Food to fit our needs

Eat Local Eat Healthy Program rewrites nutritional rules

Mahogany Grille executive chef Dave Cuntz said he tries to include as much locally produced food on the menu as possible. Ethan DeBauche, left, exits the kitchen with lunch fare, including a salad with pea sprouts, sunflower sprouts, and buckwheat from Turtle Lake Refuge. Fellow server Shannon Boesch squeezes by to check on an order Thursday afternoon. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Mahogany Grille executive chef Dave Cuntz said he tries to include as much locally produced food on the menu as possible. Ethan DeBauche, left, exits the kitchen with lunch fare, including a salad with pea sprouts, sunflower sprouts, and buckwheat from Turtle Lake Refuge. Fellow server Shannon Boesch squeezes by to check on an order Thursday afternoon.

Eating out doesn’t mean forfeiting healthy food produced locally, director of Healthy Lifestyle La Plata says.

In fact, the Eat Local Eat Healthy Program is gaining adherents since it debuted last August, Amita Nathwani said.

Six Durango eateries have taken the pledge to offer at least two dishes that meet a modified version of the nutritional plan promoted by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Nathwani said.

“Healthy Lifestyle La Plata in January 2011 adopted the SmartMeal Seal Program, which asks restaurants to follow specific nutritional guidelines,” said Nathwani, who was hired to manage the program.

But SmartMeal Seal didn’t catch on in La Plata County, where nutritionists and chefs have a different idea of what constitutes as a healthy meal, Nathwani said.

“We believe that health involves more than nutrition,” Nathwani said. “Locally grown food is important in La Plata County, and the SmartMeal Seal limits fats and allows monosodium glutamate.

Nathwani received full backing from the Healthy Lifestyle board when she asked at mid-year to revamp the program.

Consultation with Jim Dyer, a Marvel rancher and long-time promoter of local food, Shannon O’Connor, a nutritional consultant, and restaurant owners and chefs resulted in a new name and nutritional guidelines that fit La Plata County.

The new standards require Eat Local Eat Healthy meals to contain:

At least one ingredient from local sources.

At least one serving of meat, beans, whole grain and/or dairy.

No transfats, peanut oil, modified fats or monosodium glutamate.

No more than 1,350 milligrams of sodium.

At least one serving of vegetables.

No more than 800 calories.

The SmartMeal Seal Program funded Eat Local Eat Healthy through 2011. Now funding comes from Live Well Colorado, which funds 20 such programs, including Live Well Montezuma in Cortez.

Durango restaurants that joined the program are Linda’s Local Cafe, Mahogany Grille, Zia Taqueria, Fired Up Pizza, Carver Brewing Co. and Cypress Cafe.

Eat Local Eat Healthy shares the nutritional values of Fired Up Pizza, 1050 Main Ave., owner Tad Brown said.

“It was a natural fit for us,” Brown said. “We do business at the (Durango) Farmers Market, so we have four or five items that meet the guidelines.”

Dave Cuntz, chef at the Mahogany Grille, Main Avenue and Seventh Street, said nutritional considerations come naturally at his establishment, which caters the monthly Green Business Roundtable lunch.

“We’re all about nutrition and local food,” Cuntz said. “It’s harder in the winter to find items, but we have sources for flour, beans and leafy greens.”

Cuntz likes the idea of Eat Local Eat Healthy having a nutritionist available for consultation.

Nathwani said Health Lifestyle La Plata is gathering statistics about how many meals are served and the sources of local food.

Health Lifestyle La Plata promotes, in addition to Eat Local Eat Healthy, alternative modes of transportation and work-site wellness.

daler@durangoherald.com

A house salad at the Strater Hotel’s Mahogany Grille includes pea sprouts, sunflower sprouts and buckwheat from Turtle Lake Refuge. “We’re all about nutrition and local food,” says chef Dave Cuntz. The restaurant is part of the Eat Local Eat Healthy Program. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

A house salad at the Strater Hotel’s Mahogany Grille includes pea sprouts, sunflower sprouts and buckwheat from Turtle Lake Refuge. “We’re all about nutrition and local food,” says chef Dave Cuntz. The restaurant is part of the Eat Local Eat Healthy Program.

Grilled ahi tuna comes with a serving of pomegranate salsa and microgreens from Turtle Lake Refuge. The purpose of the Eat Local Eat Healthy Program is to boost the use of healthy, locally grown food. Mahogany Grille executive chef Dave Cuntz said he uses six to 10 pounds of microgreens a week from Turtle Lake. Enlarge photo

STEVE LEWIS/Durango Herald

Grilled ahi tuna comes with a serving of pomegranate salsa and microgreens from Turtle Lake Refuge. The purpose of the Eat Local Eat Healthy Program is to boost the use of healthy, locally grown food. Mahogany Grille executive chef Dave Cuntz said he uses six to 10 pounds of microgreens a week from Turtle Lake.