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March 8, 2000

Checking in to steaks

Hotel chefs jump on high-protein bandwagon

By Salina Khan, USA TODAY

Sticking to high-protein/low-carbohydrate diets could get easier for diners at some hotels.

Catering to the popularity of the latest lose-weight-quick diet plans, hotels are whipping up new dishes and redesigning restaurant and room service menus for travelers ordering high-protein foods such as steak (hold the potatoes).

While there is no official count of how many people follow the diet, the high-protein foods manual Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution by Robert Atkins has sold between 6 million and 7 million copies.

Here's how some hotels are capitalizing on the trend:

Loews Hotels will identify high-protein/low-carbohydrate meals with a special insignia on restaurant and room service menus at all 15 of its hotels by April. The company also is adjusting about 50 dishes to fit the dietary restrictions. Some high-carbohydrate vegetables, such as corn and potatoes, will be replaced by green veggies.

"We are trying to help people manage temptation," says Clark Wolf, a food and restaurant consultant working with Loews on its new menu items.

Tasty low-carbohydrate desserts aren't easy to serve because many sweets contain heaps of sugar and flour. Loews chefs are experimenting with egg flan and almond flour tarts.

The Westin Copley Place in Boston has overhauled its breakfast menu to appeal to high-protein dieters. Some additions include mushroom, avocado and spinach frittata with salsa and smoked salmon with cream cheese.

General manager Frank Calaguire says more travelers have been asking for high-protein-only dishes since the summer. But the menu change didn't come until this year, when he and six of his colleagues joined Atkins' followers.

"At first, I must admit, it was self-serving," Calaguire says.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts is considering adding a special "diet corner" to its printed menus with a selection of high-protein/low-carbo meals by April. The company also will serve meeting-goers the low-calorie meals advocated in Barry Sears' The Zone.

"I'm not trying to change everybody's life - just create options," says Philip Kendall, Starwood's vice president of food and beverage.

USA TODAY Road Warrior and Atkins dieter Wayne Stephany of Lancaster, Pa., says he welcomes these changes.

He says he's usually forced to "buy a full meal and then eat the low-carb stuff."

But other hotel companies say they're not promoting the diet because eating oodles of eggs, bacon and cheese might not be healthy. Some medical and nutritional experts say the Atkins diet is high in saturated fat, which could increase the risk of heart disease and some types of cancer.

"We would be a little uncomfortable about something that hasn't been tested," says Ritz-Carlton's Vivian Deuschl.


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