The Weekly Eater


The early birds get the worm -- and after five weeks could lose a pound of fat too.

Early-bird dining is healthier
for body and pocketbook

Could my parents have been right? Having grown up in a simpler time, when dads worked, moms stayed home and the family gathered 'round the table for dinner at the same time, I never thought it unusual that mom -- even after she started working -- had the meal ready by 6 p.m. sharp, just about the time dad got home from dinner and was able to kick off his shoes.

I had moved out by the time both retired and trying to arrange dinner with them then became problematic due to their schedule change. Forget an 8 or even 7 p.m. reservation. Even 6 p.m. would be considered a hardship.

"What do you mean you'll starve by then? ... Five! That's too early! Only old people eat at 5!"

The early bird catches the worm, we learned in school, and all adults seemed to concur: early good, late bad.

I never quite embraced the message, taking pride in my high school record of having made the tardy list at Waipahu almost every day. Since then, late has been a life choice. Except ...

I have this compulsion to eat at 6 p.m. Not that it happens often; 9 to 10 p.m. is more of the norm, except when I'm reviewing restaurants which would close their kitchens about then. It's been drilled into me that eating at 6 p.m. is far better than eating at 10 and going to bed a couple hours later, though in my case it's not so bad as I doze off at 2 or 3 a.m.

But is there any truth to this early-bird notion?

THE ANSWER IS yes according to food and nutrition consultant Joannie Dobbs, who writes a nutrition column for us on Wednesdays. "The quick answer is that if you don't eat after 6 for five weeks, you will lose 1 pound of fat," she said.

The idea is that the 12-hour fast between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. allows your body to decimate its carbohydrate stash and start burning fat, about 100 calories nightly. Multiply those 100 calories by 35 days and you get the 3,500 calories that equal a pound of fat.

"It's not a lot but it could make a difference if you're doing it regularly," Dobbs said.

Senior citizens, who are most likely to take advantage of restaurants' early-bird specials, may be doing so because they also "find they can't eat as late anymore" due to esophagal reflux, she said. That is, lie down too soon after eating and you may be subject to acid backwash, or heartburn.

About 20 percent of Americans experience the pain caused when the stomach's contents flow up through the esophagus due to a relaxation of the lower esophagus after meals.

Avoid eating and snacking after 6 p.m. and get a double benefit by exercising in the morning, before eating. With no carbs in the body, the only energy burned through activity is pure fat, though Dobbs said this isn't for everyone. "We need to eat because the central nervous system and the brain requires glucose. If you don't eat, you can't think straight."

Even so, a night fast and morning workout would seem to be more sensible than following the typical fad diet, which generally leads to loss of water and, ironically, fat-burning muscle tissue.

THAT SAID, I absolve you of the stigma that comes with longing to be an early bird. Especially now when days are getting longer, getting to an oceanfront location early gives you more time to enjoy the beauty of a sunset with your meal. And, because the timing supposedly allows restaurants to get in an extra round of seating, a price break is the norm, so you can have that champagne and caviar lifestyle without paying as much as those Johnnies-come-lately.

Here's a list of places to start (prices don't include tax and tip):

>> The Chart House: Sunset dinner from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. is a three-course meal with a choice of four appetizers such as escargots, crispy calamari, New England clam chowder or Caesar salad; three entrees; and dessert; plus coffee or tea. The cost is $21 per person. Ask for seating with a view of the marina, at 1765 Ala Moana Boulevard. Call 941-6660.

>> Lucarelli's: Here at Restaurant Row, there's not much of a view, but you can't argue with half-price dinners from 4 to 6 p.m. That means you can pick up a dish of penne puttanesca with chicken and parmesan for about $5 (regular price $9.95); New York strip steak for $9.50 (regularly $18.95) or 9-inch pizza for $3.50 to $5 (regularly $6.95 to $9.95).

>> Michel's: Sunset menu is available during seatings at 5:30, 6 and 6:30 p.m. Choose a soup or salad; one of three entrees such as a New York steak served with gnocchi and cabernet sauce, chicken fricassée with velouté sauce or Sauvignon-poached onaga; and dessert, for $39.95 per person, all with a fabulous ocean view. Michel's is in the Colony Surf Hotel at 2895 Kalakaua Ave.

>> Palomino: Pau Hana Dinner selections are available from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Start with Caesar salad or the soup of the day, then choose one of four entrees, such as rotisserie, lemon-sage-infused chicken and slow-roasted prime rib (matching wine $6.95 to $8.95 per glass), and follow with tropical sorbets. The price is $19.95 per person. In the Harbor Court Mezzanine, 66 Queen St. Call 528-2400.

Just keep your eyes open. Be one with the "worm."

See some past restaurant reviews in the
Do It Electric!

section online. Click the logo to go!

Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

very good, exceeds expectations;
below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to

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