Saturday, April 7, 2007

Nice Idea, Fishy Results

So here's a good idea. Start a website with a database of healthy restaurants, searchable by zip code. Set parameters on your database to determine what is healthy. Visitors to the site can type in their zip or the zip of the city they're visiting, hit the search button and get healthy dining options.

Sounds great, right?

That's what the folks at Healthy Dining Finder are doing, in conjunction with the National Restaurant Association. The site touts an "expert staff of registered dietitians and master's-level health professional consultants."

Problem is, there's a problem. Well, a couple of them.

Here are the criteria for a restaurant entree to be recommended: 1) must include either lean protein, fruit, or 100% whole grain; 2) must be 750 calories (for entire meal) or less; 3) must contain 25g of fat (of course) or less, with a max. of 8g of saturated fat. There are similar parameters for appetizers. No deep-fried items are included.

Okay, so I plug in my zip code to see what New Orleans dining options they offer. I'm expecting a long list because this city is rife with fantabulous restaurants where it's possible to get a great healthy meal.

My results?

Only 7 restaurants were recommended: Domino's Pizza; Burger King; Chevy's Fresh Mex; Chili's; Arby's; Hooters; and PF Chang.

Uh. Well. I'm speechless.

I suspect they're only listing restaurants that list nutritional info on their websites and would hope they'd expand their listings eventually. There is a link to recommend a restaurant.

In the meantime, though, why tout these restaurants? Why roll out this website "service" before you have enough of a database to make it useful? Have these restaurants paid to be included and, if so, doesn't that weaken the whole premise of the site? And what can I eat at, say, Domino's that fits the criteria? A couple of slices of pizza that contains a piece of mushroom would qualify, technically.

And Hooters. HOOTERS? I live in one of the finest gastronomic cities in the world and I'm going to have my healthy meal at HOOTERS? Visitors to New Orleans are going to be steered away from Antoine's and Commander's Palace and be directed to HOOTERS?

Nice try, but this isn't a resource I'll be using.

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