This is a direction I wanted to take my little blog to for a while. While Chiropractors seem to focus on being back care specialist, it is truly an field that is passionate about health. It is no surprise that diet is a huge, if not the biggest, contributing factor to health.
Since I’ve gotten serious about health, and diet & weight loss specifically, one of my biggest gripes was about dinning out. On average, Americans eat out four to five times a week. That means that the majority are eating fast food and not doing any cooking at home. This obviously is contributing to the obesity epidemic, but why do we accept that in exchange for a little convenience our health?
Instead of going into the numerous problems with restaurants and making them a staple of your diet, I am happy to talk about a local Denver catering & Denver restaurant that breaks the mold and overcomes all the dining out hazards.
( for more information about the ill effects of fast food look for future articles and take a loot at these books: Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, Chew On This: Everything You Don’t Want to Know About Fast Food, Food Inc. A Participant Guide and these movies: Food Inc., Food Matters )
We discovered ModMarket completely on accident. After a long morning run I was ready for an early lunch and the place we had in mind was not open yet. I drove past ModMarket and reluctantly decided to give it a try.
I am not an adventurous eater, and often find the convenience of dinning out to be more of a hassle than making my simple regular meals at home. Having a wonderful wife that is also an amazing cook and shopper helps, and having a 2 year old really makes you re-think the benefits and cost of eating in public places.
First impressions we strangely mixed for me – The sleek and modern styling suggested that I was nowhere near cool enough to be in such a sweet place (which isn’t hard considering my complete lack of style,) but the large monitors displaying a beautiful high tech menu tugged at my inner nerd (which isn’t hard considering my inner nerd is huge and not so subtle) and was the first of many ” ah ha! – I’ve always wondered why places didn’t do x,y,z” moments for this meal.
Working our way to the very friendly staff at the counter and getting close enough to read the menu I was stuck dumb founded by the single most brilliant thing I’ve ever seen on a restaurant menu… Nutritional Information. Right there, each item had the ingredients and the basic nutrition information. As part of my diet and weight loss plan, meticulous documentation of nutritional information was important for discovering what I was eating and how it was affecting my body. This added considerably to the “hassle factor” of eating out as many restaurants do not provide this information, make it difficult to find, or are so outrageously unhealthy you just choose not to eat there.
For healthy dining and catering ModMarket is great. Everything is made with simple whole ingredients fresh from farms in here Colorado. The menu is seasonal for this reason, but every favorite that goes out of season seems to be replaced with a few new favorites. As they admit, making everything scratch is a “pain in the ass” but it pays off when it comes to taste and quality. I’m a big fan of the pizza. I love pizza, and I love pizza I can eat and consider healthy even more. That picture is what the pizza actually looks like on your plate – no food make up artist with expensive light and camera tricks. Something about food made from real ingredients actually makes food more photogenic.
I’ve been wanting to write a post about this place since I finished off my first pizza, but being a food critic doesn’t really fit the Chiropractor profile. However, I got a chance to talk to ModMarket founding partner Anthony Pigliacampo about his business and he pointed out ” Like you, we are fans of holistic health and believe strongly in what you do. ” and likewise I’ve become a fan and strongly believe in what ModMarket is doing.
With a little impromptu interview, I am now able to write a glowing review of my personal favorite restaurant because their approach to local business, sustainability, and health does fall within the scope of my area of interest and expertise.
Getting to talk to Anthony about his restaurant was a lot fun for a non-food, non-writer like me – but I was so genuinely impressed with the concept and execution I had to learn more. I asked about the inspiration for this concept and any future plans -
“Our main inspiration is our own lifestyle. My partner and I both are young, active individuals who eat out a lot b/c we have busy lives. We felt like very few restaurants fit into our lives. Like I said before, I eat at Modmarket every single day. I know I can eat at Modmarket pre or post workout and have no ill effects. There are not a lot of restaurants I can say that about. I think lots of people feel the same way I do. We don’t really have a ‘plan’ forModmarket other than to keep serving as many people as possible sustainable food that tastes great. If we are lucky, that means we end up as a large company with a huge impact. The great thing about our business is that the larger we get, the more good we can do and the more change we can affect.”
This is definitely the type of restaurant anyone that is conscious about their diet has been wanting for years, and I’m sure there have been more than a few that have come and gone without notice. I personally believe ModMarket succeeds by making healthy, quality food completely accessible and affordable. Many healthy options by other well meaning places are often exotic and different – not a great move for getting the McDonald’s “everything is the same in the world” crowd converted. ModMarket’s Salad, Soup, Sandwich, Pizza offerings? That’s food people know and already love – Just done better.
ModMarket talks about “Real Food” but Americans consume preservatives and artificial sweeteners along with chemicals even most chemist can’t pronounce without a thought. One of the concerns a lot of people seem to have is that eating natural, real, and quality foods is super expensive, but your prices don’t reflect that at all and considering it is all made from scratch – I guess the question is why is everyone else doing it the wrong way?
