Lani Telian, Department of Public Health
Today, families are eating more and more meals outside the home. Restaurant foods tend to be higher in fat and calories, and are often larger in portion size than meals we eat at home. These foods may be contributing to the problem of overweight and obesity in Massachusetts. As obesity rates continue to grow, many Massachusetts communities are taking action.
Healthy Dining programs are popping up in cities across the state. The Mass in Motion-funded City of New Bedford, with its high rates of diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, recently joined the club.
With its variety of popular ethnic and American restaurants in mind, New Bedford set out to create Healthy Dining New Bedford: a voluntary program which encourages restaurant owners and managers to offer healthy menu options. The Mass in Motion team did research in their community, and gathered advice from other communities with healthy dining programs of their own. New Bedford then set three goals for the program:
- Recognize restaurant owners for their efforts in creating healthier options.
- Provide healthy dining experiences for residents.
- Attract tourism and visitors to restaurants throughout the city.
In order to be considered for the Healthy Dining New Bedford program, restaurants owners must submit their adult and children's menus with healthy eating options, which should include some of the following:
- low fat or skim milk instead of whole milk
- a small side of vegetables in place of French fries
- real fruit juice or water in place of sugary beverages such as soda
- the “half meal-to-go” option, in which a customer eats only half and takes the remaining portion home
- some dishes in smaller portions
Accepted Healthy Dining restaurants will be promoted in local newspapers, newsletters, on cable access programs and social media channels such as New Bedford’s new Facebook page. Additionally, restaurants will also receive a decal (sticker) to put up on their restaurant windows recognizing their efforts.
More and more customers are looking for “lighter” options. When restaurant owners are on board, making the healthy choice becomes a whole lot easier. For more tips on healthy eating away from home, visit Mass in Motion.