By Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N.
Years ago when I first moved back to Louisville, the American Heart Association (AHA) had a program where a consultant dietitian would analyze restaurant recipes & add a little icon if the menu item met the AHA’s guidelines. Since that time, there are more fast food restaurants and sit down restaurants because more and more people are eating out. With both mom and dad is the work force, eating out has become a way of life. The more people tend to eat out, the more calories they consumer. Fast forward today.
Our very own Metro Health & Wellness Department has secured a taxpayer funded obesity prevention grant for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service. This grant allowed for the launch of a new initiative to alert consumers on the number of calorie in the food they are eating at Louisville area restaurants.
The Affordable Care Act requires, in 2014, that all restaurants with 20 or more locations must add calorie content directly on the restaurant’s menu or menu boards. It also requires restaurants to make readily available nutritional information of their products such as fats, carbohydrates and sodium content. Many of these restaurants have already posted the nutritional information online but the thought is that most consumers don’t check the information online so mandating calories information right on the menu or menu boards will empower consumers to make smarter choices when eating. That remains to be scene. In New York City, calories were mandated to be added to menu boards several years ago but preliminary data suggests it has not made a difference in choice.
Local restaurant owners with fewer than 20 locations can receive technical assistance from chefs and dietitians to calculate calories in recipes served at their restaurant as well as receive consultation to help them develop healthier recipes. The grant also pays for the printing of new menus and menu boards as well as pays for marketing to let consumers know that they are participating in this new program. Participating restaurants can display their Healthy Hometown Restaurant logo to alert consumers their menu/menu boards contain the calorie information.
How to Become a Healthy Hometown Restaurant?
Here are the requirements: 1. Must agree to display the number of calories per standard menu item on menu, menu boards and drive thru board. 2. Applies to standard menu items, including beverages offered for sale at least 60 days per calendar year. 3. Does not include condiments, daily specials, custom orders, and customary test marketing items which are on the menu less than 90 days. 4. Succinct statement concerning suggested daily caloric intake “Recommended limits for a 2000 calorie daily diet are 20 grams of saturated fat and 2,300 milligrams of sodium” which is located at the bottom right hand corner.” 5. Display a statement regarding the availability of additional nutrition information; Additional written information available upon request which includes- calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fibers, and protein.
Healthy Hometown Participating Restaurants List
Here’s the list: 60 West Bistro & Martini Bar, Annie’s Pizza, Bristol Bar & Grille, Cycler’s Café, The Café, City Café, J. Gumbo’s, Joe’s Older Than Dirt, Life Bar, Lonnie’s Best Taste of Chicago, Morel’s, Morris’s Deli, Nancy’s Bagel Ground, Queenie’s Soul Cuisine, Ramsi’s, Shiraz, Smoothie Q, Soupy’s, Yang Kee Noodle, Zen Garden, Zen Tea House. (www.louisvilleky.gov/Health/PuttingPreventiontoWork/HHRestaurantList.htm).
The Pros and Cons of the Healthy Hometown Restaurant
One of the limitations of the Healthy Hometown Restaurant initiative is the way the recipes are analyzed. As a dietitian who helped to test the nation’s first computerized food analysis program when I was working in research, your analysis is only as good as the information you are given. For example, if your recipe includes ground beef there is 75% lean, 85% lean, 96% lean. If the restaurant says they use 96% lean but they really use 75% lean ground beef the calories, fat, saturated fat can be dramatically higher. Recipes analyzed by a certified laboratory costs about $600 – $800 per recipe.
Check out Yang Kee Noodle at Oxmoor Mall
One of my favorite places to eat is Yang Kee Noodle located at Oxmoor Mall. They participated in the Healthy Hometown Restaurant. Their menu board and to go menu have the calories added to their normal menu choices. Dan Huckstein, one of the owners, said their customers are very appreciative of having the information based on their positives responses although he’s not sure if they have changed their choice based on the calories on the menu board. I typically order a specialty item called the Farmer’s Bowl which is made up of stir-fried vegetables. You can choose up to 6, choose rice or noodles and then choose your flavoring. I typically add carrots, broccoli, snap peas, zucchini, peppers, and spinach with a side of brown rice and a sauce which I change up often. The last time I was there one of the customers asked me what item that I had and I walked her through the Farmer’s Bowl option. You can add tofu or meat but have to pay more for the add ons. Although the Farmer’s Bowl was not analyzed, the brown rice contains 216 calories (if I eat the whole order) and I have to calculate in my head the calories in the veggies and the sauce. You can check out the menu at www.yangkeenoodle.com/menu.php.
How your Favorite Restaurant can become a Healthy Hometown Restaurant?
Since the analysis in taxpayer funded and FREE, if you have a favorite hometown restaurant you want to find out how many calories are in their menu items, you can let the restaurant owner you would like the information. Restaurants wanting to participate in menu analysis and labeling can contact Patrick Rich at 574.6690 or Patrick.Rich@louisvilleky.gov.
Barbara Day, M.S., R.D., C.N., is a registered dietitian with a Master’s Degree in clinical nutrition. The former publisher of Kentuckiana HealthFitness Magazine, Kentuckiana Healthy Woman magazine and radio show host of Health News You Can Use, Barbara has over 30 years of experience in promoting healthy lifestyles to consumers. Barbara worked as Nutrition Consultant to the Navy SEALs (8 years) and the University of Louisville Athletic Department (10 years). Barbara has private practice, DayByDay Nutrition, www.DayByDayNutrition.com, where she counsels clients on weight loss, cholesterol management, performance nutrition and an array of other medical issues. Visit Barbara’s new website which is an on-line health & wellness magazine, www.KentuckianaHEALTHWellness.com. Barbara writes nutrition and health columns for www.LiveStrong.com as well as a weekly nutrition column for the Southeast Outlook. She also designs and presents employee wellness programs to small and large businesses. Barbara is a runner, cyclist, hiker and a mother and grandmother to 11 grandchildren.