Eating Healthy in Paradise

Having access to both exotic tropical fruit and fresh fish is utopian for island chefs with healthy menus in mind. Here are a few tempting recommendations for diners whose goal is a delicious, low-fat meal.

Tarwinkle's on Sanibel has a mouth-watering menu. The cedar-planked salmon is a healthy entree choice. Brushed with a papaya honey mustard glaze, the salmon is served with crispy leeks. House salad, fresh vegetables, and rice pilaf are all low-fat complements to this tasty dish. Tarpon Bay Road at Periwinkle Way, 472-1366.

The Sanibel Brew Pub sautés its flounder in a zesty orange and lemon sauce. Fresh vegetables and a salad complement this low-fat yet delightful dinner entree. 1547 Periwinkle Way, 395-2030.

Cuban-style black beans and rice, with all the extras, are filling and tasty, a bonus for diners counting fat grams. Get yours to go from Sanibel's East End Deli (Cajun-style red beans and rice are also available). 359 Periwinkle Way, 472-9622.

North Captiva's Barnacle Phil's is a legendary pit stop for boaters craving beans and rice. In the harbor at the northern end of North Cap, Phil's is a true island hang-out; nothing fancy, but great food, and in the case of beans and rice, guilt-free food. The next time you're boating and you realize that rumbling your hear is not thunder, but your stomach, head for Barnacle Phil's. Follow ICW markers to #46, aim for Captiva Pass to find deep water; the markers on your left lead to Safety Harbor and Phil's, 472-6394.

Golfers at Beachview Country Club can't keep their fabulous restaurant a secret any longer. Beachview Inn has a gumbo that will knock your socks off. Filled with seafood and chicken, it fits the low-fat bill, while pleasing the taste buds to no end. 1100 Parview Drive, 472-4394.

The Hungry Heron, one of Sanibel's most popular eateries, also has the islands' largest menu. If you like salads, you'll be hooked forever. Made with fresh ingredients, the Hungry Heron's salad plates are inventive and filling. Soup and salad is also a great idea here. 2330 Palm Ridge Road, 395-2300.

Speaking of soup, we hope you've found the Sanibel Island Chowder Company. Located in the rear of Periwinkle Place Shopping Center, the Chowder Company is a real respite from heavy food. Several delicious soups are available daily, including the house special, Sanibel Chowder. Breakfast and lunch lovers alike will go gaga for the quiche, which is accompanied by fresh fruit. 2075 Periwinkle Way, 472-2525.

Where do you go if you're really hungry, but need a selection that fits any diet? The famous buffet at Chadwick's is for you. Located at the entrance to South Seas Plantation on Captiva Island, Chadwick's literally fills an entire room with its mind-boggling dinner buffet. A low-fat diet is no problem here; just stick to the bounty of seafood offered. After dinner, you can dance away any indulgences in Chadwick's Lounge. At the entrance to South Seas Plantation on Captiva, 472-5111.

Are you a pizza fan on a diet? Don't despair. You can have your pie and eat it, too-all in the atmosphere of one of Sanibel's liveliest bar and grills. The Sanibel Grill, located in The Timbers Center, has several pizzas made with low-fat cheese. Choose from pepperoni, spinach, veggie, or barbecue chicken. 703 Tarpon Bay Road, 472-4453.

For those of you watching carbohydrate grams instead of fat grams, we point you toward two of the island's tastiest Caesar salads, at The Lazy Flamingo I and II. The Lazy's homemade Caesar dressing is legendary; topping the salad with grilled chicken or grouper is highly recommended. One warning: The mouth-watering garlic-and-butter-soaked Texas toast that accompanies this Caesar is not low-carb, but it is completely irresistible. The original Lazy Flamingo, 6520 Pine Avenue near Blind Pass, 472-5353. Lazy Flamingo II, 1036 Periwinkle Way, 472-6939.

We can't say Caesar without saying Sunshine, as in the Sunshine Café on Captiva. Savvy diners have for years been enjoying this little bistro's elegant Caesar, served with chilled fork and cracked ground pepper. Worried about fat grams? Then try a daily special of fresh fish, often served over a salsa made from locally grown tropical fruit. 14900 Captiva Drive, 472-6200.

Searching for a healthy meal on the islands could turn into the gourmet experience of a lifetime. Bon appetit! -LBM