The move to our new home, New Orleans (NOLA), brings opportunities for new collaborations. We found an organization whose work with local restaurants aligns with ours: Eat Fit. Eat Fit is a program designed to encourage chefs to offer menu items that promote good health. The Eat Fit menu seal helps customers identify foods that meet specific nutritional guidelines, such as vegetable-focused options, lean proteins, low sodium, and minimal added sugar. The program has over 250+ total partnerships within New Orleans and over 600 across Louisiana.
We connected with Maria Terry, MS, RDN, to learn more about Eat Fit’s perspective on working with restaurants and promoting healthy Latin foods in New Orleans. Maria is the Eat Fit NOLA Dietitian and Eat Fit Social Media Strategy Manager. She oversees the operations and partnerships for Eat Fit NOLA, one of six regions within the Ochsner Eat Fit non-profit organization. Her professional mission in this role is to widen visibility and access to nutritious, delicious foods wherever food is served in the Greater New Orleans region.
What is the role of Eat Fit in the food environment of New Orleans?
Eat Fit seeks to offer enhanced visibility of nutrient-dense items on menus, in groceries, and at community events through the Eat Fit seal. Rather than a finger-wagging ‘eat this/not that’ approach, Eat Fit wants to help provide clarity for customers when it comes to making nutritious decisions. The Eat Fit seal serves as a trusted signifier for those looking to make food choices that support personal health goals and conditions. The Eat Fit brand is in restaurants, hospital cafeterias, grocers, corner stores, festival menus, and beyond. Consequently, we feel Eat Fit is leveling the food environment to include foods that nourish our taste buds and our bodies, too.
What are a few challenges that restaurants face in implementing these changes? How can Eat Fit help restaurants address those challenges?
On occasion, the onboarding process for Eat Fit may reveal some challenges when it comes to sourcing ingredients, especially ones that are more sodium conscious. Eat Fit dietitians work directly with distributors and food companies to access samples and identify what Eat Fit items each distributor has to offer. This helps minimize the number of deliveries and costs incurred on the restaurant end of things.
Menu printing and labeling can also be challenging, especially if there are language or technological barriers. Our Eat Fit team will have materials translated and will personally walk restaurant managers and chefs through the menu labeling process to make it as seamless as possible.
Lastly, it is not uncommon to be short on two things in the kitchen: time and written recipes. Because we review recipes to identify the nutrition facts for our Eat Fit app users, we are sure to meet restaurants where they are. Personally, I voice-record chefs as they share their recipes, take notes as they walk through the kitchen, and work through their handwritten recipes to make this process efficient and easy for them. This way, there’s no back and forth with emails that can often be a time suck for a busy restaurant owner/chef! All recipes are kept 100% confidential!
Can you share a few successful changes that your partner restaurants that offer Latin dishes have put into practice?
In general, working with Latin American dishes is such a special opportunity to showcase just how abundantly nutritious cultural dishes are. Often, we will hear restaurant owners or chefs say, “Oh, that could never be Eat Fit.” The successful changes we see first and foremost are mindset shifts. Cultural dishes can be healthy! In a world that fixates on green juice as the picture of health, we often forget that beans, whole grains, and fresh veggies are the original superstars… for thousands of years!
For a food truck and stand such as La Cocinita, loyal customers know that the arepas and tortillas are made from scratch from whole grains. The Eat Fit seal supports these cultural favorites and helps clarify for the consumer that nutritious food can be found in many places. Venezuelan-inspired Latin American street food can deliver on flavor and nutrition!
How can Eat Fit continue to collaborate with and benefit NOLA restaurants serving Latin foods?
We are open to and excited about working with NOLA restaurants serving Latin foods in any capacity. If they have a featured dish at French Quarter Fest, a taco competing in Top Taco Fest, or a beloved nutritious dish they want to see amplified across the region, we’re here to support. We are always looking for more partners because that means pointing more customers in the direction of nutritious foods.
Want to learn more at Eat Fit? Restaurants interested in becoming an Eat Fit partner can learn more here or reach out to the Eat Fit Nutrition Team at email@example.com. If you’re a customer looking for a way to navigate healthy options at restaurants, download the Eat Fit app! You’ll find all the restaurants with an Eat Fit seal near you. Stay tuned for future posts featuring Eat Fit partner restaurants around Southern Louisiana and their delicious, nutritious dishes!
Featured image by Eat Fit NOLA of the Eat Fit seal being placed on La Cocinita‘s menu.
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