By Chris Dunn
That’s the name of a new program designed to help diners make healthier choices at San Antonio area restaurants.
It was recently launched by The Healthy Restaurants Coalition, a partnership among the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, the San Antonio Restaurant Association, the San Antonio Dietetics Association, the Mayor’s Fitness Council, and interested people in the community.
The coalition hopes to promote healthier food choices in restaurants and better nutrition within the community by identifying those menu items that meet nutritional guidelines developed by The Healthy Restaurants Coalition.
Participating restaurants will display the red and yellow “¡Por Vida!” logo (a yellow fork and spoon intertwined in the shape of a heart on a red background) beside the qualifying menu items. Detailed nutritional information will also be available on request.
During a conference announcing the program, Dr. Fernando Guerra, director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, pointed to the “tragic trends” of obesity and diabetes especially among children in our community. He stressed the importance of reaching young children at “a critical stage of development,” citing statistics that, without intervention, 30 to 40 percent of them will be obese by grades 3 or 4.
San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro singled out the unique, cooperative spirit that exists among the participating organizations. “Healthier eating is recognized as a community responsibility,” he said, adding. “Here, restaurants are proactive.”
Charter participating restaurants include McDonald’s, Pico de Gallo, Jim’s Restaurants, Delicious Tamales, Fish City Grill, Carino’s Italian Restaurants and the RK Catering Group.
Professional dietitians worked with each participant to identify or create entrées and side dishes that meet nutritional standards developed by the Healthy Restaurants Coalition. No more than 700 calories, 23 grams total fat, 8 grams saturated fat, 0.5 gram transfat, and 750 milligrams sodium will be in an adult entrée and two side items. Children’s nutritional standards have also been developed.
A number of local dignitaries praised the program’s goals.
Ruben Cortez, president of the San Antonio Restaurant Association, said, “San Antonio has our commitment.” But he added that, though “market forces are key” for ¡Por Vida! to be successful, the consumer will ultimately determine the success of the program.
Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said that, along with making healthy choices in what people eat, they must also exercise. “We need to tie the two together,” he said.
Rayna Wooten, president of the San Antonio Dietetics Association, noted that “San Antonio is in the battle for its life” against obesity and diabetes, while State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte said the biggest problem our community faces is “what’s on our dinner plate.”
Chris Dunn is a contributor to SavorSA and an organizer of ¡Por Vida!