Diet fads and foods may come and go but steak is forever, as local restaurateurs, meat purveyors, dieticians and psychologists help Chicagoans eat more mindfully.
With two-thirds of Americans overweight, steak has been tarred as a high-caloric, high-fat food. But in favor of steak consumption, Mary Connors, a clinical psychologist with Chicago-based Integrative Health Partners, quotes author Jane Brody: “Moderation in all things, including moderation.” A proponent of eating red meat, Ms. Connors says, “Don’t deprive yourself.” Just consider how you’re eating.
“We live in a culture of mindless eating,” explains Ms. Connors, whose clients have eating disorders and weight problems. She focuses on educating them on how to pay attention to what they’re eating and how they feel. “It takes effort to take a different approach, bring attention to how you feel and be in touch with the wisdom of your body,” she explains. “By bringing mindfulness to eating, you can change your relationship with food so it becomes a true source of pleasure rather than conflict or shame.”
Omaha Steaks Food & Nutrition Project Manager Scarlett Crews remembers when her husband was a vegan. “Now that we’re a meat-eating family, it’s much more enjoyable,” she insists. A registered dietitian/nutritionist who’s worked in Chicago and Missouri, Ms. Crews now contributes to Omaha Steaks’ official blog, which has become a more visible aspect to the company that ships steaks and other foods nationwide.
And Ms. Crews has observed that the Paleolithic diet has had an impact on steak eaters. The presumed diet of pre-historic humans (aka cavemen), which consists mainly of fish, grass-fed meats, vegetables, fruit, et cetera, “was the most researched diet last year,” she informs. “It’s not going away, but we’re also seeing an interest in other ‘single-ingredient’ foods [like seafood and chicken]…protein sources. There’s a focus on whole food because people find it more satisfying.”
So is steak simply more satisfying than other foods? “Macronutrients in steak are protein and fat,” explains Ms. Crews. “It takes time for the body to break down and digest both the protein and fat, which is what leaves you satisfied longer. At the same time, beef is more of an indulgent food so you’re more emotionally satisfied.” That may explain the steady increase in premium steak that Allen Brothers President Todd Hatoff has seen the last several years.
A fourth generation family member of the Chicago meat purveyor that supplies restaurants like Gene & Georgetti, Benny’s Chop House, Rosebud and high-end chains such as Hillstone Restaurant Group, Mr. Hatoff says, “There’s a tighter supply and increased cost, yet the demand continues to rise.” Greg Horan, general manager/partner at Gibsons Bar & Steakhouse concurs: “There’s nothing more celebratory than steak and a great bottle of wine. In my 18 years with Gibsons, I’ve seen many diets come and go but steaks remain.”
Lest you think steak is just a guy thing, Liz Dade disagrees. The assistant general manager of Gibsons in Rosemont has noticed a nice uptick in women ordering steaks. “I’m not sure if it’s part of a specific diet or the focus on protein,” she says. However, women are mindful of portion control. “They’re smart about it,” she observes. “They order the seven ounce filet and leave the 48 ounce porterhouse to others.” Ms. Dade, a steak eater, says, “My favorite is the New York Strip. It’s lean, juicy and delicious.” But everyone agrees, the key is moderation and portion control
And while Mr. Hatoff sees the trajectory for high-end beef continuing, Mr. Horan says that Chicago remains the epicenter of the steak world. “Maybe it has something to do with our legacy of being the ‘slaughterhouse to the world,’” he says, “but Chicago will always be known for our fine steakhouses.”