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Thanks to Science, Eating Well Never Tasted Better

Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 11:00 PM

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Unhealthy meal choices like sodas and fast food are quick and convenient. They're located in airports, shopping malls and hospitals. Even upscale restaurants rarely serve the sort of meals that would be healthy to eat every day. But a few Cleveland institutions are working to change that by making healthy options easier, and more delicious. ideastream® health reporter Gretchen Cuda tells us how.

CUDA: Michael Roizen thinks a world class hospital like the Cleveland Clinic should be above reproach when it comes to the food it serves its patients …and its staff.  He takes me in the cafeteria’s kitchen.

ROIZEN: you see that spot right there?  Yeah.  That’s where the fryers were.  So we have taken all the fryers out.

CUDA: Fried food and trans fats are a thing of the past at the Cleveland Clinic

ROIZEN: If you go down to the cafeteria today, it says fried chicken, but it’s baked.  You can’t buy anything that’s fried at the Cleveland clinic.

CUDA: And soon, you won’t be able to buy a sugared soda either- the clinic is eliminating those too.  In fact, walk through the Cleveland Clinic’s main campus today and you’ll find only healthy snacks in the vending machines, calorie counts listed on the menus of the cafeteria and at vendors like Starbucks, baskets of fresh fruit, a well-apportioned salad bar, and plenty of low-calorie, high-nutrition to-go items.  The changes are led by Dr. Roizen, the Clinic’s Chief Wellness Officer, and they’re all part of an initiative that puts food en par with medicine.

ROIZEN: We should make it difficult to eat something that’s going to cause you disease.

CUDA: It wasn’t always this way.  When Roizen took over as the hospital’s Chief Wellness Officer in 2007, the hospital was serving patients in the emergency room Kentucky Fried Chicken - and he knew something had to change. 
In order to make the food at the clinic healthier, without sacrificing taste, they hired Bill Barum, an expert in an area of food science called culinology.  As a culinarian he is aware of how to adjust the nutritional content of food without sacrificing flavor.  When one of his former employers, Harrah’s Casinos, saw their employee health care costs skyrocketing, they asked Barum to create a healthier menu.  Today he is charged with doing the same thing for a different set of guests

BARUM: I don’t want to walk into a patient’s room and tell them “you can’t have it.” So it’s up to my skills as a culinarian to continually push the envelope and supply the nuance of a flavor that masks what’s not there.

CUDA:  Steve Schimoler does the same for his clientele at a higher end Cleveland restaurant called…Crop but he says its best not to tell customers their getting low-fat haute cuisine.

SCHIMOLER: People don’t really know that our lobster latte is made with 2% milk instead of butter and cream, or that our ice creams or vinaigrettes are using alternative ingredients or flavors to make them different. Healthy food shouldn’t have an enjoyment penalty.

CUDA: Schimoler says that what most of us object to in low fat foods, is not the flavor, but the lack of texture. In fact he says that fats actually inhibit flavors, because they coat the tastebuds and block taste.

SCHIMOLER: You can think of fat like a force field on your tongue that prevents the flavor from getting through

CUDA:  Schimoler says, by replacing the fat of butter or heavy cream with a modified corn starch that mimics the fat’s creamy texture, more flavor gets through and less sugar and salt are required.  He can further enhance the taste by combining flavors in a unique way that distract the brain from the things that are missing.

SCHIMOLER: So let’s just take a taste of this now
//SOT: stirring sound
SCHIMOLER: Isn’t that great?
CUDA:  You don’t really miss the reduced fat at all…
SCHIMOLER: or the reduced sugar.  That’s 75% less sugar that the regular recipe. Now if we bring this to a customer they won’t know there is less sugar or fat.

CUDA: Cleveland Clinic and Crop pride themselves on being part of the vanguard when it comes to promoting healthy eating. Schimoler believes that it’s only a matter of time anyway before restaurants will be legally required to provide nutritional information to consumers just like grocery stores and fast food restaurants. Roizen says if healthy food choices are more readily available and poor choices aren’t, people will…eventually…embrace what’s good for them.

ROIZEN:  Cleveland clinic has decided that they are not only going to try and lead in sickness care, but we’re going to try and lead us as a country in getting well.

CUDA: The Clinic still has a McDonald’s, pastries and 600 calorie lattes.  And Crop still serves pork belly.  Both say force-feeding health can only go so far but they are trying to strike a balance - and make healthy options at least as easy - and tasty - as unhealthy ones. 

Gretchen Cuda, 90.3

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Health, Fighting Fat

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