Worcester is home to some of the most amazing restaurants and some of the area’s best-known chefs practice their trade right in our back yard…but sometimes all that gastronomical genius makes it difficult to make healthy choices when dining out.
It is a well-known fact that making healthier eating choices are imperative to preventing or treating diseases like diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and heart disease…but when presented the all-you-can-eat buffet, double chocolate red velvet cupcakes or the 24 oz rare prime rib, most of us simply cannot resist. Luckily for us, a newly formed organization promises to make it easier for us all to make better decisions when dining or ordering out in the city.
WooFood launched by UMass Medical Schools students Matthew DeWolf, Adam Chin and Mitch Li, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is working with area restaurants to develop and offer healthier menu items and to make sure they are clearly stated on menus and by servers.
WooFood’s goal is to empower and promote restaurants that encourage more healthy choices to their customers by making simple changes. The WooFood philosophy does not restrict choice, instead it is set up to make the healthier choice easier for diners. Customers eating at a WooFood certified restaurant can expect to find at least three dishes that are not only WooFood certified, but also chef certified—there is no lack of flavor, creativity, or effort. Two of the three options typically are crafted for vegetarians, complete with proteins, and wholesome options for growing children. As WooFood doesn’t require restaurants to remove any ingredients, you can rest assured that each certified meal is nutritious and delicious.
In order to become “WooFood Certified” a restaurant must first meet a series of prerequisites including:
- At least three WooFood certified dishes are available and easy to identify
- Two or more vegetarian dishes meeting WooFood standards are available
- One or more WooFood Approved Desserts is available (featuring fresh or frozen fruit)
- Whole grain options are available for the vast majority of grain based items
- No trans fats are used and instead healthful oils such as Canola or Olive oil are used with no more than 2 pats of butter per dish if butter is used for cooking
- Unsweetened and low sugar beverages are available on the menu
- Low or Nonfat Dairy are available and the default choice
- Must have at least one WooFood Certified kids meal following the same standards
Once a restaurant meets these basic criteria, they can become “WooFood Certified” and begin to work toward “WooFood Silver” and “WooFood Gold” certifications. The WooFood program does not stop with a restaurant’s menu, the team offers training for wait staff members and advertising and networking opportunities for the owners.
In addition to encouraging healthy eating, WooFood has developed a concept called “Dinner for Now, Tomorrow’s Chow” where wait staff offer a customer to “wrap up” half their meal before they begin eating so as to encourage the overall intake of less food.
Three local restaurants have become WooFood Certified including Flying Rhino, Nancy Chang and Wooberry Frozen Yogurt and more will be coming on-line in the very near future. Paul Barber, owner of Flying Rhino on Shrewsbury Street recently said, “Not only are we trying to do the right thing for our customer, we definitely see the value a WooFood certification brings our restaurant and will continue to work and grow with the organization.”
So look for the bright leaf logo indicating a restaurant is “WooFood Certified”…you’ll feel better about the choices you make when eating out.