June 16th, 2012 - By Lari Robling
All we need to do is look around and we can see the obesity epidemic right in front of us. The reasons are many, varied and the solution elusive. Two local small businesses, Pure Fare, and Ralic Steakhouse, explain how they incorporate their personal approach into their business plan. Plus, enter the IBX Game Changers Challenge to support innovative solutions improving the region’s health and wellness.
Do you think there is anyone out there who hasn’t gotten the message that we have an obesity epidemic? Right. We got it, but don’t know what to do. Clearly, there is no one size fits all solution. But two local restaurants have incorporated their personal approaches into their business plan.
At Pure Fare in Philadelphia, Kriti Sehgal and her brother worked to combine a fast casual dining experience with interactive tools on their website.
“Anything you buy at Pure Fare we track for you through a key fob system,” she explains. “You would create a profile on our website put your height weight and all your information. We benchmark it against your BMI. Anything you bought that day you can see and if you eat anywhere else you can go in and input that yourself and get an exact measurement.”
Customers can also get information, set healthy living goals and receive rewards. Seghal notes that beyond the web innovations, the bricks and mortar store is an integral part of the experience. That means creating delicious, healthy food that keeps customers coming back.
Says Seghal, “We use USDA Guidelines of what it means to live a healthy life. Our hardest thing wasn't calories– it was salt.”
And, nutritionally dense desserts are more likely provide satiety instead of looking for “more.”
“Why do you need a cookie the size of your head, do you really need a cookie that big,” says Seghal shaking her head. “Our brownies are made with sweet potatoes instead of butter and egg; cookies are made with real bananas and we have our double chocolate chip cookies where the base is avocado so you're getting good saturated fat”
Another challenge was the perception of what IS a portion.
Sehgal compares their whole grain vegan breads to white bread, “It is two point three ounces of carbs versus 4.5 to 5. So when you open up a sandwich anywhere you go I always urge people to look inside what are you getting more bread, more white flour?”
At Ralic's Steakhouse in Haddonfield, New Jersey, owner David Ralic knows the battles with obesity first-hand.
“I've done Weight Watchers, I've done NutriSystem, I've done guilt diet from your family…you name it I've done it,” he says.
About two months ago, at 416 pounds Ralic had a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy, a surgery taking his stomach from the size of a melon to the size of a banana. With exercise and lifestyle changes, Ralic is taking the weight off.
For bariatric surgery patients, there are radical changes in how they eat, what they eat and how much they can eat. Dining out is filled with challenges and stigma so Ralic worked with his surgeon and bariatric nutritionist to come up with a menu at the restaurant to accommodate his needs as well as those of other patients.
“The new menu for bariatric patients,” says Ralic, “is focused on high protein content, it's focused on moisture, easy to swallow small portions.”
So, a typical menu might include a one ounce crab cake with avocado tomato chutney and for an entrée 4 oz chicken breast with sweet potato and sautéed Swiss chard. And, there's a consideration for the regular menu as well.
“We make sure that we don't send things out as fatty and greasy as possible because as good as it is it's not great for you, focusing on health,” says Ralic.
So do you think you have a good idea to promote healthy eating and fitness? Independence Blue Cross along with Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs and the City of Philadelphia is launching the Game Changers Challenge— enhancing health and wellness through innovation. Applications are accepted through July 10.
Photo by Flickr user Jennifer