When the more than 13,000 members of the American Dietetic Assn. converged at Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco last week for their 71st annual convention, local restaurateurs faced one of their toughest audiences.
While scientists lectured on a wide assortment of nutrition-related topics--the most pervasive of which were diet, cholesterol, fat and obesity--dozens of the city's finest chefs translated the scientific data into daily menus. They prepared entrees for the group, in a lavish tasting, designed to demonstrate that healthful food can indeed taste good.
With the help of a registered dietitian, the chefs, representing restaurants from the trendy to the posh, served up dishes that met the U.S. Dietary Guidelines for low-fat, cholesterol, salt and sugar. They proved that it is possible to convert the typically rich restaurant cuisine into healthful meals that are equally as delicious and eye appealing.
Avoid Binge-Purge Cycles
It is believed that by having recipes such as these available to them, some dieters will avoid harmful weight-loss tactics such as binge-purge cycles and very low-calorie fad diets and opt instead for good-tasting, fancy fare that is healthful--especially today when the desire to become "abnormally skinny" has reached the level of obsession.
The American preoccupation with being thin can lead to serious health risks, according to Kelly D. Brownell, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Philadelphia, who cited metabolic and physical complications that can occur in people who perpetually diet. This is especially true if they have a genetic predisposition to being overweight.
"There is some evidence that weight gain has negative effects and that weight loss produces beneficial effects, but there also are studies with findings in the opposite direction," said Brownell. "So far, our findings are provocative in each of these areas. There's some evidence that the more dieting one does, the harder it is to lose weight."
Perils of Unsuccessful Dieting
He explained that it is possible that the "yo-yo" cycle of gaining and losing weight appears to redistribute body fat and can decrease the metabolic rate so that the body requires fewer calories to survive. There also may be "psychological and social factors that impede attempts to lose weight," he said. Among these Brownell described preoccupation with food and body image, depression, anxiety and compulsive and binge eating.
Thus, the physical and psychological aspects of unsuccessful dieting frequently are more hazardous to health than the complications of excess fat. This is particularly true if the fat is located in the lower body, the part of the body scientists have confirmed is less dangerous.
The first consideration when going on a diet should be to justify the need to lose weight--only implementing diet therapy when a person is in danger, Brownell said.
"We assume that all overweight people are at increased risk (for health troubles) and that weight loss lowers risk," Brownell said. "This assumption may not apply to all individuals, and unsuccessful maintenance of weight loss (yo-yo dieting) may actually increase risk."
He added that, "Obesity treatments are ineffective . . . and instead we should be dealing with the metabolic confusion, malnutrition, obsession, children of fat parents, discrimination against the obese, peer pressure and pressure on kids by professionals to be thin.
"You need an honest assessment of your motivation," Brownell added. "On a scale of zero and 100, 15 is not good enough. You have to go on a good program, which I think is one that teaches you to integrate good eating habits and to maintain the loss. Just as important is relapse prevention. You've got to ensure that a lapse doesn't become a relapse."
An example of a sensible approach to eating would be a varied diet that includes foods from all four food groups, such as those prepared by the chefs. All of these achieve the requirement that total fat content not exceed 30%.
These and other chef recipes, are available in a booklet entitled, "New Ventures in Good Eating in San Francisco." The booklet features all the foods sampled at the tasting and provides their nutrient data--calories, protein, carbohydrate, fat, sodium and cholesterol.
In addition, there is background information on each restaurant, including hours of operation, address and telephone numbers, price range and historical data.
The booklet can be obtained by sending 65 cents, to cover postage, and a self-addressed stamped envelope to: The California Dietetic Assn., 7740 Manchester Ave., Suite 102, Playa del Rey, Calif. 90293.
BRASSERIE CHAMBORD WARM
TUNA WITH SAUCE NICOISE
1 zucchini, sliced
1 small eggplant, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
15 ounces fresh tuna
1 teaspoon lemon juice