Special Reports

Local restaurant owners offer healthy options for a variety of reasons

Audrey George, owner of Chef Audrey’s Bistro and Bakery in Warner Robins, said she lost 53 pounds in a little more than a year by eating a balanced diet from the items on her restaurant’s menu.

Chef Audrey’s offers European style dishes, prepared with fresh, organic ingredients, and cooked without extra oils or preservatives.

The entrees and desserts can also be customized for people with a variety of health concerns, from gluten-free breads to desserts made with Stevia instead of sugar.

“A lot of restaurants can’t do that,” she said.

Chef Audrey’s is among a number of eateries in Middle Georgia that offer dishes for health-conscious customers, from those watching their waistlines to those who have food allergies.

George’s sister died in 2008 from a heart attack two months before her 62nd birthday and also suffered from high blood pressure and borderline diabetes. George described her loss as a “wake-up call.”

While she had been meticulously preparing the dishes at her restaurant — both from her culinary training, as well as her experience cooking for her diabetic father — George decided it was time to apply the same attention to her own health habits.

“The things I’m doing for other people, I had to do for me,” she said.

Gary Schechterle, co-owner of Lemongrass: A Thai Bistro in Macon, also prides himself on offering dishes with the freshest of ingredients.

Instead of preparing food with lard or preservatives, Schechterle said Thai dishes rely more on fresh herbs and spices such as garlic, ginger, lemongrass, chili peppers and Thai basil.

Everything on the menu can be made vegetarian, and in many cases, also vegan, with the exception of fried rice dishes, which contain eggs, he said.

“The cuisine itself is very healthy,” Schechterle said.

Chefs at Lemongrass also cook with wild-caught salmon and hand-prepare the spring rolls.

“It’s important that food be fresh and food be delicious,” he said. “That’s what I like to eat.”

Sonya Baggett, owner of Michele’s Bakery and Bistro in Warner Robins, offers vegetarian sandwiches, salads and low fat dressings to her customers, among other options.

“I want people pleasantly filled and not overstuffed,” said Baggett, who described herself as “health-conscious.”

Ingleside Village Pizza owner Tina Dickson said the choices customers make when ordering food can make a big difference for someone who is counting calories.

Instead of choosing pepperoni, sausage or other high-fat pizza toppings, customers can opt for fresh vegetables and less cheese. Low-calorie ranch dressing is a popular addition to salads at the restaurant, Dickson said.

“Pizza is only as bad as the toppings you put on it,” she said.

Ken McCall, owner of McCall’s in Warner Robins, said he tries to provide healthy options to customers, such as breads with grains, offering smaller portions and preparing sandwiches without mayonnaise-based sauces.

McCall said he has responded to the requests of his calorie-counting customers in the past, but their own dietary will tends to get the best of them.

At the beginning of each year, he has noticed that many will choose lower calorie items, such turkey sandwiches with mustard, but they soon fall back to old standbys such as chicken salad and hot ham and Swiss sandwiches.

“People do it for short period of time, but they go back to the same foods they come to us for, what they always did,” he said.

To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.

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