Poll: Should Fine Dining Go Healthy?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  55 comments   :  14,983 Views

Have you ever noticed that many top chefs also struggle with their weight? If you read the news or follow food blogs, it would be hard to miss the controversy over the popular TV chef Paula Dean and her battle with diabetes. These stories have kicked off interesting water cooler debates about the tug of war between fine cuisine and our health. The issue has also taken a tragic turn with the deaths of Dom Deloise and Jennifer Patterson of “Two Fat Ladies,” among others. At the same time, there is a new generation of chefs tackling this issue with fresh vigor, including some that are already super famous, like Jamie Oliver, and some that are still up-and-coming, but making an impact in their location communities. 

Chef Josh Silvers is a celebrated chef in the California Wine Country, one of the most dynamic culinary regions in the world. A couple of years ago, his award-winning restaurants were thriving, but his health was not so good. His food was of the highest quality, bursting with flavor, but also loaded with saturated fat, calories, sodium, etc. About a year ago, Josh completely revamped his lifestyle, changing his eating and exercising regularly. He shed over 40 pounds and felt great, but something was wrong. He realized that his new passion was cooking healthy, but with portion sizes and ingredients that support health for himself and his patrons. Showing great courage and conviction, he closed popular his white table cloth restaurant, called Petite Syrah, and re-open using healthier ingredients at a more affordable price point.

I applaud Chef Silver for making healthy choices the driving force of his wonderful restaurants and hope that it starts a new food revolution in the finest dining rooms in the world.

What do you think? Have you heard of any restaurants in your area making this kind of change? If you had the option of a healthy fine dining experience, would you choose it?

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  • 55
    I would be happy if they just posted the calories counts on the menus. Then I can make and informed choice. Sometimes I will splurge and other times I wouldn't. - 3/17/2014   10:03:36 PM
  • 54
    A quick Google search shows that Chef Silvers' healthy-eats restaurant Three Squares was not a hit and closed down. - 3/17/2014   1:22:43 PM
  • 53
    Where I think it's ultimately up to an individual to make their own choices, I think it would be beneficial for restauranteurs in general to offer healthier food in smaller portions to their patrons. Restaurant portions are out of control - even healthy foods are served in huge portions, and it presents a challenge to those who are trying to do the right thing (how many of us have been trained since we were little kids to finish every morsel of food on our plates? that's hard to un-learn!). - 3/17/2014   12:14:01 PM
  • 52
    I love this article, my boy friend and I struggle often thinking where can we eat. When traveling. It is becomes very challenging every one has a different idea of what is healthy. Most options include chicken or fish and higher fat.
    When home we eat plant based low fat to maintain our weight loss he has lost 75 pounds and my self 50.
    When we go out to eat we find even vegetarian restaurants are much higher in fat content. So our answer to this is to eat our meals at home and consider the meal out a treat.
    Plant based meals would be really wonderful!
    - 3/17/2014   11:21:23 AM
    I think chefs in 'fine dining' establishments should offer whatever they choose. It's up to the consumer to decide whether they want to indulge or not. Most restaurants post menus on the Internet these days, so a person going out can look it up to get a feel for the offerings before deciding where to go.

