Restaurants have plenty of ways of enticing customers to come in for a meal. Whether they offer a daily special, hand out samples in the mall or have friendly costumed mascots like clowns and cows, they try to differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack.
Now, local restaurants have another way to stand out in the crowd. The new Eat Well Galveston County program initiated by the Galveston County Health District puts a special seal of healthy approval on restaurants that offer healthy choices. Consumers who see the Eat Well Galveston County logo are assured the restaurant displaying it has at least three meals less than 750 calories, doesn’t use trans fats and includes simply-prepared fruits and vegetables among its side dishes.
“We’ve never had an initiative like this, and we’re hoping it will really take off,” said Martin Entringer, the health district’s consumer health manager. “For restaurants who are interested in participating, we can help them with the nutritional analysis.”
The Eat Well program was originally part of a wellness plan introduced by County Judge Mark Henry aimed at improving the health of the county’s employees.
“Judge Henry set up a wellness committee for county employees to encourage exercising, quitting smoking and eating better,” health district public information officer Kurt Kurt Koopmann said. “He suggested starting a website listing some of the places where they could get healthy meals at lunch time. Now it’s become something larger, and for everyone in the county.”
To receive the Eat Well Galveston County designation, restaurants must first meet a set of mandatory requirements that include being smoke-free, not using trans fats and passing the county’s health inspection, then meet at least five of seven additional criteria. The five options include offering drink options beyond soda, having a kids menu with a fruit or vegetable, offering at least one menu option that is served in a small portion and serving complementary items such as bread or chips on request instead of by default.
The program’s earliest adopters have been pleased with the results.
“A lot of our customers are looking for something light,” said Sue Ahn, manager of the Schlotzsky’s sandwich shop on Highway 646 in League City. “People will go further to get a healthy sandwich.”
Ahn found that the Eat Well guidelines meshed completely with the store’s existing menu, which already identified low calorie and heart-healthy items.
Galveston’s two Olympia Grill locations also found it easy to comply with the Eat Well guidelines.
“We have been ahead of the curve for quite a while,” owner Tikie Kriticos said.
“We’ve never used trans fats, only olive oil and canola oil.”
The health department gave the nod to Olympia’s grilled fish fillet, baked half chicken and vegetarian plate as the Eat Well standard-bearers, along with the small-size portions of pastitsio and moussaka.
“We use unsulfated chicken,” Kriticos said. “It makes a big difference when we marinate the chicken. It’s so much better that some of my customers want to buy chicken from me to cook at home.”
Entringer and Kurt Koopmann are ready to bring the Eat Well Galveston County approach to more of the area’s restaurants.
“There are benefits to participating,” Kurt Koopmann said. “It can bring in new customers, and it shows a commitment to the health of customers.”
Chicken Tacos with Charred Tomatoes
- 2 plum tomatoes, cored
- 8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, trimmed of fat
- 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
- 1⁄2 cup finely chopped white onion
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
- 2 teaspoons lime juice, plus lime wedges for garnish
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 6 small corn tortillas, heated
Heat a medium skillet over high heat until very hot. Add the tomatoes and cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until charred on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes.
Transfer the tomatoes to a plate to cool slightly. Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise; squeeze to discard seeds. Remove the cores and chop the remaining pulp and skin.
Cut the chicken into 1-inch chunks and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Add 1 teaspoon of oil to the pan and heat over high heat until very hot.
Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until it is browned and no longer pink in the middle, 3 to 5 minutes.
Transfer the chicken to a plate.
Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil.
Add the onion and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the garlic and jalapeño and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add the lime juice, chicken and tomatoes. Cook, stirring, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir in the cilantro and scallions. Divide the chicken mixture among tortillas. Serve with lime wedges.
(SOURCE: Recipe courtesy of Eating Well magazine)
Chicken Potpie with Crunchy Brown Rice Crust
- 1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more for greasing
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1⁄4 pound sliced button mushrooms
- 2 teaspoons chopped thyme, divided
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 1 rib celery, thinly sliced
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1⁄4 cup flour
- 11⁄2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 cup cooked brown rice or brown and wild rice blend
- 1⁄4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1⁄4 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1⁄4 cup frozen peas
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a 9-inch pie dish and set aside.
Heat the oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes.
Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon of the thyme, carrots, celery, onions, salt and pepper and cook until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.
Add the broth and milk, stir well and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until very thick, about 10 minutes.
Combine the rice, cheese, paprika, remaining 1 teaspoon thyme, salt and pepper in a medium bowl.
Stir the peas into the chicken mixture and season with salt and pepper. Transfer the mixture to a prepared dish.
Scatter the rice mixture evenly over the top then arrange dish on a baking sheet to catch any drips.
Bake until bubbly and the crust is crisp, about 30 minutes.
(SOURCE: Recipe courtesy of Whole Foods Market)
Better-than-boxed Beef Stroganoff
- 1 1-ounce package onion soup and dip mix
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3⁄4 teaspoon granulated garlic
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 cups mushrooms, chopped
- 1 pound lean ground beef or ground turkey
- 1 cup dry noodles
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup low sodium beef broth, more if needed
- 1⁄2 cup sour cream
- 1⁄2 cup grated baby Swiss or Provolone cheese
Combine the soup mix, black pepper, garlic, onion, parsley and cornstarch in a small bowl. Set the spice mix aside.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring constantly, until the mushrooms release most of their juices, about 10 minutes.
Add the ground beef, turn the heat down to medium and brown until cooked through. Drain off the fat and discard if necessary.
Add the noodles, spice mix, milk and beef broth. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed. If necessary, add more broth as you go along.
Stir in the sour cream. Taste and adjust seasonings. Top with grated cheese and serve immediately.
(SOURCE: Recipe courtesy of Whole Foods Market)