Broasted? It looks fried to me

For two days now, The Restaurant Dieter has eaten like a typical American. At the National Restaurant Association annual show at McCormick Place in Chicago. I’ve sampled fried chicken fingers, Philly cheesesteaks, flatbread pizzas, meatballs, German soft pretzels, gelato, quinoa salad and one heckuva good little red velvet cupcake.

Pastries anyone?

Is it any wonder that I’m waiting in the Delta Sky Club and can barely keep my eyes open. I feel sluggish, bloated and incredibly fat. I want to take a nap.

An antidote might be the kind of nutritionally virtuous meals I try to eat, mostly at home where I can control the ingedients, the final result and the portion: Lots of lean proteins and vegetables, unrefined carbs like brown rice and quinoa. It’s amazing how quickly food that’s good for you can power up the body and make one feel better.

But I am stuck at O’Hare Airport, where the choices are the salty and sweet snacks that are free inside the Sky Club or the Chili’s by Gate F3.

Which brings me back to the show and all it says about eating out in the good old USA. It’s a mixed bag — but mostly depressing, really. President Bill Clinton gave the Sunday keynote address, lauding the industry for its effort to combat childhood obesity. It seems unlikely he toured the exhibit hall, however. The newly vegan and thinner Bill would have been appalled at what he saw.

More desserts

There were some encouraging signs. A section of the exhibit hall was devoted to organic and natural products, with gluten-free being all the rage. Beverage exhibitors offered moreĀ  fortified waters, juices and teas to balance the high fructose corn syrup products that have liability lawyers sniffing around Coke and Pepsi like they were the tobacco lobby.

One of the products winning an innovation award was a “no salt” tomato sauce from ConAgra, the giant food service company typically blamed for our obesity problem. Another was from two entrepreneurs who say they’ve managed to create a whole wheat pasta from a proprietary wheat that tastes more like white pasta.

But unhealthy food just plain overshadowed these efforts.

One section of the hall was labeled “Healthier Kids Fare,” but it had just 14 exhibitors. The only fresh vegetables were at the booths hawking knives and cutting equipment. The show comprised 1,800 exhibitors showing items such as dishwashing systems, menu boards, knives, dishes, smokers, fry machines (of course) and carry out containers.

In the next few weeks, I’ll continue to report on the show. Right now, I hear the Sky Club’s mustard pretzel mix calling.


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