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Sanitas Per Escam - Health through food

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/din...

I think that this idea has the potential to be very appealing as a marketing tool. As someone who does pay a lot of attention to what I eat for health/weight loss reasons - there's something lovely about the idea of "just order that and it'll be exactly what you want". Kosher has essentially found a way to do that. Through the process of certification, a kosher person can see the certification on the wall and can completely turn off that part of their brain. And in terms of creating a relaxing dining experience I could easily see that applying to a meal being healthy.

That being said, I also really like eating out and while I try to make smart choices - part of those smart choices are acknowledging that when eating in a restaurant that is highly likely to be the less healthy meal of my day.

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  1. Interesting. Reminds me of the heart logo denoting "heart healthy" food, only much cooler being latin and all. One thing missing from the article is a clear definition of what the standard means. As presented, it sounds somewhat subjective. And thus unlike kosher which has fairly simple and finite rules that apply.

    1 Reply
    1. re: tcamp

      I think generically kosher is really simple - but if you ask someone who's observant about all the details in kosher (who turns on the pilot light, vegetable preparation to ensure no bugs, etc.) it's pretty detailed.

      What kosher has that this doesn't as of yet have is guidelines that I can read at home and evaluate how this does or does not mesh with my personal choices of healthy eating. Is there a generic calorie guide? What foods are excluded? What's included? How does portion size come into play (is it just with dish one or is it applied in a way that a person can order a three course meal a la carte or a tasting and still fit in with this)?

      It's a neat idea, but perhaps more likely just to be a start but not a bad idea.

    2. Dining out should not amount to gluttony, but nor should it have to adhere to tedious asceticism that contradicts the essential sense of indulgence.

      Dining out is, for most of us, an occasional thing, and it should be so. It isn't necessary that a meal in a restaurant should adhere to the same dietary strictures as an ordinary meal. I want butter. I want cream. They are not (the French might disagree) necessary in all foods, but for some textures, flavours and dishes they are irreplaceable and of the essence. Where they are, it is perverse and will never be satisfying to try and substitute or to find 'low-calorie' versions.

      This whole idea is all the more irritating because I can adequately control my diet, and I see no reason why my experience should be diminished for the benefit of those who cannot. I don't need that one meal per week or per month to be as dense in nutrients and anti-oxidants as possible - it is supposed to be an exception - I already ensure that every other meal that I eat is as wholesome and nutritious as conceivably possible.

      It seems that if he has his way, food in restaurants will be like those hideous, low-fat simulacra that line supermarket shelves; like low-fat yoghurts and ice-creams - constructed from air, vegetable oils, gums, sweeteners and flavourants, with only the slightest trace of re-hydrated dairy - because other diners can't manage their own diets.

      At the least, I want the option of eating the real thing, but it's hard to imagine that a busy kitchen, once recipes were altered, would allow the luxury of two preparations.

      The final slight is that this is to be done to satisfy populist misconceptions about saturated fats, salt, etc.

      1 Reply
      1. re: mugen

        I live in a city that has a strong heavy kosher presence. Sometimes it's not a issue (best sushi restaurant is kosher and you don't notice the lack of shellfish), and sometimes you really want to eat at a non-kosher restaurant.

        I think as an option it's nice. Not that every restaurant or every dish at a restaurant necessarily needs to adopt it.

      2. I wish him all the luck in the world, but we can't even get 4 out of 5 dieticians to agree on what's healthy.

        And then there's the niggling little issue that this foundation will need to have money...which will likely come from a licensing fee, and packing your food off to be tested...by whom? And to what standards?

        It's a great concept, but the reality is far too complicated.

        2 Replies
        1. re: sunshine842

          Yeah - in practice, I really do see this as a nobel failure.

          1. re: sunshine842

            Exactly. Plus, what's "healthy" for one person may not be for someone else. I lost 50lbs and have been keeping it off so far and ate (well, still eat) things people consider "unhealthy" including using butter and bacon fat in my cooking. I still eat gluten, some people benefit from not eating gluten. Others do well on a vegetarian diet... really, there is no "one size fits all" for "eating healthy".

            When I go to a nicer restaurant (not counting the casual type places), which is maybe once every few months, tops, I don't always care if the dish I'm eating is healthy. The whole point of dining out in a nicer restaurant is to enjoy the food and the experience. If I want a dish that has butter and cream in it, I'm going to get it. I don't eat that way every day, and I think that's the key... everything in moderation.

          2. Hi cresyd,

            I dislike the whole idea. Observing kashrut is like belonging to a club. If you see the certificate on the wall, you know that members of that club can eat there. As far as delicious, healthy food is concerned, I make my own decisions. I do not wish to delegate them to some entrepreneur. This business of the "most" good stuff and the "least" bad stuff I find particularly off-putting. This guy is telling me that he has made the best compromises to promote my interest? No thanks.

            1 Reply
            1. re: bcc

              First, I think it's 100% fair to say "hey this doesn't work for me". Kashrut doesn't work for me - but there are some excellent kosher restaurants that I'm happy to eat in. I know of people who refuse to eat in any kosher restaurant in Israel because there's a larger government system responsible for certification that they object to. There are people who only eat in kosher places - so there's no reason to see a flexible approach being put on this system.

              Rogue Tomate is 100% SPE - but perhaps as much as one would disagree with system in general, the food is so good that it's easy to overlook anything else. Another restaurant has a few SPE dishes, but the rest aren't. So one person can eat only SPE and their dining companions will eat whatever they want.

              What I like about this is the complete consumer choice. You can choose to buy into the system or not. While it may not work for every individual, I think overall it's a good idea. And after watching every Top Chef "healthy" challenge over the years - I'm also convinced that most restaurant chefs don't have any clue what is or isn't actually healthy (by an dietician/science standards).

              Where I think there are the biggest road blocks are the fact that I think we're in a period of science where there's no 100% agreed upon "best diet". And there may never be one answer to that but rather a diverse set of recommendations depending on a variety of individual/family issues.

              Ultimately I see this as a nice step in a good direction by making it consumer and taste driven. I don't think this will be the last attempt or is the best attempt, but I appreciate the step.

            2. Ok, did a bit of googling around and I'm a bit rankled now. While I don't, in theory, have a problem with identification of healthier meal choices, it is suspicious to me that SPE doesn't make public the actual standards.

              From their website: "Our SPE guidelines, which are compiled in our proprietary SPE Charters and validated by the SPE Scientific Committee, are aligned with the recommendations for Americans to:
              Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables
              Increase the amount and variety of seafood
              Use oil to replace solid fats
              Reduce the intake of solid fats, added sugar, and salt
              Reduce the intake of refined grains"

              The LEED program, to which I see SPE compared, provides way more public information about their standards.

              1 Reply
              1. re: tcamp

                That I think is the most important element of any system like that. You have to make your standards known so that people can choose to sign on (and then blindly enjoy that what you're serving fits within that model).