Restaurant regular

THE CHALLENGE: Lawyer Stuart Kaplow eats out for every meal - but he's worried that his weakness for red meat could derail his health. Our expert suggested a menu for change.

Make Over My Meal / / Dining Out

March 21, 2007|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,Sun Reporter

For this month's Make Over My Meal came a novel subject -- the man who never eats in.

"I eat out 21 meals a week, 52 weeks a year, year in and year out," real-estate lawyer Stuart Kaplow wrote to us. "And no, I never do takeout."

Working hard and playing hard are firmly in Kaplow's repertoire. But cooking? Not so much. He says he doesn't generally bring food into his Brooklandville home. Nor does he set foot in grocery stores. Late-night munch-ies? Because he likes to be ready to wake up early, that's not a problem. Snack attack at work? There's a 7-Eleven across the street from his Towson office that sells bananas. Snowed in? "I have a four-wheel drive."

For breakfast, he's usually at Stone Mill Bakery in Green Spring Station, enjoying a cup of coffee and a slice of raisin-walnut bread, or occasionally a bowl of oatmeal. Lunch might find him at one of Towson's sushi spots.

For dinner, Kaplow, who lives alone, is more likely to roam in search of a good meal -- to steakhouses like Morton's and Fleming's; to Sabatino's in Little Italy (and Vaccaro's for dessert); or to the new Longo's restaurant in Green Spring Station.

One of his favorite eateries is Linwoods in Owings Mills, because he likes the food and the kitchen is willing to make substitutions. So we chose that as the place to make over Kaplow's dinner with Robin Spence, a registered dietitian at Union Memorial Hospital and our makeover series expert.

Kaplow's restaurant habit might be extreme, but many of us are eating lots of meals that we haven't prepared ourselves. Americans are dining out an average of four to five times a week, according to the National Restaurant Association. Though nutritional information is becoming easier to find on menus, it's not typically available at the kinds of places Kaplow frequents.

It's not that Kaplow, 47, throws caution entirely to the wind. He said he often makes a point of leaving food on his plate. And he exercises far more than most people -- an average of one to two hours a day, he says.

When he dined with us at Linwoods, he reported that he had just returned from completing a duathlon -- 56 miles of biking and 13 of running -- in California. Last year, he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Using a special scale, he keeps track of his body fat by the week and reports that it hovers in the very trim range of 12 to 19 percent. If the percentage creeps higher, he works out more.

"I'm certainly making an effort," Kaplow said. "But I think that it's an ongoing struggle to try to find reasonably healthy food."

His Achilles heel is red meat. He likes to eat a substantial order a couple of times a week. And no, a 6-ounce piece of relatively lean beef tenderloin wouldn't really do -- he likes heftier portions and juicier (i.e., fattier) cuts.

"I'm reluctant to leave beef on the table," he said. "I used to say I would never eat something the size of my head. Now pieces of meat often come out the size of my head."

On the night we asked Kaplow to order what was for him a typical meal at Linwoods, the recent duathlon had clearly left him hungry. He started off with two small pieces of a thin-crusted caramelized onion pizza, which wasn't on the Linwoods menu, but used to be available at Due, Linwoods' now-closed sister restaurant.

That was followed by an iceberg wedge dressed with an ample amount of creamy blue cheese. Kaplow opted for a sprinkling of bacon, too. Then it was on to a succulent, 18-ounce grilled veal porterhouse on a bed of spinach and potatoes. And a trio of miniature chocolate treats for dessert. He washed it all down with Coke, which he often drinks at dinner.

What did Spence think as she digested her sensible crab cake? "The size of the meat worries me," she said diplomatically.

When she got back to her office later to analyze the dinner, it worried her even more. Though the veal (which amounted to about 12 ounces without the bone) was leaner than beef -- and Kaplow's exercise may buy him as many as 3,000 calories a day -- he still had consumed more than his entire day's allotment of saturated fat in one meal. "He can run off the calories, but he really can't run off all the cholesterol, all the saturated fat," she said. "I think he certainly decreases the risk, but he doesn't negate it."

Our goal was not to turn Kaplow into a home cook; that's clearly not going to happen. But Spence -- and even Linwoods' owner Linwood Dame -- thought Kaplow should start eating more like he's having everyday meals at home, even if those meals take place in a fine restaurant.

That means ordering differently than many of the diners around him, for whom dinner at a place like Linwoods might be more of a special occasion. Those people can order without thinking too much, Spence said, because they'll (we hope) return to a routine of more modest eating at home.

But Kaplow needs to be more selective. "It can't be a free-for-all every meal," Spence said.

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