For most people, sitting down to a home-cooked family dinner à la the Cleavers is as remote as black-and-white TV.
Unlike old sitcoms, families today have less time for weeknight meals. But grabbing fast food is a less and less appealing alternative, one with weighty risks. Obesity is a factor for “diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease,” says Yvonne Moses, registered dietitian at Henry Ford Hospital. “There is also a high amount of salt in fast foods.” A diet high in fat and calories not only increases the risk for obesity and Type 2 diabetes, but also can lead to cardiovascular disease, heart failure, kidney problems, and even osteoarthritis from the pressure that extra weight puts on joints.
The surge in eating out has many “increasing their calories,” Moses says. A study done by the New York City Department of Health reported that nine out of 10 people grossly underestimate the number of calories in [take-out] meals, by around 600 calories. The study also says than an average fast-food restaurant meal, including large burger, large fries, and a medium drink, contains about 1,300 calories, which is 66 percent of the daily re-quirement for an average person.
But for most working families, Mom’s roast chicken isn’t on the after-work menu. That’s where Michele Rastelli, owner of Moo Moo’s Vegetarian Cuisine, steps in. “People are more conscious of what they are putting in their body,” says Rastelli, whose company prepares “healthy, tasty vegetarian and sometimes gluten-free or vegan foods” that are sold, fresh or frozen, in area markets. Some of her most popular offerings include a chi-polte black-bean burrito, sweet ’n’ spicy curry tofu, and roasted cashew stir-fry. When people eat right, she says, “they don’t feel gross or dragging.”
Healthful carryout stores like Aunt Olive’s Good Food 2 Go in Birmingham answer the needs of a mix of clientele, says owner Matthew Schellig. “It’s people who work a lot, people who have families and are sick of feeding their children McDonald’s or pizza,” he says. He’s also a destination for single people seeking a home-cooked meal. Offering customers a rotating weekly menu, and guaranteed roasted vegetable tray is “where the industry is going,” Schellig says. Some of his most popular items include no-pasta chicken lasagna, herb or barbecue salmon, and the recently added salad bar.
Ahead of her time for the Midwest, Kelli Lewton Secondino has started Pure Food 2U Organic. Her goal is to provide food that isn’t processed or chemically treated. The trend “has been in the forefront for America; it’s just been kind of slow in our area,” Secondino says. She cites the Pacific Northwest and California as leaders in healthful carryout. “They eat all local foods, foods that aren’t sprayed with chemicals,” she says.
Her company offers customers the opportunity to plan their week’s food by ordering home-delivered organic family meals (for the week or a day) in advance. Meals include breakfast grains, starches, vegetables, meats, pastas, and stews. The menu changes monthly and por-tions are in single or family-size portions. She calls her preparations food that tastes good, the kind you’d want to eat after work on a Wednesday night.
The healthy-to-go trend is welcome news for harried parents. Thanks to the proliferation of such markets as Papa Joe’s, Westborn, Holiday, Plum, and Nino Salvaggio’s, and their daily offerings of beef tenderloin, sushi, and grilled chicken, home-cooked meals are no longer just for the Cleavers.