U.S. federal health officials say Americans dine away from home more than ever before. And they say that dining out is a major contributor to the nation's weight problem. To counter that, some people look for more nutritious options on restaurant menus. Jeffery Young says healthydiningfinder.com is a new online resource that makes it easier to lead a health-conscious life when dining out. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
Chef Jeff Tunks is co-owner of four acclaimed restaurants in the Washington D.C. area. He advocates healthier restaurant menus, and he says with the availability of a wide range of natural ingredients his job is easier than ever.
"I think that's the way the trend of food is going,” he says. “I think it's almost like subconscious because it's not like saying ‘I want to make this dish healthy,’ but when you think about a dish, and you have all these great ingredients, it turns out to be healthy."
A selection of Chef Tunks' dishes is now available on healthydiningfinder.com. The website is a creation of Healthy Dining and the National Restaurant Association. Healthy Dining seeks to inspire chefs and restaurants to serve healthier dishes and help Americans easily identify nutritious choices. More than 30,000 restaurant locations have joined the new resource. Healthy Dining President Anita Jones-Mueller says the selected items on the website feature lean protein like fish and chicken, fruits, vegetables and whole grain. All are low in calories, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
"We're so excited that restaurants are really rising to this opportunity and creating and offering healthier choices and corresponding nutrition information, she says."
Healthy Dining's Erica Bohm initiated the development of healthydiningfinder.com. She says users can easily navigate their way on the site.
"This is healthydiningfinder's homepage,” she says. “Clicking on search for restaurants will take us to a page where we can enter geographic info, and specify price range as well as other optional criteria such as take out, delivery and catering. After submitting this information, you can view a list of the restaurants that meet your research criteria. Then clicking on any of these logos will bring you to a full page of information about that restaurant, including the nutrition profiles of the dishes that meet the healthy dining criteria."
David Katz is an associate professor of public health at Yale University. He says with this new web site, people can stick to their diets wherever they go. He says healthydiningfinder.com can be an effective tool in the war against obesity in America.
"It will encourage other restaurants to offer more nutritious choices so that little by little we will actually see a change in the offerings that are out there and it will probably put more pressure on restaurants to put nutrition information right there at the point of purchase," he says.
Healthy Dining President Anita Jones-Mueller says every type of restaurant is featured on the site – from quick service to fine dining, and from independents to the nation's largest chains. She says new restaurants are joining the program every week.
“By the end of this year, we hope to have 60,000 restaurant locations participating. By next year, we hope to have over 100,000 locations participating," she says.
Jones-Mueller says she hopes the new healthydiningfinder.com web site will enrich America's culinary experience and inspire chefs to create more recipes with health and taste buds in mind.