Making Healthy Eating an Easy Choice
It’s no secret that food is one of the main attractions throughout Louisiana, from po’boys to beignets to crawfish. Citizens and tourists alike have a never-ending feast of options at grand restaurants and local dives. Yet along with feasting there needed to be a conversation about healthier eating.
That’s because Louisiana has often lagged behind the rest of the country in important health markers and also has higher-than-average rates for people with chronic diseases. Based on a recent Louisiana State Health Assessment, 37% of Louisiana adults and 40% of children are labeled as obese, which polls higher than the national average in every other chronic disease category.
So, Molly Kimball, a registered dietitian with Ochsner Fitness Center, decided to go beyond the conversation and walk the talk. Her approach was to take the guesswork out of choosing nutritious meals when dining out. The goal was to make the healthy choice an easy choice as well.
In 2013, Molly worked with some of the top restaurants in the New Orleans region to create Ochsner Eat Fit. This program encourages chefs and cooks to offer nutritious, tasty meals for customers who want to eat clean and watch their weight. Just as important, having healthful foods to choose from could help diners from all walks of life manage their diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol.
How Eat Fit Sealed the Deal
You can find the Eat Fit seal of approval on menus at favorite eateries around the state. These restaurants and other foodservice organizations work closely with the Eat Fit team of dietitians to identify and develop dishes that meet the Eat Fit nutritional standards. Diners can spot the items right on the menu by looking for that seal. It’s an easy way to find the healthy choice.
Restaurant menus aren’t the only places where that special seal appears.
According to Eat Fit spokesperson Ashley Ellis, “You’ll find the Eat Fit seal in elementary schools, corner markets, food banks and other establishments. Since it’s an all-inclusive program, we want to make it easy for the average person to access.”
Eat Fit’s goal is be a resource for anyone and everyone. The program isn’t only for people with diabetes, heart disease and other health problems. It’s also designed for the person who just wants to feel good and be as healthy as possible.
Eat, Drink and Be Fitter — All Around the State
Thanks to the dedicated Eat Fit team, they soon had more than 100 unique partners in Eat Fit NOLA. Now, after its first year with the grant from the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation, Eat Fit has grown to include:
- Expansion in New Orleans: 74 new Eat Fit partners in the greater New Orleans area
- Expansion to Southwest Louisiana: 27 new Eat Fit partners in the Lafayette/Acadiana/Lake Charles area
- Expansion in Baton Rouge: 23 new Eat Fit partners
Within the next year, Eat Fit will also have a network of partners in north Louisiana, including the Shreveport, Monroe and Alexandria areas.
“With the grant funding we’ve received, we’ve been able to mimic what’s been done in New Orleans with ease, and other areas are responding so well,” says Ms. Ellis. “It’s really inspiring that it’s a state-wide initiative instead of just regional. It feels like more than just a program — it’s a movement.”
There’s even an app for that! Users can download the Eat Fit app on Google or from the Android app store to find restaurant partners. They can also get the full nutrition facts for Eat Fit menu items, along with recipes, community wellness resources and a chance to connect with a health care provider where they live.
The Blue Cross Foundation Believes in Eat Fit
Eat Fit was on the Foundation’s radar even before they applied for a grant. The Foundation had observed a similar program in Lake Charles, which had some success but failed to thrive due to the lack of unified leadership. Still, the Foundation knew a program like that had significant value and potential. They could see success in having:
- One unified healthy restaurant program that works statewide
- Centralized communication and learning among all participants to create a more cohesive and effective effort
When Eat Fit presented their vision to expand around the state, the Foundation was completely on board with it. The Foundation awarded a Collective Impact Grant to Eat Fit, which served as the catalyst fund to expand the program across the state. And that’s exactly what’s happening. The Eat Fit team exceeded their first-year goal and onboarded an impressive total of 124 new food coalition partners — an increase of almost 35%.
Ms. Ellis says, “We couldn’t have kept growing at such a rapid pace without Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Louisiana’s support and their grant.”
About Eat Fit
Eat Fit—a program of Ochsner Health System— is a nonprofit initiative designed to help the community live their healthiest, strongest lives possible. The team of Eat Fit dietitians works closely with local restaurants, markets and other foodservice establishments to identify and develop dishes that meet the Eat Fit nutritional criteria. The Eat Fit nutritional criteria include no white carbs, less than a teaspoon of added sugar, reduced sodium and animal fats, making it a perfect fit for individuals with diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, as well as those looking to lose a few points or just want to eat clean. These items are identified directly on the menu with the Eat Fit seal of approval, making the healthy choice the easy choice when dining out.
About the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation works each day to improve the health and lives of Louisianans by empowering everyday people to do extraordinary good. By building and funding coalitions of friends, families and neighbors, the Foundation hopes to build a healthier Louisiana, particularly for its children. The foundation is primarily funded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana but is a separate 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity. Together Blue Cross and the Blue Cross Foundation invest $3 million each year into Louisiana’s communities and nonprofits.
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