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Healthy dining guide highlights local menu options

Foundation helps 21 Clark County businesses reach calorie-conscious customers.


Community Health Foundation gathered healthy menu options from 21 local and national restaurants for its Healthy Dining Guide published last week.

“One of our focuses is having a healthy community and having a community that makes healthy choices,” said Joy Rogers, CHF director. “Everyone dines out on occasion, so it’s an opportunity to have a healthy choice.”

Each restaurant submitted several low-calorie options available on menus. All items are under 900 calories and often feature low-carb and veggie options.

The first guide was created in 2011 as a response to a Gallup poll naming Springfield the third worst city in regards to health and happiness, said Scott Griffith, vice president of Lee’s Famous Recipe Chicken and sponsor of the dining guide. In 2011, only 12 restaurants were featured.

Griffith said it gives restaurants that aren’t known for healthy foods an opportunity to present other options.

“It’s a way to promote the healthy choice already available. Lee’s has had an oven roasted chicken for 20 years,” Griffith said. “Most aren’t aware of that and see us for fried chicken. We’re still Lee’s, but we have healthy choices available and so does virtually every restaurant.”

Tom’s Deli is a New Carlisle restaurant known for its expansive beer selection and pizza. But as a first-time participant in the guide, its owners wanted to show another side to its menu.

“We’ve tried to get away from fried foods and offer more healthy foods,” said owner Tim Juday. “It’s more accepted by customers … I think that’s where it’s all going.”

Juday said he has done some custom meals for health-conscious customers and has seen an increase in sales of up to 300 percent for healthier items such as the chicken salad sandwich and decreases in unhealthier sub sandwiches.

The Ohio Restaurant Association said it has seen a move to more “healthful” choices from many restaurants as national chains strive to meet federal law, as well as capitalize on consumer desires.

“Restaurant operators are always going to meet their consumers needs,” said Jarrod Clabaugh, ORA spokesman. “If they weren’t selling salads or healthful fare, they wouldn’t put it on their menu.”

Clabaugh said some restaurants have seen increase in sales from smaller and/or healthier food items, and have been able to save on higher commodity prices such as beef by offering chicken as a healthier alternative.

The trend also prepares Ohio restaurateurs for potential changes in law. The Affordable Care Act has already required national chains to list calorie counts on menu items, and businesses await other possible mandates from the federal or state level, Clabaugh said.

“It is a concern for small operators who typically don’t have the same kind of money that goes into acquiring research in determining calorie counts in their foods, and its more expensive to reprint menus and billboards,” Clabaugh said. “Until it’s proposed, we don’t really know what will happen. Health trends tend to happen on the two coasts … and move inwards.”

The guide was reviewed by three health professionals. Jackie Dahlberg, clinical nutrition manager at the Springfield Regional Medical Center, said she thought the guide was a great effort and supported small businesses wanting to participate in the healthy food movement.

Dahlberg said she and others reviewed the content of the items in the guide to make sure it was descriptive enough, and they also checked that the calorie counts were correct.

“Some of the established restaurants used national data that their research people post on their websites,” Dahlberg said. “Some of the local places, either people at the CHF organization or actual managers of the restaurants came up with that nutrition information and searched websites.”

Dahlberg said every person needs a different amount of calories to maintain or lose weight, which is why it is important for the information to be out there.

The guide is available at CHF and all participating restaurants, and at http://community-health-foundation.org/.



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