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Healthier Options at the Buffalo Food Fest

The foodie free for all, taste of Buffalo, for the first time in its 23 years of existence has been ordered to offer healthier options in its menu . The festival attracts tens of thousand of people from all over the US.

At least one item on each vendor's menu must meet standards on fat, salt and cholesterol.

The change in the menu for the July 7-8 will have mango sorbet and smoked chicken sandwiches along with the hot fudge sundaes and bleu cheese burgers, a low-fat cookie there with the cheesecake.

"It'll be interesting to see," said Ania Gurnari, whose family-owned bakery, E.M. Chrusciki, has offered its sugar-coated "angel wings" and other pastries at the festival for more than 20 years.

Her father came up with a chewy spice cookie to meet the new healthy mandate, using applesauce to make it moist and sweet.

"We're going to be serving New York-style cheesecake, there's nothing fat-free about that," Gurnari laughed. "So having that side by side, we'll see what choices people make."

The organizers argue that they are not forcing the health food on to the people but giving them a choice to try out the healthier option and find them just as tasty.

"What a great opportunity ... to recognize that a lot of people currently have a perception that healthy food has to taste bad," said Dr. Michael Cropp, president and chief executive of Independent Health. The health insurance company's community outreach foundation worked with festival organizers to develop the new rules.

"We thought, as a first step, if we can have all these restaurants demonstrate how they can provide a healthy option that tastes great, we're going to change people's perceptions," Cropp said. There has been cases where people like altered their chicken curry dish with more tomatoes to make it healthier but with not much change in taste. This year she is trying to keep a check on the oil use to make thing s healthier.

Each restaurant had to submit a healthy recipe that was analyzed by a computer program. No more than 30 percent of calories could come from fat and less than 10 percent from saturated fat. There were also sodium and cholesterol restrictions.

Some restaurants have created brand new dishes and others just tweaked the existing ones to meet the guidelines.

But today many customers are looking for less guilty pleasures.


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