A St. Tammany Parish Hospital community initiative that kicks off in March expands nutritious menu options at Northshore restaurants. Through Eat Fit Northshore, STPH partners with local restaurants to promote healthy entrees and other dishes that meet the program’s nutritional requirements. Participating eateries span traditions from Chinese to Italian, a range of prices and atmospheres from family-friendly to fine dining. Click the Eat Fit Northshore Button for a list of participating restaurants and links to their websites.
“The point is to give people more options for delicious foods that are also good for them,” said Joey Skinner, the program's coordinator.
Eat Fit Northshore items are generally established favorites that have been modified to boost their nutritional content. The idea is to substitute ingredients like fat and oils for healthier alternatives without sacrificing taste and texture. The process involves creativity on the part of local chefs.
Chef Giovanni “Gio” Vancheri of Gio’s Italian restaurant in Mandeville switched to whole wheat flour and reduced serving sizes for dishes such as pasta norma to fit program requirements.
“Everything is still delicious, it’s just better for you,” said the Sicilian-born Vancheri.
Eat Fit Northshore is about good food, with the larger goal of better health. The program is one of five initiatives funded through a National WIC Association grant to reduce chronic disease through improved local access to nutritious foods. New community gardens and expanded STPH breastfeeding education for WIC recipients are other efforts supported through the national grant, which was secured for the Community Wellness Center by the St. Tammany Hospital Foundation.
Civic leaders from across the Northshore, including the mayors of Covington and Mandeville, worked with STPH and other stakeholders to develop ways to expand community access to healthier food options through Eat Fit Northshore.
“Eat Fit Northshore is designed to help people make healthier choices when they eat out, including for people with chronic diseases such as diabetes,” said Sandy Matthews, Community Wellness Center director.
Eat Fit Northshore is modeled on Eat Fit NOLA, a program developed by Ochsner Health System dietician, Molly Kimball.
More than 70 New Orleans-area restaurants, including eateries with Northshore locations such as The Dakota, Zea and Copeland’s participate in Eat Fit NOLA. Eat Fit Northshore is included in a free smartphone app that shows menu choices and nutritional analyses of each dish. Customers simply search FIT NOLA in their smartphone app store. All Eat Fit Northshore participants are in the Eat Fit NOLA list, which filters results by current location.
Restaurant-goers will see the Eat Fit Northshore logo on local menu items that meet program nutritional criteria that include less than 800 mg of sodium and less than 5 grams of added sugar. Entrees must have less than 600 calories and derive no more than 10 percent of total calories from animal-based saturated fat.
STPH Executive Chef Abry Crosby developed or modified three entrees for Eat Fit Northshore and will continue to create more. Even five or six years ago, customers shied away from low-fat or low-salt options in the cafeteria, said Crosby, who uses herbs grown on a plot near the hospital kitchen in four dressings he has developed for his dishes.
“Now people want this and ask for it,” he said. “The idea that food can taste good and be good for you has grown exponentially.”