tastings, a fresh market restaurant concept in Pittsford, New York, Executive Chef Russell Ferguson says his customers eagerly depart from the norm. "People aren't asking for mashed potatoes anymore. So we fill the plates with fresh vegetables. We are more original with some of the accoutrements. We serve scallops with grapefruit and arugula, and swordfish with Belgian endive and snow peas."
Customers don't miss the starches, Ferguson says. "Our customers have been great. They've decided to try everything first, and they're saying, 'I feel satisfied, and I feel full.'"
Jane Andrews, corporate nutritionist for Wegmans Food Markets, based in Rochester, New York, concurs. She favors using small dinner plates, which are ideal for anyone watching intake of carbohydrates. "I suspect that many people use low carb eating to jumpstart weight loss. Then they start adding healthy foods and focus on keeping the weight off. That's where a restaurant [offering] smaller portions can help. An appetizer and soup can be very satisfying," she says.
Such input inspired Conneen to offer crustless pizzas -- flavorful choices that are becoming increasingly popular with an enthusiastic clientele. Conneen, who estimates that 5 to 10 percent of his customers are fans of the crustless pies, recently introduced low carbohydrate pasta dishes and sauces. "We're trying to follow the demand. Every day, I get an enthusiastic comment or compliment," he says.
Likewise, Tastings' Chef Ferguson was receiving lots of requests for lowcarbohydrate substitutions for current menu items. When guests asked for more vegetables instead of starch, or a sugar-free version of a special dessert, Ferguson, himself a low carb dieter, gladly complied. "Patrons, whether they are supermarket or restaurant customers, should ask for what they want," says Ferguson. "Be an assertive consumer! Tell the kitchen what you want."
Options abound, so why stay home? With a few smart choices, you can relax and enjoy the atmosphere and convenience of dining out -- without carbing out.
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