    I'm talking about fine dining here, not chains and family style like Applebee's or Olive Garden. - 3/17/2014   10:26:21 AM
  • 50
    I think at least one healthy option on the menu is a good thing, even for the most chic of restaurants that have like five items! A lot of people have health issues that require healthy options, and they shouldn't have to be deterred from dining at a really good restaurant. - 3/9/2014   10:32:35 PM
  • 49
    I'd like a healthy option but I think they should also have their regular options too. - 3/9/2014   3:51:26 PM
  • 48
    I think there are a lot of options on places to eat and I think trying to get everyone to offer healthy options is a wise choice from a business stand point. My boyfriend is a vegetarian and I'm trying really hard to eat balanced healthy meals every day. so a lot of times we look at menus before hand to decide if it is somewhere we'd like to go that has options for both of us. HOWEVER, for special occasions or special nights, I don't care where we go because in order to keep our relationship healthy we need those nights out sometimes and to me that's life balance, so I know I'll probably go over calories that night and that's okay because I'm keeping my whole life healthy not just my body. If that makes sense. - 11/17/2013   8:23:39 AM
  • 47
    Many of the small independent "not chain" places my husband and I go to, have many healthy choices on their menus. Most are fine dining, while a few are competing for the grab and go crowd with good quality food. - 11/9/2013   2:45:49 PM
  • 46
    When I plan to go out for a great meal, I know that there's a good chance I'll be over my daily calorie allotment and that's okay with me. I'll have the indulgent meal with the sauces and dessert. I'll be careful with eating before hand and maybe do a little more of a workout to allow for it.
    When I want to have a healthy meal, I plan for that instead and go to a place that will cater to my needs. I don't expect to go to my favourite French resto and order a low fat, low cal, meal. That's not what they do. - 11/9/2013   11:54:49 AM
  • 45
    "Fine dining" places usually have smaller portions, and it's easier to find things on the menu that are fresh and light, without processed ingredients. Of course there will be plenty of options to go over the top and indulge, but usually nicer restaurants will have a grilled fish dish with lovely fresh vegetables, and the nicer restaurants are also more willing to accommodate your needs, such as replacing rice with extra veggies or reducing the amount of butter something is cooked with. I think it is more the mid-range and chain restaurants that are the problem because people are more likely to eat at them, and the "healthy" options are usually pretty lame and included processed junk like "low fat" dressing that's loaded with sugar, and there's no real chef in the back who can come up with something to please their customer. - 11/9/2013   10:37:10 AM
  • 44
    I see nothing wrong with indulging in something wonderfully delicious but less healthy once in a while. I guess I don't understand why it should have to do all one way or another. - 11/9/2013   7:12:58 AM
  • 43
    Another plug for Good Eatz: If you live anywhere near Reading, PA, you should check this place out. SBECKER526 has mentioned some very great points about this restaurant, but they also have vegetarian AND vegan options. Anything I've had there (I'm vegan) has been delish! - 7/19/2013   7:46:28 AM
  • 42
    Season's 52 is great and the advertisement boast of delightful
    400 calorie entrees!!! - 10/26/2012   8:50:01 PM
    I haven't heard of any fine dining places updating their restaurants to attract the more health conscious people. If any of them do upgrade to healthier choices, they will upgrade their prices by 300%, so might as well stay home and save for that big vacation when we all get smaller body sizes. - 9/6/2012   5:29:26 PM
  • JPEARL127
    It would be so wonderful if more fine restaurants would acknowledge the need for healthier choices on their menus. They don't have to completely close and revamp their entire menu, but just adding some healthy alternatives that are equally fine would be wonderful. Also, serving alcohol-free wines would be nice! - 9/5/2012   9:22:09 AM
  • 39
    In Raleigh NC there are a few restaurants that provide a total organic and healthy portion size menu, they are a bit pricey though. Then there are the old staple country kitchen sort of restaurants that still exist that have never really changed their food preparation habits and are and have been a very healthy variety of choices and some very unhealthy choices also. But this is an up and coming city and the general theme of successful restaurants is becoming the ones who have healthy ingredients in their staple dishes. - 9/5/2012   1:02:12 AM
  • 38
    I haven't heard of any restaurants changing to health restaurants in my area, but I don't eat out that often anyway. - 9/4/2012   2:32:12 PM
  • 37
    For those who are commenting: Applebees is not fine dining. Chili's is not fine dining. Olive Garden is not fine dining. Those places serve cheap food at bloated prices in large, messily plated portions.

