Tuesday, July 6, 1999

By Gary Kubota, Star-Bulletin
Rae Mei-Ling Chang, executive director of Hui No Ke Ola Pono,
and chef Elaine Rathermel welcome people to
the Simply Healthy Cafe.

Paradise foods

Poi, fish and sweet potato grace
the menu of Wailuku's Simply
Healthy Cafe

By Gary T. Kubota


WAILUKU -- A nonprofit group focused on improving the diet of native Hawaiians has opened a lunch cafe featuring low-fat, low-salt meals.

The Simply Healthy Cafe, open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to the public, features island produce such as poi, taro leaves, fish and sweet potato.

The meals are prepared without frying or seasoning with sugar, butter or salt.

The group Hui No Ke Ola Pono plans to hold a blessing today from 5 to 7 p.m. at the cafe at the J. Walter Cameron Center.

At the opening this week, most residents seemed pleased with the price, under $5 a plate, and the meals.

"The food is fresh, tasty. It's good," said Linda Mau, a state public health nurse.

Rae Mei-Ling Chang, the group's executive director, said the cafe is an extension of a continuing study about the relationship of diet to cardiac problems with native Hawaiians.

A survey on Molokai found 65 percent of Hawaiians 20 to 59 years of age were overweight compared with 27 percent of adults nationally.

The study is attempting to monitor any general improvement in the health of Hawaiians as a result of changes in the diet.

Chang said reducing the weight of an individual often decreases high blood pressure and vulnerability to certain diseases.

Under the diet, a Hawaiian would consume no more than 15 grams of fat daily. Once off the diet, the person may resume consumption of fat at about 61 grams a day, the standard used by the American Heart Association.

To help Hawaiians move toward an improved diet, the group has developed a cookbook, "Simply Healthy," a nutritional program based on the Mea'ai Pono.

It describes how to prepare taro and the use of noni fruit, lauwae ferns, mamaki leaves, and lemon grass as teas.

"We try to keep the diet as Hawaiian as possible," Chang said.

Group members use the kitchen at the cafe to cook with Hawaiian families to demonstrate methods of food preparation without salt, oil, sugar and butter.

They don't use coconut and avocados, which have a high fat content, and mangoes, which are high in sugar and carbohydrates. They also don't eat kalua pig. Just three ounces contains 13 grams of fat, according to a chart developed by the group.

Chang said the group has developed alternatives in preparing some Hawaiian foods. Instead of using coconut oil for squid luau, they recommend a different oil, coconut extract and an artificial sweetener.

Chef Elaine Rathermel says instead of soy sauce or salt, she uses Bragg amino acids, and Sea Seasoning, featuring nori sprinkles. Suzette Kahoohanohano, a registered nurse involved in diet education, said she shows clients the amount of fat in various fast foods by putting fat in test tubes.

For instance, a 1.25-ounce bag of Fritos has 13 grams of fat, compared with a 2.5-ounce serving of steamed taro leaves with a half a gram of fat, she said.

Three ounces of Spam contain 26 ounces of fat, according to the chart.

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