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The fries that fattened Pittsburgh

| Saturday, Sept. 27, 2003

Pittsburgh -- city of French fries, pierogies and other fatty foods.

Some people find this hard to swallow.

"You just do not see a lot of healthy restaurants," said Eddy Confer, 52, of Latrobe. "In general, there's not much for health food and exercise here." Confer, who works Downtown, said she'd like to see fewer pierogies, kielbasa and French fries and more fruits, veggies and tofu.

If you dare to look, nutritious food can be found in many Downtown and Oakland eateries, a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review survey found. We could use veggies instead of fries: About 60 percent of adults in Pennsylvania are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"You can find something healthy to eat at any restaurant," said Madelyn H. Fernstrom, director of UPMC Weight Management Center. "Make your needs be known; you're not stuck only eating salad."

For instance, Fernstrom suggests ordering a grilled chicken sandwich or chili with baked potato when at fast food restaurants.

"The problem in Pittsburgh is things come in large proportions," she said. "Do not sabotage your meals with things likes French fries on top of salads."

Some restaurants offer healthy buffets and dishes. Tambellini's Ristorante, Downtown, has a "Low Carb Wednesday" buffet from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. that features pork, chicken and fish. The less-carnivorous can try the vegetarian meals at Ali Baba Restaurant in Oakland. The restaurant serves Middle Eastern dishes.

Fernstrom said people should make sure they take in all necessary vitamins and protein -- and leave out all the bad stuff.

"There are heart-healthy fats. Animal fats are not heart-healthy," she said. "What you want to do is cut down on your total fat intake."

Obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease are associated with unhealthy eating.

Allegheny County Health Department spokesman Guillermo Cole said the prevalence of obesity has increased among all age groups.

"We are not unlike the rest of the country with the problem of people being obese," he said.

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