SOURCE: Los Angeles County Department of Public Health

September 12, 2013 13:30 ET

LA County Launches First-Ever Healthy Restaurants Partnership to Address Rising Obesity Rates

Program Identifies Restaurants Offering Smaller Portion Sizes and Healthier Children's Meals

LOS ANGELES, CA--(Marketwired - Sep 12, 2013) - The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health today launched the county's first-ever healthy restaurants partnership, identifying restaurants that offer smaller portion size options and healthier children's meals. Choose Health LA Restaurants will promote menu changes that encourage healthier choices and allow restaurants to distinguish themselves by responding to consumer desires for smaller portions of their favorite foods. The program will also give children healthier meals that are conducive to a healthy weight and eating habits that lead to healthier growth and development. The program is part of Public Health's ongoing, comprehensive efforts to curb the obesity epidemic by educating and empowering LA County residents to "Choose Health."

"Almost two-thirds of LA County residents are overweight or obese. Yet fundamental changes in diet can be difficult. Offering both regular and smaller portions at restaurants makes a healthy choice an easier choice," said Dr. Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Public Health Director and Health Officer of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. "As we continue to educate residents about the benefits of eating smaller portions and cutting back on sugar-loaded drinks, it's important that we make those healthier choices as accessible as possible. Choose Health LA Restaurants promote healthier meal choices and, thus, healthier adults and children across LA County."

To be designated a Choose Health LA Restaurant, businesses must offer:

  • Smaller portion size options (in addition to existing menu items);
  • Healthier children's meals that include fruits and vegetables, healthy beverages and non-fried foods; and
  • Chilled water, free of charge.

Participating restaurants will be easily identified by a Choose Health LA Restaurant decal in the window and other in-store promotional materials. Customers can also find nearby Choose Health LA Restaurants on an interactive map at ChooseHealthLA.com.

"This program is a win-win for LA County restaurant owners and their customers," said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. "Choose Health LA Restaurants empowers county residents to make tasty but healthy choices when they dine out. And as we get the message out about the importance of portion size and calorie intake, we're confident that demand for these healthier sized meals will only go up."

The Choose Health LA Restaurants program comes as the average American eats out 4 times a week and a recent survey of LA County residents showed 85 percent support for restaurants offering reduced-size portion options.

"About 42 percent of children ages 2-9 eat fast food on a given day. First 5 LA is a proud partner of the Choose Health LA Restaurants program because it gives parents more opportunities to make healthy choices for their children," said Kim Belshé, executive director for First 5 LA. "This program allows families to dine out together and still feed children the nutritious foods they need to grow up healthy and strong."

Restaurants that have already qualified for the program include Poquito Más (10 locations), Subway (640 locations), Roman's Pizza, My Fit Foods, Lido di Manhattan Ristorante, Locali Conscious Convenience, Localita & The Badasserie and Deano's Gourmet Pizza, with additional applications pending. Business owners interested in joining Choose Health LA Restaurants can download an application and additional information at ChooseHealthLA.com. Program staff are available to provide personalized program technical assistance.

"We've had a very positive response to the smaller portion size options on our menu. Our customers come in more regularly knowing they have healthier options to choose from," said Kevin McCarney, owner of Poquito Más. "Being a Choose Health LA Restaurants partner helps us get the word out to all LA County residents that they can find healthier options here."

Choose Health LA Restaurants is the most recent element in Public Health's broad, continuing efforts to address the obesity epidemic in LA County. Previous elements include the "Choose Less, Weigh Less" portion control awareness campaign and a sugar-loaded drinks awareness campaign that asked residents, "You wouldn't eat 22 packs of sugar, so why are you drinking them?" In addition, Public Health is pursuing successful policy interventions to help make Los Angeles County's communities healthier by working closely with cities, schools and employers to increase physical activity and access to healthy foods and beverages in high-need communities.

For more information on nutrition and healthy eating in Los Angeles County, connect with Choose Health LA online, which represents obesity prevention public health efforts in LA County. Visit Choose Health LA on Twitter (@ChooseHealthLA), on Facebook (Facebook.com/ChooseHealthLA) and at ChooseHealthLA.com.

About Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000 employees and an annual budget exceeding $750 million. To learn more about Public Health, visit publichealth.lacounty.gov, visit the YouTube channel at youtube.com/lapublichealth, find Public Health on Facebook at facebook.com/lapublichealth, or follow Public Health on Twitter: LAPublicHealth.