Making It Easy To Eat Healthy

Jo McGarry
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Friday - August 18, 2006
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Michelle Yamaguchi of Umeke Market
Michelle Yamaguchi of Umeke

Darryl and Michelle Yamaguchi know what it’s like to run a business, and a family. As the parents of three young children and owners of Umeke Market, they also know how difficult it can be to fit healthy eating into a schedule that involves work, school trips and after-school activities. So they have much in common with busy parents who want to prepare healthful meals for their children, but just don’t have the time.

” At Umeke, we’ve never been strictly vegetarian or completely vegan,” says Darryl. “But we just want to be able to show people that there are alternatives out there that taste good.”

Michelle agrees. “We wanted originally to give people the choice - to make food healthier, but still appealing.” And, as much as possible, they wanted to keep the cost down. Aware that foods that carry the labels “organic,” “free range” and “farm-fed” are all more expensive, the team mixes together a blend of ingredients that are healthy - but not ultra-expensive.

Their spinach and walnut salad for example, has Island-grown greens, organic greens and regular spinach leaves.

“It keeps the cost reasonable, but people still know that they are eating well,” says Michelle. Since the early days just over a year ago, the market has grown considerably, and while the store offers a complete range of health foods, it’s the deli section that’s creating a buzz in the food world.

Well-priced bento boxes, starting at $4.50, come with brown rice and feature some incredibly tasty grilled tofu, salmon or free-range chicken. I had the chicken curry last week - made with organic free-range chicken - and the difference in taste from commercial store-bought, battery-farmed chicken is quite obvious. The chicken seems fresher and has a lot of flavor. Buy fresh eggs here, too, and you’ll be amazed at the difference between them and their Mainland counterparts. In fact, if you really want to see the difference that a few cents more will make, do a taste test between a Mainland egg and a fresh Island egg. The Island egg is larger, the yolk is brighter with more gloss and shine, and the taste is beyond compare.

So Umeke Market is stocked with a variety of foods and health supplements that suit everyone from the most committed vegan to the mom just trying to make a few healthy choices - and that’s just the way Darryl and Michelle want it to be.

“We like to say that there are three ways to eat at Umeke,” says Michelle. “Dine in, take out or ready to go.”

Dining in offers the customer a choice of a wide menu that includes great sandwiches - including a fabulous tuna foccacia, buffalo burgers and a loco moco complete with homemade gravy, free-range eggs and rice. Healthy burgers (including turkey, buffalo, Kamuela beef and grilled portobello mushroom) are tasty and don’t leave you with the same guilt pangs that your favorite fast food chain may. The deli menu features meals for dining in or to go (lasagna, pizza, crab cakes, grilled wild salmon, salads, soups, chili and a wide range of side dishes are just some of the options), and they are proving popular with shoppers who don’t have time to make meals from scratch.

“We already have customers who are food shopping,” says Michelle, “and now we can offer them the option of picking up dinner to take home too.” Meals “to go” are packaged ready to be reheated and are incredibly popular with busy moms and dads.

“Some days you just don’t have time to cook,” says Michelle, “but you don’t want to settle for a fast food alternative. Here we offer something that is quick, but feels like a homemade meal.”

The path to healthful eating is made by taking small steps and making good choices daily. When you shop at Umeke Market, those choices are easy.

Umeke Market 4400 Kalanianaole Highway (near Kahala Mall, next to Petland)

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