Mark Elkman, CEO of the Boca-based nutritional food program Fresh Meal Plan, discusses a number of food issues and trends with Boca Raton.
On gluten: Celiac disease affects one out of 200 people, and they need to avoid gluten completely. Aside from that, gluten and glucose makes you tired. But it’s not going to kill you.
On calorie labels in restaurants: I think that should be mandatory for every restaurant, anyone supplying food. You should know what you put in your body. At least you would know that when you pick that burger up, you’re eating 1,500 calories right here. We all know that we should be eating between 2,000 and 2,500 calories per day; how are you going to have a burger that’s 1,500? If people knew better what they were eating, I think that we’d be able to clean things up. We’re just recently finding out that this generation of kids won’t outlive their parents, and that’s the first time in five decades that’s happened. That’s a cry for help, and we’re trying to do as much as we can.
On dairy consumption: Half an ounce of cheese in your meal isn’t going to hurt anybody. We’re not going to layer your meal with a few ounces of cheese and meat, because that’s not a healthy lifestyle. But if we can give you a few things you like in low quantity, then we’ll retain you longer as a customer, and the longer we retain you as a customer, the healthier you’re going to be.
On the paleo diet: The paleo diet is no more meat-intensive than our regular programs; it’s just that instead of the grains in the traditional program, we’ll use more vegetables, or some kind of essential fatty acid, whether it be avocado, nuts, coconuts, different oils. If you’re taking the carbs out of a meal, you should always increase the fat of the meal, a healthy fat of course—not a trans fat. Your body can utilize carbs and fat for energy; it can’t utilize protein for energy. On our paleo program, the fat content may look a little higher, but you’re utilizing that fat as energy. You can’t be scared to intake fat. I typically eat paleo.
On vegetarianism: I wish I could eat vegetarian, but for 99 percent of the population, it’s not realistic. That’s why we try to keep our meat portions the same size portions as our sides, and that’s something that Doctor Oz has referenced: Eat your meat as a side, instead of eating it as if it’s the staple of your dish. You go to a restaurant, and they don’t understand what a portioned meal is. You may be getting four times what we give you in one portion.
On genetically modified food: I love the fact that Whole Foods will the first fnon-GMO full market by the end of 2015. We’re the same way; we don’t buy any GMO products. We make all our sauces in house, so we avoid the sodiums and preservatives, as opposed to buying sauces and dumping them into the meal. This business came from a passion; it didn’t come from a business idea, and that’s the way we’ve handled it.