New Menu Labeling Project Identifies Tasty, Healthy Options

eatsmart! Brings together local restaurants and local health experts

Local restaurants in Northeast Wisconsin have partnered in a community-wide initiative highlighting menu items that get a "thumbs up" from local health professionals. The new pilot called eatsmart! makes it easy for restaurant-goers to choose healthy, great tasting food. The public launch of the eatsmart! project coincides with National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month and National Fruit and Vegetable Month.

“We want to help people understand the truth about eating healthy,” said Sandy Panzer, Vice President of Health Services for ThedaCare at Work. “We’ve looked at the research and have identified what types of foods could be eaten everyday. Items labeled as ‘eatsmart!’ are those foods.”

eatsmart! options are identified using ThedaCare’s Optimal Nutrition Guidelines that are being used in the cafeterias at Appleton Medical Center and Theda Clark Medical Center. Registered Dietitians analyze menu items for calories, fat, sugar, and salt content as well as their inclusion of fruits, vegetable, whole grains, lean meats and healthy fats.

“Because I care about my customers and my employees health I want them to eat healthy food choices and enjoy it,” said Ada (Lara) Thimke, owner of Lara’s Tortilla Flats in Oshkosh. “As a restaurant owner, it’s important to me to offer smart choices for people that are trying to be healthy. This program helps acknowledge the restaurants who are doing that.”

Local restaurants that volunteered to be part of the eatsmart! pilot project were asked to choose at least three items for nutritional analysis. Depending on the results, chefs worked to make substitutions or reduce portion sizes in order to meet the nutrition criteria. As pilot restaurants, there was no cost to the restaurants for getting their menu items analyzed.

“Getting my items analyzed for free was a real plus of joining eatsmart!,” said Wanda Schabow of The Granary Supper Club in Sherwood. “My customers are going to begin seeing calories listed on menus of national chains soon, so this was something we wanted to offer, too.”

New FDA regulations requiring restaurants with 20 or more locations to post calorie counts on menu boards are scheduled to go into effect as early as next year.

“I’m really excited to be a part of eatsmart!,” said Jean Landreman of Landreman’s Family Restaurant in Kaukauna. “We can highlight some of our foods as being a healthy choice which also happen to be items we know our customers like to eat.”

Additional promotion and implementation is being supported by local obesity prevention coalitions like re:TH!NK and Community Action for Healthy Living, local health care systems and local health departments.

Local restaurants interested in joining the pilot should contact rethink@co.winnebago.wi.us. For more information on eatsmart! please visit www.eatsmartwi.com.