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Gabrielle Tuscher, nutritionist, Peninsula Hotels

01 June 2006

Peninsula Hotels has just engaged a nutritionist to redesign the group's menus as part of its new Wellbeing concept, an initiative to provide a healthier all-round lifestyle for guests. Emily Manson spoke to Gabrielle Tuscher about her plans

What influence have you had over menu planning? We're creating new menu items and conducting nutritional analyses of all the recipes so that guests can know the calorie and fat content of dishes if they want.

How did the chefs take the menu changes? They've been very welcoming, because they've already seen a trend towards people requesting nutritious foods while wanting to retain interesting flavours. Hopefully, it will actually take some stress out of the chefs' lives. Why should people stop looking after themselves just because they're away from home?

What are your key aims? We stick to organic produce where possible, use essential fats and avoid saturated fats and trans-fats. We also use a lot of wholegrain foods, fresh vegetables, fruit and lean protein, and avoid using too many refined products.

What is the most difficult cuisine to replicate in a healthy way? Chinese is very difficult, as there's a lot of dim sum, won tons and buns which require refined grains. We wouldn't ever use monosodium glutamate, and we do try to lower the sodium content of dishes as much as possible. This does make it a challenge to maintain the flavours.

Aren't you just taking the luxury out of hotels? No, that's definitely not our aim. Our goal is to maintain the standards of cuisine you would normally expect. We want to make maintaining wellness just an added bonus to a great meal.

How do you keep the menu cutting-edge? We try to keep it as interesting as possible by mixing Eastern and Western influences. We will change the selection and experiment with different ingredients to provide guests with unusual and exotic, yet healthy, dishes.

What are the most difficult alternative diets to cater for? Gluten and wheat allergies - because gluten and wheat are in almost everything, so it becomes very limiting.

What are your top tips to help people pick healthy choices when eating out? Ask questions. Find out from the waiting staff what's in the dish and how it was prepared. I would recommend asking for salad dressing on the side so you have control over quantities, substitute French fries with baked potatoes and consciously choose the healthier choices.

What's your "worst favourite" meal? I love junk food. Anything on the sweet side, really, including anything chocolatey. Also, I really enjoy some fried chicken and French fries or a kebab every now and again.

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