Grind Time: Zippy’s offers diabetes-friendly menu
BY JASON GENEGABUS / firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re like me, a trip to Zippy’s often means ordering something fried with a large fountain drink — and more often than not, a stop by the Napoleon’s Bakery counter on the way out for a Napple (or two).
So when I heard the iconic local restaurant chain is offering a new, diabetes-friendly menu for dine-in customers, I was pleasantly surprised. I’ve made a concerted effort to get to the doctor more often in recent years and am often reminded to not only reduce my stress levels and increase physical activity, but to also try and eat healthier.
Yes, I support local. If I could exclusively shop at farmers markets or Whole Foods, cook all my own meals and only dine out at Honolulu’s finest farm-to-table restaurants, I would. But my schedule — and bank account — don’t support that lifestyle. And I’m not ashamed to admit I love eating a chili moco way more than I probably should. Portuguese sausage omelette sandwiches, too.
On Wednesday, Zippy’s formally launched its new lineup of diabetes-friendly menu options, which include four breakfast choices along with four sandwiches and a pair of entrees. They partnered with Kaiser Permanente and the American Diabetes Association in developing the menu, enlisting Kaiser’s Hawaii-based chief of endocrinology Dr. Jennifer Loh and diabetes educator Anne Laporte RN to do all the heavy lifting (i.e. taste testing). The menu will be available at all Zippy’s dine-in locations through Oct. 31.
“It’s the first time we’ve ever done something like this,” Dr. Loh said Wednesday during an interview in the dining room at Zippy’s Kahala. “I come here every single week with my kids. It means a lot to me to provide healthier options, not only for my kids, but also for people who have diabetes in our community.”
“We didn’t realize how prevalent diabetes is in Hawaii,” said Zippy’s Restaurants marketing manager Jeanine Mamiya-Kalahiki. “So many people have it. They’re our customers and employees. So we thought we should try to put together a diabetes-friendly menu. Everything is based off existing items. There are just slight modifications.”
According to Dr. Loh, Hawaii’s population has a higher percentage of residents with diabetes than the U.S. average. If you count those who fall into the pre-diabetic category along with those already diagnosed, the number jumps to 500,000 people affected by the health condition. And a good number of those people are blissfully unaware anything is wrong.
“You can have diabetes and just not know it,” said Dr. Loh. “People can be genetically prone to diabetes or obesity, and then you add in the cultural aspect of us here in Hawaii where we celebrate with food.”
“Very rarely are we ever dealing with just one family member,” added Laporte. “I would say with the vast majority of my patients, I know at least two or three family members with the disease, and it’s often generational.”
While the new menu isn’t a life-changing solution, it’s a great option for both those already diagnosed as being diabetic and people interested in taking an all-important first step towards better health. Zippy’s also made a conscious effort to get the entire family involved by including a five-question survey that keiki can give their parents while they wait for their meals. The scoring determines whether or not mom and dad should make an appointment with their doctor to get screened for diabetes; a link to a complete risk test is also provided.
“With diabetes, there’s a stereotype that you can’t eat certain foods,” Dr. Loh said. “That’s why we tried to put a lot of different types of foods on the menu. You can eat a whole broad spectrum of food. You just have to balance it and keep the portion size smaller than you think it should be.”
The new menu focuses on two important aspects of any meal: portion size and the proportions of ingredients. Health care professionals suggest eating meals that include approximately 500 calories of food, with a quarter of the meal consisting of carbohydrates, another quarter consisting of lean protein and the rest either fresh vegetables or fruits.
Those guidelines differ greatly from what most people expect to find on the menu at Zippy’s, so it is a little shocking to see how small some of the plates are. But everything is clearly labeled as “mini” except for the sandwiches and the vegetable omelette (which looks pretty much like all the regular omelettes already on the menu). It’s also the wake up call you might need to realize those plate lunches you normally order are simply too much food for one person.
If the prospect of eating a meal only to get hungry again a couple of hours later concerns you, take advantage of the various add-ons included on the new menu. That vegetable omelette, for example, can be paired with a half papaya or a banana, or either fruit with a slice of ham. Sandwiches are served with salad.
“We recognize the need for this,” said Mamiya-Kalahiki of the special menu. “We’ll see what the feedback is from the customers. There’s a possibility that we could continue to offer some of these items.”
In addition to the food, Zippy’s has partnered with the American Diabetes Association in Hawaii to raise funds via “Stop Diabetes” cutout signs for $1 each. Look for the designated boxes at all Zippy’s restaurants in Hawaii, or call the ADA at (808) 947-5979.
“Grind Time” is always looking for the latest places to get your grub on. Email Jason Genegabus with restaurant, bar or any other food/drink-related item at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter and Google+.