Samantha is a Health Communication Intern at the MA Department of Public Health
Last Thursday, April 18th, I met up with a team of community health all-stars who have been paving the way for healthy living over the past decade. My dinner dates included the Director of Shape Up Somerville, David Hudson; Coordinator, Rachael Plitch; Nutrition Consultant, Mary Marshall; Somerville Health Department Director, Paulette Renault Caragianes; and Mass in Motion Healthy Dining Program Lead, Susan Svencer.
The evening began at Sabur, a multi-ethnic restaurant featuring tastes from across the Mediterranean. With Rachael’s guidance, we ordered a medley of rustic vegetarian dishes from the Shape Up Approved menu:
- Warm goat cheese with roasted eggplant and pepper dip;
- Hummus and warm pita;
- Mixed-greens salad with pear, walnut, and port-wine dressing; and
- Roasted garlic polenta with wood grilled artichoke, spinach, tomato and olives.
Everything tasted great, but (believe it or not) my favorite was probably the flavorful salad!
Gathered around a large Bosnian copper table, we talked about some challenges of getting healthy dining off the ground. Mary – not just a nutritionist but a spunky Somerville girl at heart – explained how tough it can be to get businesses to stay committed to the program. She works closely with owners to identify the Shape Up Approved healthy menu choices while maintaining the tastes and traditions of the restaurant. “It’s not easy! You really have to speak their language,” Mary says.
Next stop was Istanbul'lu, a charming little Turkish restaurant just a stroll across the street. Again with Rachael’s guidance, we ordered a collection of tapas from the Shape Up Approved menu:
- Baked baby eggplant stuffed with sautéed vegetables (green peppers, onion, tomatoes);
- Steamed red lentil mixed with tomatoes, pepper sauce, parsley and scallion; and
- White beans marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, chopped red onions, sumac and parsley.
All was interesting and delicious, and came with a side of house-made, whole grain white bread with red pepper dipping sauce.
I left with a belly full of exotic, nutritious tastes and an even fuller heart. It was inspiring to meet such a passionate group of people working to create a healthier community. It seems Shape Up Somerville has found a way to continue highlighting the culture in each nook and cranny of the city – new healthy choices and all.