Restaurants countywide offer healthful fare to keep your spirits up
By Liesel Hofmann
After the gobbler was gobbled, with all its calorific sidekicks, around the table were groans of “Oh God, I ate too much.” The litany of the holiday season.
Pushing yourself away from the table on Thanksgiving, you were full, all right, but probably depleted. As Garrison Keillor observes, non-judgmentally, in the current issue of Time magazine, “The dirty little secret of the dinner is melted animal fats: in all the recipes, somewhere it says, ‘Melt a quarter-pound of butter.'”
With more than a month of feasting ahead, can you eat, drink, and be merry and not feel like hell afterwards? Can you put up with the hectic demands of the holiday season without bogging down and wondering whether it’s worth the hassle?
There is a way: the McDougall Program. If you follow it as often as you can when eating in restaurants during the days ahead, you’ll have energy to spare, be happily satiated, and feel surprisingly upbeat.
The McDougall way is vegan (no animal products), without any oil added. This sounds so spartan that McDougallites are frequently asked, “But what on earth do you eat?” The key word here is earth. Foods from the earth, plant foods, with the emphasis on starchy foods like beans, potatoes, rice, corn, pasta, and breads, along with fruits and vegetables.
For over 20 years, Dr. John McDougall, a vibrant, seemingly tireless man who runs the McDougall Program at St. Helena Hospital in Napa Valley in addition to writing best-selling books about his program and hosting a radio program, has tested this ancient diet and found it the best way to prevent or reverse the “diseases of affluence”–such as heart disease, strokes, cancer, and arthritis–that afflict those who follow the typical high-fat, high-protein American diet.
Among the beneficial effects of McDougall’s regimen is that it wards off depression and anxiety by naturally raising the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is what popping a Prozac pill does, at a cost. Not the least, the program enables you to drop weight effortlessly while eating as heartily as you want.
“Why,” asks Dr. McDougall during an interview, “would anyone want to eat any differently? It’s a phenomenal way to eat. Those who don’t try it don’t know what they’re missing, how good they’d feel.”
The plethora of honest foods, often lavishly laced with herbs and spices, can meet anyone’s nutrition needs, including protein, of which most Americans eat twice as much as they need, mainly in the form of meat. But as McDougall points out, “A dead animal doesn’t make the pasta any better.”
If you’re going to dine out a lot during the month of frenzy ahead, you’re lucky to be living in Sonoma County, where there’s a wealth of restaurants–from fast-food to upscale types–that offer McDougall-style dishes to help you dine out superbly and sanely.
To find them easily, get a copy of Dining out McDougall Style: A Guide to Healthy Dining in and Around Sonoma County ($7.95), compiled by Jacque Pedgrift and Phyllis Grannis, which lists almost 100 restaurants, delis, and bakeries with examples from their menus. Just published and available in most bookstores and health-food stores, this nifty booklet includes dozens of pointers on adhering to the program even in those restaurants that don’t list McDougall items.
“You should feel comfortable requesting healthy food,” McDougall insists.
If you can’t follow the program all the time, he recommends doing it really right at least some of the time by adhering completely to it per meal. And each time you do, he says, “you can pat yourself on the back, observe the difference it makes to eat this way, and treat it as a learning experience.”
Go ethnic with McDougall-style cuisine at French, Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, and Indian restaurants. Or go to a fast-food restaurant like Carl’s Jr. for a baked potato (with salsa or barbecue sauce) and a salad. One potato isn’t enough? Have two; have three. In a pizzeria, just tell them to hold the cheese. Tell them to hold it–and the sour cream–in Mexican restaurants, too. If you’re still hungry after a giant burrito at El Patio in Santa Rosa, you’ve probably got a tapeworm.
You won’t have to worry about the cheese or any other dairy products in Chinese restaurants, because they don’t use them. Among the county’s many Chinese restaurants that honor the McDougall way, the Szechuan Palace, just south of Montgomery Village in Santa Rosa, offers a particularly wide choice of dishes and will make any vegetable dish oil-free upon request. Incidentally, you’ll never feel hungry an hour after a Chinese meal if you eat it as the Chinese traditionally do–adding various vegetables to mounds of rice.
Montgomery Village is a small example of how simple it is to McDougall it. If you’re aching for a pastry break, stop by Michelle Marie’s Patisserie, where you can have your “cake” and eat it too. Each day the bakery offers cinnamon rolls and four varieties of large, fat-free muffins. Get there early for the rolls, though; they usually sell out before 11 a.m. For a meal nearby later on, there’s East-West Cafe, the Round Table, and Hemenway’s Restaurant.
From a hefty sandwich at Subway to a posh meal at John Ash & Co., you’ll find hundreds of menu choices. You won’t be sacrificing culinary joys. You’ll only be giving up bad health. And perhaps you’ll become enticed enough to finally be able to dispense with that naggingly familiar New Year’s resolution to do something about your diet.
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