One of the favorite holiday gifts I sent people this season was Mark Bittman’s work, The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 recipes for conscious eating. Health Populi’s definition of ‘health’ comes from the World Health Organization: Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

So with an eye toward conscious eating as part of everyday health, I headed to two wonderful restaurants on a trip to New York City last week that fit the definition: Rouge Tomate, built on a philosophy of great design and sustainable, balanced food (with locations in Brussels and NYC); and, Sarabeth’s Kitchen, known for homey ambience, kettle-cooked jams, and the scent of fresh-baked muffins. Rouge Tomate deserves an entire post itself; this round, I’m all about Sarabeth’s original location on Amsterdam Avenue on the upper west side, and the photo I snapped outside the restaurant shown here.

Eating out in New York City is a virtual smorgasbord of choice: there are some 24,000 restaurants from which to choose. Beginning in July 2010, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene began to require each restaurant to post letter grades that correspond to the scores received from the city’s sanitary inspection. You can see that Sarabeth’s scored an “A,” the highest grade possible based on point scores assessing health risks: correct food temperatures, the presence of rodents, properly sanitizing food utensils, etc. The lower the point score, the higher the grade achieved.

The NYC DHMH website offers diners easy accessibility and transparency to this information: a search box enables the city diner to enter a zip code and find restaurants’ sanitary grades.

This was an innovation developed under the health-conscious Mayor Bloomberg. How lucky are Manhattan’s residents to have such a service at their fingertips?

Health Populi’s Hot Points:  Mayor Bloomberg has bolstered a health ethos in NYC since taking his mayoral post in 2001. Now in his third term, Bloomberg has fought to reduce salt in food consumed by New Yorkers, post calories openly in restaurant menus, encourage smoking cessation, and innovate a new program for organ donation in the city.

Some have called his approach a “nanny state of mind.”

As we approach the new year with resolutions for keeping fit and addressing personal health issues, it’s also the season for thinking of others. Public health is personal, too. Mayor Bloomberg’s approach to health is a real gift to the fortunate citizens of the Big Apple.