Going beyond simply salads
Restaurant Week highlights local healthy menu choices
Cheney Parks and Recreation community obesity prevention coordinator Dané Standish hopes residents discover many things about eating during the upcoming Restaurant Week, but two things are of particular importance.
“Healthy and yummy – that’s the key,” Standish said about making healthy choices.
Restaurant Week runs Oct. 1-5 at five Cheney restaurants and three locations on Eastern Washington University’s campus. It’s the kickoff event another initiative, Eat Well Cheney, from the local health and fitness organization, Let’s Move! Cheney.
Standish said the Eat Well campaign is a national movement that has been met with a lot of popularity, with the city of Spokane hosting it last year. It’s a chance for local restaurants to either feature new dishes or show off existing menu choices with one caveat – they all have to be 750 calories or less.
Each restaurant will serve a 2-4 item health choices menu, with each two-course lunch priced at $8 and each two-course dinner at $13. Standish said the pricing for healthy menu items was determined by taking an average of the current menu pricing, and making sure the healthy choices were comparable with the rest.
“None of the healthier dishes will be more expensive,” she said.
Standish said the city received a grant from the Empire Health Foundation for the initiative that allowed them to hire a dietician to work with restaurants on meal selections. Menus were analyzed using guidelines from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control with attention given to use of lean proteins in meats, low fat dairy products and the inclusion of fruits and/or vegetables in side dishes.
“It was up to the restaurant to figure out what they want to add,” Standish said. “Most of the time they’re closer than they think to working within the guidelines.”
Once the menu analysis results were tabulated, Standish relayed these to the participating restaurants to help them make selections for the healthy choices menu sections. As of Tuesday afternoon, Douglas LeBar at The Mason Jar was still awaiting his results, but had some pretty good ideas what they would be including on their menu.
“I’m excited to see the results, although I’d be surprised if anything we had is much over 750 (calories),” he said.
LeBar noted The Mason Jar was in the process of switching over their menu this summer, and simply forwarded this information to Standish. Right now he anticipates offering two dishes, a vegetarian and a meat dish, for lunch along with one of two selections on their breakfast menu.
Along with The Mason Jar, restaurants participating in Restaurant Week will be Gatto’s, Lenny’s, Rokko’s, Willows Springs Restaurant and Lounge as well Eastern’s Dining Services outlets – The Roost, Main Street and likely Baldy’s.
There will also be a little incentive provided to get people to not only go out to eat in Cheney, but also to make their selections from among the healthy choices. Standish said each time someone chooses one of the dishes their name will be entered into a gold box at the restaurant for a drawing that includes prizes such as restaurant gift certificates and a year membership at SNAP Fitness, valued at $500.
Other prizes might also be added. Standish added that visitors to Let’s Move! Cheney’s Facebook page that click “Like” on the Restaurant Week logo will also be entered into the drawing.
After Restaurant Week is done, Standish said they would continue to work with restaurants to update their menus with new, healthy choices. While promoting healthy eating is a goal, Restaurant Week will also serve to highlight the many dining options Cheney possesses while also highlighting the differences between menu choices.
“Try to get away from ‘I have to have a salad to be healthy,’ or ‘I have to have veggies to be healthy’ mentality,” Standish said. “You don’t. People will be surprised at what you can have for 750 calories. It will help everyone understand you can eat out and eat healthy.”
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.