    Fine dining is already healthier than other restaurants because their portions are smaller and reasonable. This past weekend, I went to a high-end locally owned bistro for my birthday. I enjoyed a filet of salmon with an accompanying stacked salad of avocado, cherry tomatoes, and onion rings. It was a 5-oz salmon filet with 1/2 cup of tomatoes, 1/2 of an avocado, and 3 thick onion rings -- a completely normal, healthy portion. PLUS, fine dining is a healthier experience because when you eat at a high-end, expensive place, you take TIME with your meal. I spent two hours in this restaurant, savoring every last bite, listening for my own satiety signals. I didn't even order a dessert on my birthday because the salmon was such a filling dish. How's THAT for healthy? - 9/4/2012   6:44:43 AM
  • JP842211
    I think that places that give nutrition information in their menu has been the most helpful in making healthier choices at restaurants. Plates seem a lot less appetizing when you know that they are worth over your recommended daily calorie intake. - 9/2/2012   5:00:38 PM
  • 35
    I'd love to see some healthier fine dining options....but, I'm quite a fine cook myself, so, for the most part, I'll eat at home. Some healthier options for those special occasions would be nice though! - 9/1/2012   2:48:50 PM
    I stay with home made food. - 8/31/2012   7:02:11 PM
  • 33
    I think real "Fine Dining" has always been healthier than cafe or fast food... leave it alone. - 8/31/2012   6:40:24 PM
  • 32
    I think fine dining, should be reasonably healthy. I sure don't like heavy greasy food, or food with a lot of sodium, or sugar in it. I like to be offered healthy alternatives. - 8/31/2012   5:30:07 PM
    We don't have one here but there is an Applebees near which has some good meals. We would get take out if there was one. As it is, we split orders that we do get and they all have to be take out. - 8/31/2012   4:27:36 PM
  • 30
    Would I go to a "healthy" fine dining restaurant? In a heartbeat! Would my husband? Maybe. I've found that in many restaurants, even the casual dining ones mentioned in other comments, that I can get a healthy meal. The key is to ask questions and find out what can be done for you. Sauces on the side? No problem. Steamed vegetables instead of fries? That can be done. Omit the salt? Maybe, maybe not. Many of the wait staff have weight issues or friends or family with weight issues so they understand what you are trying to achieve. I'll quite often ask "what do you have that is low sodium?" (I'm a heart patient). They can usually guide me to one or more menu items that are either low sodium or can be made low sodium. With so many people watching their diets, they are used to having folks ask for "low sodium", "low carb", "low fat", etc. As far as portions are concerned, a "go box" or "people bag" is always appropriate. That has been an American tradition for eight or so decades. - 8/30/2012   8:04:47 PM
  • 29
    I've never understood why "fine" dining almost had to mean 'unhealthy' ingredients --or prices! And, in many other countries, it doesn't (well, the prices, yeah). I'm not sure what happens here, but I've steered clear of most 'fine' restaurants in favor of those that rely on fresh, "FINE" ingredients, minimal foo-fah, and excellent cooking. - 8/30/2012   5:37:12 PM
  • 28
    Pretty good article, But there are top chefs also out there that are not struggling with thier weight. I will name a few..
    Bobby Deen Host of Not my mamas meals ( he takes his mamma's ( Paula deens) recipes and makes them Healthier, Giada De Laurentiis, Bobby Flay
    Chef Robert Irvine host of resteraunt impossible and was also on Irin chef america , Marc Forgione, Claire Robinson Host of 5 ingredient fix
    Should i go on? But the best part is all these famouse Top Chefs are on the Food Network. Yes grant it they are on tV and have to keep up their already great Shape they still put healthy meals out on TV. I think fine dinning should stay how it is. - 8/30/2012   2:11:51 PM
  • 27
    There is room for both types but I think you can have a fine dining meal and still be healthy. As mentioned above.....portion control is always a must.
    As for Paula Dean.......I don't think she was ever considered fine dining! - 8/30/2012   12:04:38 PM
  • 26
    When I'm dining, do I necessarily pick restaurants that primarily have 'healthy' options? No--but I use common sense about the choices I do make when eating out, wherever that happens to be. Most places have some healthier selections--one has to sort through the menu. I also agree with writers who don't want the government making my choices for me--so I'd better be willing to accept the personal responsibility that goes along with that opinion. - 8/30/2012   11:40:10 AM
  • 25
    I think there is a market for both types of restaurants, and I don't think it is up to me or the government to tell restauranteurs what and how to cook--they have to depend on the law of supply and demand to make a living, and we are still free to choose whom we patronize, praise be. However, there is a demand for healthy eating establishments, and I am fortunate that there are several restaurants in my area that cater to healthy eaters, but I do notice that they are frequented almost entirely by women. - 8/30/2012   11:09:54 AM
  • 24
    I think the one lesson that we all should learn from LIFE is that it's all about balance!!!! We are in control of that balance!!! I have lost 52 lbs over the last 3 months and I'm looking to lose another 120 over the next year - I haven't cut anything out of my diet!!! If I want something I go get it!!!! BUT.....I am eating smaller portions....I am taking home doggie bags (never did that in my whole life) and I am exercising more and then more on a day that I splurge!! So I still would like to have that opportunity to splurge on a 'no-no' when I want and then balance that with a splurge of 'yes-yes' later!!! But it's all about BALANCE!! - 8/30/2012   11:02:53 AM
  • 23
    For my birthday this year, DH took me to a very fine dining restaurant and ordered the chef's choice. We had one glass of wine with dinner. Yes, there were 7 courses, yes, I am sure there was butter in things. However, what I noticed was the size of the portions. The fish course was probably 1 - 1 1/2 oz. , the meat course maybe 2 oz. You can eat lovely food with full flavor remembering as always, portion control, portion control, portion control. - 8/30/2012   10:15:38 AM
  • 22
    Absolutely I would frequent a healthy fine dining facility! I am always amazed that there are not more healthy options on the menu. - 8/30/2012   9:49:04 AM
    Of course, fine dining and healthy dining should go hand in hand. My favorite fine dining/healthy dining restaurant is My Kitchen in My House!

