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Restaurants offer more healthy choices on menu

Chris Hayes, general manager at Ready Randy's in New Richmond, makes up one of the restaurant's new healthy offerings that came about due to the community-wide "Lose Weight in 8" challenge.

Customers who want a good steak or a baked potato with sour cream can still find their favorite foods on the menu at Ready Randy's Sports Bar & Grill.

But the local establishment has added a few new wrinkles to its food choices in 2012 to cater to those who want to eat healthier.

"I've seen more and more people wanting to eat better over the past few months," said Chris Hayes, general manager at Ready Randy's, noting that New Richmond's Vitality Initiative has something to do with people's motivation to change their ways. "More people take their salad dressing on the side, or they have special requests that aren't on the menu."

As the "Lose Weight in 8" community weight loss challenge kicked into gear at the end of January, Hayes said the local restaurant started offering the "Healthy Feature of the Day" to customers. Items like a turkey-mushroom burger and southwest bean and chicken salad are few of the menu selections that have been offered.

"It's gone over pretty well," Hayes said. "By giving healthy options to people, we want to show them that healthy food can taste good too. It's a myth that healthy food doesn't taste as good."

So many of Ready Randy's customers are participating in the New Richmond weight loss challenge, or have resolved to be healthier this year, that the restaurant wanted to make sure people knew they could still go out to eat and not ruin their efforts.

In fact, the management team at Ready Randy's has even formed a team and is competing in the challenge. It's been quite a culture change for the staff, Hayes admitted.

"Most of us eat two or three meals a day here," he said. "It's really difficult to lose weight working in a restaurant."

Since starting the weight loss challenge, Hayes said he hasn't eaten one french fry - which is a small miracle in his eyes. By eating better, and cutting out the poor snack choices, Hayes dropped nine pounds in just 10 days.

"You just feel better," Hayes reported. "It's had a positive effect on all of us. We have more pep in our step."

Ready Randy's is experimenting with different recipes to find selections that customers enjoy. Researching on the Internet and looking through various cookbooks helps the staff come up with ideas.

"All cooking is is stealing someone else's idea and putting your own twist on it," he said. "You just play around with the ingredients, but you try not to increase the caloric numbers."

Other restaurants in town are also offering more healthy choices to their customers.

At Table 65, Chef Jeremy Ward said they too continue to offer the menu items that people want, but the restaurant also is seeing more demand for healthier alternatives. Staff members get questions all the time about the sugar, fat and calorie counts for various dishes.

"They want to see the breakdown on everything," Ward said.

Eating healthy doesn't just mean adding low-calorie dishes to the menu. Ward said Table 65 includes different grains and proteins in their items to give customers a balanced diet.

"There are a lot of little things we're trying to do," he said. "We want everybody to have the choice to be healthy, and vital."

At Lola's Restaurant, owner Vinnie Mustafoski said restaurant menus have changed a lot over the past five years. Customers used to consume a lot of French fries and hamburgers, but now they are choosing more croissant sandwiches, fish, low-cal plates and salads. For breakfast, many customers forgo the traditional omelette and bacon and instead order oatmeal and wheat bread.

"People are paying more attention to what they're eating," he said. "They watch it more."