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Diners and caterers need to find appetite for healthy menu choices

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Green View by Peter Gudde
Green View by Peter Gudde

Let me stray into territory where everyone has an opinion – and that’s eating out.

I will try to keep the environmental theme by adding the word local.

We all need confidence that what we are eating is safe; that’s a given. And then there’s the diet debate. It’s at this point people’s opinions begin to diverge based on their views on things like cost, sourcing of produce, and taste preferences.

Over a generation, there has been a big shift around eating out. As a kid in my home town, we had a Wimpey, a KFC and a couple of home grown cafés – not the sort of places where you could be confident of what may politely be called safe passage following your meal.

Fine dining was the local Berni Inn – prawn cocktail or pate to start, steak and chips and Black Forest gateau to finish.

Judging by current TV food programmes, the 70s menu favourites, deconstructed, are back in fashion.

We’d have sent “deconstructed” dinners back with a message to sort out the chef (if we ever did complain). Steaks were always well done; asking for rare was for the adventurous or foolhardy. My brother-in-law had a Saturday job cooking steak at the local Berni which was reason enough to make sure you ate it burnt or chose something else less life-threatening.

Later in life I found out that my father-in-law liked his steak blue – that probably explained a lot about the relationship between father and son. Anyway, I digress.

The point I am struggling to make is that eating-out choice now is huge and the quality is beyond comparison with earlier times. But do the menu choices at your local eatery offer you not only tasty food, but healthier options too? Is your local café, pub or restaurant plugged into the local supply chain? If you have a dietary requirement, like gluten or dairy-free, are you served without feeling like you have ordered swan?

The Suffolk Eat Out, Eat Well Award recognises food establishments that are offering healthier choices for their customers – this could include cooking practices like grilling rather than frying, reducing the fat, salt or sugar content in some recipes or providing healthier options on the kids’ menu. Not just chicken nuggets and chips – tempting, I know. Award winners like Center Parcs at Elevedon, the Apex or Nourish Café in Bury or the cafés in West Suffolk Hospital are making a commitment to offer their customers more and healthier choice without losing flavour or quality. As a customer, look out for the Eat out, Eat Well logo around Suffolk as a sign of excellence in healthier food choices.

In my view, a logical extension to this is for caterers to make their supply chains shorter so we can all be confident that when we eat out we enjoy healthier food, at fair prices using West Suffolk produce.

Whether you are a catering business or a customer, you can find out more about Suffolk Eat out Eat Well Award by visiting www.healthysuffolk.org.uk/projects/EatOutEatWell/ by calling your local Environmental Health Department.

Current Eat Out, Eat Well award winners in West Suffolk:

Courtyard Café & Time Out Restaurant, West Suffolk Hospital

Nourish Café, Neal’s Yard, Abbeygate Street, Bury St Edmunds

The Apex, Bury St Edmunds

Angle Café at West Stow Anglo Saxon Village

Abbeycroft Leisure Centres in Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill (Churchill Catering)

Food outlets in Center Parcs, Elveden Forest, Suffolk.

-- Peter Gudde is environment manager for St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath councils