    Many professional chefs and line cooks smoke because of the high-stress level of kitchen work. Sad, but true. - 8/30/2012   9:39:11 AM
  • 20
    I don't see a conflict between "fine dining" and "healthy dining." It's rather a fun challenge to modify a traditional cream sauce into one that's more heart-healthy, and I truly don't notice a huge difference in flavor.

    The number of alleged "chefs" shown smoking on those cooking reality shows appalls me. I end up shaking my head in disgust and wonderment about that. Why do the producers of those shows film them sitting around, smoking? It really does good health a disservice. - 8/30/2012   8:56:48 AM
    We discovered a restaurant in Schaumberg, IL called Seasons 52. It is a beautiful venue with excellent service and creative food made with the freshest, local ingredients. They let you know, almost apologetically, that no entree (with its accompaniments) is over 450 calories. Their decadent desserts are served in shot glasses about 4" tall and 2" diameter for 250 calories each and include key lime pie, cheesecake, chocolate mocha, etc that are delicious! I truly wish this place was not 3 1/2 hours from where I live. They are a little pricier than I would like, but okay for the occasional treat. - 8/30/2012   8:43:29 AM
  • 18
    Looking for the "Poll" aspect of the blog title, but yes, I think fine dining should be smaller portions and healthier foods and cheaper prices wouldn't hurt. My husband and I ate at many fine dining places with decadent desserts while we dated and that was when my weight went from the overweight to morbidly obese. We are starting to get fine dining with healthier selections and smaller portions (but still pricey!). - 8/30/2012   7:19:45 AM
    I don't think that the worst offenders are top level chefs and their restaurants. They seem pretty focused on quality ingredients, careful preparation and flavorful combinations.

    And there are relatively few of us who are eating at fine dining restaurants more than once in a while.

    It is the casual dining (with their half plates of fries or deep fried onions and sauce) or casual ethnic restaurants (with large plates of rice and fried entrees and appetizers) that are an issue for me. Not to mention a steady intake of fast food because it's fast and right there.

