Chris Koney’s column: Eating healthy, the Fuego way! 

Chris Koney’s column: Eating healthy, the Fuego way! 

It is suppertime on a misty Friday evening after a heavy downpour in the nation’s capital, Accra. The sky is clearing and the usual Friday traffic is surprisingly absent, thanks to the rains which unfortunately had caused flooding in some parts of the city.

I found myself in the heart of the city, precisely at Shiashie – East Legon, with a group of friends and work colleagues looking forward to wine and dine after a week of endless tasks. We were at the Fuego Restaurant, which is becoming a place of choice for corporate executives on Friday nights.

With its boutique setting, Fuego Restaurant gives patrons that intimate and private feel accompanied by its serene and cozy environment, plus an amazing music policy. The restaurant offers a wide range of delicious food with a foreign culinary touch.

I was having a conversation with the super talented multimedia production expert, Senam Alice, on eating disorders in adults which sometimes begin at a very young age due to several factors and how it is important to capture the psychological factors that contribute to eating disorders.

We were joined by Yaw Osei Owusu, the quintessential business solutions expert and the Chief Executive Officer of Golden Key 360 Group. The always cheerful and welcoming young businessman is the proud founder of Fuego Restaurant. Like he always does, he will engage his patrons to ensure they are given a great treat.

Soon the conversation switched to his motivation for setting up the restaurant and how to live a healthy life aided by food. Fuego Restaurant is located in a part of town where food service is highly competitive, so one will wonder the insights that led Yaw and his team to enter into a space which seems to be oversubscribed.

According to Yaw, Fuego Restaurant is strategically positioned in an environment – Shiashie, East Legon – where food service is burgeoning, a situation which provides a huge opportunity for people who are willing to be dynamic and innovative in the food business. That was the fundamental motivation for starting his food business.

“It has been great but challenging few weeks for us starting our operations at the restaurant and other auxiliary services. We have been running some activation for months now, targeting lovers of good and healthy food as well as people hoping to try new dishes and an exotic version of their favourite local dishes. We have gradually been converting our early adopters into regular customers in just a few weeks of our operations, an indication of the potential for growing our business. It has been exciting providing locally existing foods with a foreign touch, making it refreshing for our customers,” Yaw revealed.

In his quest to grow and sustain the business, Yaw was quick to highlight that they are relying on frequent market research to know what the customers want and the elements that will make them happy to always come back and order food from them. According to him, Fuego Restaurant is more than just the food, but also about creating tasty memories.

“For us, it’s about creating an experience for our clientele base. When someone orders our food or walks in on a Friday night, it is our duty to ensure we are giving the person a total experience package, from the manner in which he or she is served to the delicious meals. All these come together to create the Fuego experience for the person, which will linger on his/her mind after leaving the restaurant,” he added.

To make this possible, Yaw believes in being creative and innovative in order to be ahead of the pack. He further mentioned Fuego Restaurant’s fresh perspective, taste and outlook given to some local meals as a game-changer.

“Imagine eating our very own beans and plantain – Gob3 – added with a foreign culinary touch which is served as Fuego Chili Beans and Tostones. Feedback from customers indicates their delight with the chicken and beans composition and presentation of the plantain. Fuego Chili Beans and Tostones is our signature food, among other delicious meals like Jollof rice, Fried rice, Salads, Sauces and Pizza which are currently open to just Grab-and-Go and a delivery option. Another exciting thing is that we cater for all pockets, you can buy only a little portion of rice or just chicken,” he emphasised.

Senam mentioned one of the most difficult things she has discovered when trying to follow a healthy lifestyle, which is eating out at restaurants. She is able to work so hard at home to follow healthy eating guidelines; however, eating at a restaurant can sometimes, unfortunately, feel like a step backward for her.

She added that at restaurants, you cannot know everything that goes into your food so you cannot avoid unhealthy ingredients like butter, salt, and lots of saturated fats. For her, eating at restaurants is fun and social; however, there is a temptation to rather stay away in a bid to maintain healthy eating.

In his response, Yaw revealed that it is still totally possible to eat at restaurants and eat healthy meals. Patrons just need to take note of a few things, and they can be prepared to make good and healthy choices. “When you get to a restaurant, you look for keywords on the menu that are giveaways for what to avoid. Some examples of the most common culprits are pan-fried, crispy, dipped, breaded and cream,” he added.

Meat has a tonne of protein and, when lean, is a great idea to order. Yaw indicated that, when ordering meat, it is best to pick leaner cuts of beef with great options such as flank steak, skirt steak, tenderloin, sirloin, or filet mignon. When in doubt, chicken is another great high protein, low fat option – particularly chicken breast.

When it comes to vegetables, ask to double or triple the portions. “Often, a side of vegetables in a restaurant is really more of a garnish, not a real serving. When ordering, ask for double or triple the normal serving of veggies, and offer to pay extra but more often than not, you won’t even be charged. Sometimes, veggies are cooked in a tonne of butter so make sure to request that the vegetables should not be cooked in butter when you order them. This is an easy way to escape unneeded fat and calories”, he emphasised.

Desserts are a fun part of eating out at restaurants and can be a huge bummer if you’re trying to eat healthy. If you want to splurge on a dessert, you do have some options. According to Yaw, his favourite thing to do is to order one dessert for the table in order not to eat the entire dessert and feel totally awful. Instead, you enjoy a few bites and satisfy your sweet tooth. Alternatively, you can ask the waiter for a simple dish of berries or a fruit sorbet.

Yaw also advised skipping fancy pants drinks. “If you must order an alcoholic drink, try to avoid margaritas, piña coladas, and other exotic mixed drinks. They include sugary add-ins that add tons of calories and processed sugars and flavours. Instead, order a glass of wine, a light beer, vodka and tonic, or a simple martini. These options will be better for your healthy eating goals, especially if you choose not to drink that often”, he further explained.

In concluding our conversation on healthy eating, Yaw suggested fish meals as a great option, when it is not fried. He stated that: “You can order seafood in tonnes of different ways – steamed, blackened, baked, broiled, sautéed, or grilled. My favourite is grilled. Just like with meat, fish allows you to enjoy protein, fill up on real food, and avoid foods loaded in carbs and unhealthy fats. It is often a great option on the menu, especially if it’s fresh fish.”

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