JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Elissa Hamrin, right, and Carly Yong show a freshly prepared toasted sub and ahi salad in the Kailua Shopping Center.
Enjoy what’s good for you at Aloha Salads
The 5-a-Day campaign was devised by several government health agencies as a way to encourage people to eat a minimum of five portions of fruits and vegetables a day. So easy to remember, so hard to do, even though five is not a very big number.
Well, imagine how much harder it will be now that the Center for Disease Control, Department of Health and Human Services, National Cancer Institute and the Produce for Better Health Foundation have gone and changed the rules. They've launched a new public health initiative, Fruits & Veggies -- More Matters, that now recommends eating five to 13 servings of fresh, frozen, canned, dried or juiced fruits and vegetables daily.
Doing some calculating, I figured I eat only four to six portions of food daily, leaving room for nothing but fruits and vegetables, which seems healthy. Except, instead of dying of heart failure or any of the defects that occur with a bad diet, I'd just slowly die of boredom.
But, going to the Web site www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov, I discovered the recommendations are customized based on an individual's age, gender and exercise level, with a calculator that allows you to plug in your information. Based on a 1,800-calorie diet, a sedentary person like me needs to eat only 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables a day. Whew. That's totally doable, and I found just the place to help at Aloha Salads in Kailua.
Owner Chris Lufrano grew up in Hawaii and worked in the financial biz in Chicago until he tired of the cold and fatty deep-dish pizzas, preferring to return to a healthy lifestyle. Once here, he found it virtually impossible to find something healthy to eat away from home, and with his wife, Sarah, created Aloha Salads as a way of supporting a healthy lifestyle and local farmers.
You will find no fewer than 42 kinds of crisp, fresh produce from which you can start customizing your salad. Beyond that, there are nuts and croutons to add, a choice of 11 cheeses, 21 dressings and several protein sources.
For those who need help getting started, the Lufranos came up with a number of signature salads to give you some ideas. These are not boring salads. While most restaurants might serve a basic ahi salad ($9.95) of greens, blackened ahi and dressing, Aloha Salads goes beyond the call of duty, adding diced mangoes and avocado, sliced strawberries, shredded coconut, green onions and bean sprouts. Their mango vinaigrette is heavy and slimy looking but tastes fine tossed with the greens. They'll smartly ask if you want the dressing on the side so you can use as much or as little as you want.
Serious salad eaters are likely to opt for the vitamin-packed Kahuku spinach salad ($8.95) with a sprinkling of smoked bacon, diced avocado, a couple of slices of boiled egg and skewer of four grilled tiger shrimps accompanied by papaya seed dressing.
Many salads allow you to get your full daily requirement of fruits and vegetables in a single order. The Mandarin Ginger ($8.95) features a couple servings of mesclun, a single serving of canned mandarin oranges plus julienned carrots, snow peas, green onions and cilantro, arranged with diced grilled chicken breast, crispy wonton strips and sesame seeds, served with Asian ginger dressing.
If going green is too daunting to think about, you can also get those veggies covered up in the form of sandwiches such as the Aloha Tuna ($7.25) of white albacore topped with mixed greens, mango and strawberries. A server said of the combination, "You'll be surprised ... pleasantly surprised."
Well, can't say I was. It was just fruit on tuna, not a perfect match, not a bad match, either, but just one way to incorporate more fruit into a basic diet without exerting oneself.
Regular meat eaters will love the Sub Club ($6.75) and roasted turkey sandwich ($6.50) made with meat from a whole roast turkey instead of pressed or processed meat. Those who can appreciate the difference know how rare this is in Hawaii.
Just when I was thinking we need a place like this closer to town, Lufrano says plans are in the works to open in Kahala Mall in July.
If you want to reward yourself with dessert after being good enough to finish all your salad, head next door to Elvin's Bakery and Café, where Elvin Lau, a former Panya chef, has set up a shop of his own.
You'll find basic sandwiches and salads here, but people on the go find it easiest to grab some tongs and pick up a couple of ham-and-cheese or tuna croissants to go.
And who can resist those light-as-air slices of tiramisu and strawberry shortcake? Without actually doing a side-by-side comparison with Panya's goodies, there seems to be little difference, although the dessert menu at Elvin's is not as extravagant. It's mostly basics for now, but few will feel they're missing out.
My favorite dessert is the Japanese cheesecake that reduces the cheese factor to a creamy spread between two layers of spongecake so you get much of the flavor and mouth-feel without all the calories of regular cheesecake. It can be more dangerous than a dense cheesecake because it leaves you feeling invincible after indulging in a whole slice.
At Kailua Shopping Center. Open 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. weekdays, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays. Call 262-1688.