Cut calories in the New Year

Getting healthy
By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  December 28, 2011

Several Portland restaurants will offer menu items at the price of their calorie count on Tuesday, January 3 — a nod toward the city's obesity prevention initiative and recent efforts to get local, non-chain eateries to provide nutrition information to their diners. For example, a falafel gyro from Spartan Grill (581 calories) will cost $5.81 (as opposed to its normal price of $6.75); a rice and bean bowl with chicken from El Rayo (556 calories) will cost $5.56 instead of $7.50. Other participating restaurants include Sebago Brewing Company and DiMillo's On the Water.

While the correlation between calories and prices is a one-day gimmick (albeit a tasty one), the overall effort is meaningful. The menu-labeling program is funded through Healthy Portland's Communities Putting Prevention to Work obesity prevention grant (which also provides funds to healthify school lunches; see "Lunch Money," by Deirdre Fulton, October 7), in partnership with the city's Health and Human Services Department. It allows restaurants to obtain a free menu analysis from a registered dietitian, who will then help create new lower-calorie options.

According to a city press release, almost 60 percent of Cumberland County residents are either obese or overweight, and the state pays more than $350 a year in medical costs directly related to these problems.

FYI: the best bang-for-your-caloric-buck on Tuesday appears to be at Sebago, where you'll be able to get a $4.79 cup of white chicken chili for $1.55.

On a related note, if you care to SPEND NEW YEAR'S DAY IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS as opposed to in a hungover, carb-consuming stupor, consider a hike through Aroostook State Park (Presque Isle), Cobscook Bay State Park (waaaaaay Downeast), Popham Beach State Park (Phippsburg), or Wolfe's Neck Woods State Park (Freeport). From California to Maine, state park admission fees are being waived on January 1, 2012; locally, park guides will offer guided tours with information about state ecosystems in winter — at Wolfe's Neck, a guide will teach visitors to identify certain animal tracks; at Popham Beach, an "avid winter-time beach walker" will lead an exploration of the first low tide of the year. Learn more at

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