We have always believed that the scale and efficiencies you gain by having a restaurant can be used to make healthy food cheaper. We built Modmarket around a production system. We took techniques used in fine dining and said, how can we do this in a fast food environment. It was a total rethink of the fast food model. Fast food as a business is incredible. There are lots of levers you can pull to make things more efficient. We pull all of them, with the goal always being how can we serve higher quality food at a lower price. That is what is going to be required to get people to really change their habits. We will never be able to serve burgers for .99, but no one should, it is not sustainable. However, I think people are willing to pay a little more if the quality is there. Running a modmarket is a lot more difficult than running a burger restaurant, but that is what makes it worth doing. Most restaurants take the easy way. We are taking the hard way. But the result is that we have much less direct competition AND we can sleep well at night knowing that everyone that passes through a Modmarket has made a sustainable food choice.
One of the more surprising answers came from a response about putting the nutrition labels on the menu and receipt. I asked: “Personally, I believe nutrition labels on food packaging are not well understood by the general public but are still an important tool for consumers. When it comes to restaurants large chains usually have nutritional values posted somewhere – often hard to find, incomplete, and of dubious accuracy, and some of the smaller small business don’t have anything at all. Modmarket not only puts it on the menu, but on your receipt too. How and when did this idea come up?”
We came up with the nutritionals on the receipt idea b/c we wanted our customers to see that we have nothing to hide. We actually don’t really care about calories and think most people have a skewed view of how calories indicate health. But by putting that information in the most accessible place possible, we begin a conversation with our customers about our food. They immediately realize that we have nothing to hide and, I think, believe we must be serving healthy food or we wouldn’t put the numbers on the receipt. In many cases, this causes them to ask us questions and we can have meaningful dialogue around the reasons are foods are the way they are. On the whole, restaurant food is TERRIBLE, both for the people eating it and on the environment from which it was harvested. We believe transparency is the best way to educate people and start affecting change in those areas.
Going on along those lines of questioning Anthony really nailed the big picture nutrition summary as I pushed on the impressive stats on the menu items ( For example, two slices of cheese pizza from any of the top 3 pizza delivery chains have the same amount of calories as your ENTIRE 3 cheese pizza – which hands down beats just about any other pizza place as far as quality and taste is concerned ) So I asked: “ People often eat with their eyes, how different do you think the restaurant industry would be if those eyes where seeing nutritional value with those good glamor shots? Speaking of glamor shots – what is it that makes your food appear just like the picture whereas so many other restaurants serve plates that look absolutely nothing like the ads or menu pictures?”
Like I said before, calories are not that important to us. The explosion of obesity in the US is directly tied to when fat starting being villified and low calories became the solution to everything. All calories are not created equal in our minds and therefore we strive to make our foods be balanced between calorie, carb, protein, fat and portion size. Portion size is probably the biggest driver of calories on our menu. Our pizzas are low relative to other restaurants b/c we do things like making a super thin crust. Interestingly enough, if we chose to make our dough out of 100% white flour, like virtually every other pizza place on the planet, our calorie count would be lower. This is an example of where calories don’t tell the whole story. Our dough is about 90% whole grain. This gives it a bit higher calorie number as well as a higher fat number, but you are getting a TON of fiber. This makes it digest a lot slower as your body works to digest the whole grains. White dough, on the hand, is treated just like sugar by your digestive system. We trick people by packing a ton of whole grain goodness into our crusts. It is WAY more work to make whole grain dough taste good – the process is longer, more complex and more expensive. But we think it is the right thing to do so that is why we do it. Regarding pics of our food – we have never had the budgets to hire ‘real’ photographers, food stylists, etc, so our food always looks the same, whether it is landing on your plate or under the camera lens. The great thing is that when you use simple, high quality ingredients, the food LOOKS really good. Making things from scratch is a complete pain in the ass, but it yields better food. I eat at Modmarket every single day, usually for more than one meal. If the food didn’t look good, I wouldn’t be able to do that!
I was left with an even greater appreciation for ModMarket following this last exchange, but while Anthony is technically correct – Calories alone are not a measure of health or food quality- I have to disagree slightly because of how people may interpret that fact. From my perspective of health and weight loss as it really is important statistic for those of us returning to a normal healthy weight. I wanted to comment not so much in disagreement but clarification of his statement regarding low calorie diets and increasing obesity. I was unable to follow up because it took me some time to thing about it, but the basic ideas Anthony expressed about nutrition reminded me of the book Why We Get Fat.
Based on my own research and professional opinion the obesity epidemic and connection to low calorie diets come from the misunderstanding and use of “diet foods” artificial sweeteners and other means of selling “low calories” over simply measuring calories and eating reasonable portions. It is a little complicated, and if we could solve obesity and related health issues with a simple blog post it would have already been done.
Calories are useful if you use them correctly as a sort of fuel gauge, and as you monitor your “fuel tank” improving the quality of food at home and when dining out will only help increase weight loss efforts and improve over all health. However, they are not always the same as Anthony and ModMarket point out. For example, similar to ModMarket’s pizza dough, a can of Diet Soda with0 calories is considerably worse for you than a Regular 110 calorie can which is more so than the Throwback 110 cal cans with real cane sugar.
Speaking of cane sugar… ModMarket has an amazing fountain drink set up with real cane sugar. I would proudly claim that I don’t drink soda, it is terrible for you on many accounts, but I am just not a huge fan of it to begin with - but boy does that cane cola and ginger taste amazing.
Going back to that first experience eating at ModMarket – When was the last time you ate an entire pizza after going for a 12 mile run and actually felt better for eating it?