    When you take control of your food choices and decide that restaurants will be a small component, a once in a while delight, it's much healthier for both waistline and wallet. - 8/30/2012   7:16:31 AM
  • 16
    I won't pay the money for fine dining. The few times I was taken out for it, there were lots of healthy foods and the chef was happy to accomadtions me. - 8/30/2012   5:29:45 AM
  • MRE1956
    Fine, SHMINE! I agree with the other poster who mentioned INEXPENSIVE! Not only am I opposed to excessively high pricing on such critical items such as food - I truly DESPISE the SNOBBY (read SNOTTY as well!) ATTITUDE that goes along with it - but that's another story! - 8/30/2012   4:36:12 AM
  • 14
    Just took a cooking class with the Chef of the Duke Diet and Fitness Program. He, himself, was obese - a Cajun from New Orleans displaced by Katrina. Coming from that tradition, he said it never occurred to him that portions should be small... but there was a strong family history of fatal heart attacks in the 40s age range, and when his brother died at 43 with 4 small children, he knew he had to make changes.
    He also does extensive volunteer work for homeless shelters and food banks. Yes, there is hunger in America.
    It will take some doing, but we CAN improve the offerings of restaurants.
    It's the culture that is going to be difficult to adjust - people want/need a bargain when it comes to food, and cheap often does not mean healthy. - 8/30/2012   1:48:21 AM
  • KATEM200
    I think a lot of fine dining menus have healthy options. Fine dining restaurants tend to use more vegetables (that aren't overcooked), fresh fish, and quality cuts of meats and have smaller portion sizes than casual dining restaurants. Don't get me wrong... They have plenty of unhealthy options too; but if I'm going to go somewhere nice once a month, then I appreciate having the option to get a bone full of marrow for my appetizer or a side of spinach that's more cream and butter than spinach if I want to. If I had $40+ to spend on dinner 3 times a week, then it would be up to me as a consumer to use more discretion when I order.

    I think the real problem with restaurant food is in casual dining restaurants like Fridays, Applebees, Olive Garden, etc. They haven't sold Americans on the idea that most of what you're paying for is convenience. Someone has to serve you, cook for you and clean up after you; and they have to be paid. So they provide unreasonably large portions of cheap, unhealthy food to justify charging $10-15 for the meal.

    PS Paula Deen mentioned in a fine dining blog? I like her. I'd probably enjoy most of the food that she makes. I wouldn't call it fine dining. - 8/30/2012   1:04:52 AM
  • 12
    I can't ever afford "fine dining." INEXPENSIVE dining should go healthy!!!!! - 8/30/2012   1:03:36 AM
  • 11
    OMG Yes! Fine dining shouldn't have to damage your health! I really do enjoy going to a special restaurant now and again, but find myself asking the waiter for so many changes to my dish, that I really could be eating anywhere. - 8/30/2012   12:31:56 AM
  • 10
    Fine dining = butter and pork fat. - 8/29/2012   10:42:45 PM
  • 9
    I love when I can eat healthy at a fancy restaurant & I appreciate places that offer nutritionally healthy foods, particularly for my kids. Everyone gets to choose how they eat, but I applaud the efforts of people to GO HEALTHY! - 8/29/2012   10:31:37 PM
  • RMARSH07
    I have only been on the healthy eating life style for about 75 days. One of my biggest surprises is how many things you can make that taste great but are healthier for you with only slight taste differences. In some cases the light version is actually better. I say this to subststiate the following: These incredibly talented chiefs could do us all a huge favor and spend some time developing healthier food options. The have the training and expertise. I don't mean that it should be a requirement, I just want them to know that there are more and more people like myself trying to make better choices. Why can't they add items to their menus that are 500 calories or less! - 8/29/2012   10:20:49 PM
  • 7
    "Fine Dining" should be whatever the market bears. Look at the menu online, outside the restaurant. If you don't like the choices, don't eat there... but don't try to force your preferences on every one else. - 8/29/2012   10:01:37 PM
  • 6
    I've eaten at restaurants with healthy menus and I agree with the comments already given: if I'm paying top dollar for a meal, I expect it to be very special! And there is no reason that gourmet food always has to be unhealthy. - 8/29/2012   9:43:15 PM

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