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Eating right when dining out

The Shannon Diabetes Management Program and the San Angelo Restaurant Association are encouraging San Angelo to make a Healthier Choice.

We are all aware of the myriad health benefits gained from eating right and leading a healthy lifestyle. Many people decide to commit to a balanced diet and stay healthy, but they lose sight of that goal once they sit down to eat at their favorite restaurant. Most healthy items on a restaurant menu seem to get lost between oversize portions and fattening side options. However, those with restricted diets must adhere to the discipline of eating right or possibly jeopardize their health.

Helping you make healthy choices

This scenario was the driving force behind the creation of the Healthier Choice program. The program is a partnership between the San Angelo Restaurant Association (SARA) and the Shannon Diabetes Management Program.

“We were looking for a way to make a community change in regard to health,” says Dawn Empey, RNC, CDE, diabetes educator at Shannon Medical Center. “The initial idea started with diabetes-friendly meals and expanded from there to providing overall healthy options for everyone to enjoy, diabetic or not.”

Chef Earl Mulley, owner of River Terrace Restaurant and president of the San Angelo chapter of the Texas Restaurant Association, brought the idea for the project to the Shannon Diabetes Advisory Board. Mulley’s grandmother, a diabetic, was part of the inspiration to begin the program.

“More than 12,000 Tom Green County residents are living with diabetes,” Empey says. “But we want everyone, not just those with diabetes, to be able to go out and have healthy options available without having to guess what they should or should not eat. We’re giving knowledge and support to those that need or want to be health conscious.”

Participating restaurants

Restaurants participate in the program at no cost, and any establishment is welcome to join—not just members of the SARA. A set of six different criteria—such as providing the carbohydrate count for meals served and serving a meal that contains no fried foods—were developed, and participating restaurants must meet at least three to be a part of the Healthier Choice program.

Empey and program coordinators meet with each restaurant to look at the menu and recommend changes or additions needed to receive the Healthier Choice seal. Additionally, Empey is working with restaurant employees to educate them about diabetes and other health issues and why healthy eating options are important for people with these diagnoses.

“This is really a win-win situation for restaurants who participate,” Mulley says. “Restaurants may participate without necessarily overhauling their menu. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing portion size or adding healthier side options. Our goal is to get half of the restaurants in San Angelo involved and then expand this program throughout San Angelo, the surrounding area, statewide and nationwide.”

For more information or to find out how your restaurant can participate in the program, call Empey at 325-659-7285.
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