State health department pushing healthy menu choices

Filed under: Health Care |

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment has issued a challenge to the state’s restaurants, asking them to evaluate the food on their menus and offer more healthy choices.
Shana Patterson, a registered dietitian with the program, also encouraged Coloradoans who dine at participating restaurants to look for the department’s Smart Meal Seal on healthy menu items.
Restaurants participating in the Smart Meal Seal program showcase entrees that are lower in fat and saturated fat, and include components such as beans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Patterson said restaurant customers and managers might be surprised to learn that many meals currently offered at restaurants qualify as Smart Meals.
“We would like to see the Smart Meal Seal program expand to restaurants across the state,” Patterson said. “When restaurants identify menu items that contain higher amounts of nutrient-dense foods, their customers are equipped to make healthier food choices.”
Mark Meltzer, manager at the Olive Branch at 23 S. Tejon, said many of his restaurant’s items would probably qualify for the “Smart Meal Seal.”
“It’s something we would do, we already try to use the best ingredients possible,” he said. “Our lemon bread is popular, and it’s made with skim milk and canola oil. We don’t have anything that’s deep fried, and it’s all made from scratch.”
But Meltzer sounds a note of caution. He said that the American Heart Association had a similar program that proved to be too costly and too time consuming.
“If you listed something that claimed to be healthful, you had to have a breakdown of the ingredients,” he said. “We’re not a big corporate chain, so we couldn’t do a big breakdown of our ingredients. You also had to adhere to what it said, and since we make everything from scratch, we can’t always be held to that.”
According to information provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at www.MyPyramid.gov, everyone older than 2 should eat two cups of a variety of fruits and two and a half cups of a variety of vegetables each day. An increase in fruit and vegetable consumption has been associated with a decreased risk of certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and hypertension.
The push to expand the department’s Smart Meal Seal program coincides with the annual observance of National Fruit and Vegetable Month during September.
“To incorporate these foods into your diet,” Patterson said, “try meals at home using fruits and vegetables from countries in Latin America, the Middle East, Europe and Africa, as well as foods from the United States. You also can sample foods from around the world at restaurants. Colorado is home to many restaurateurs who specialize in ethnic cuisine.”
Restaurants interested in participating in the program can call Barry Strand at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, (303) 692-2574. More information also is available at www.livewellcolorado.com and www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.

Teams advance electronic health record designs

A team from the University of Colorado at Denver and the Health Sciences Center is joining eight others to create the next generation of electronic, personal health records (PHR).
The Colorado team is developing a portable touch-screen computer that older patients or their caregivers could receive upon hospital discharge. The tablet-sized PC will help patients track and organize medications, allowing them to coordinate their medication lists with their doctors. Additional applications will assist in scheduling prescriptions, ordering refills and preparing for visits.
Funded by the Pioneer Portfolio of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with additional support from the California HealthCare Foundation, “Project HealthDesign: Rethinking the Power and Potential of Personal Health Records” is helping groups design personal health records applications that allow patients to take charge of their health and better manage their care.
Participants are in the second phase of the two-part, 18-month, $4.4 million initiative. Earlier this year, all Project HealthDesign teams helped design targeted PHR applications that are based on input from end-user patient groups and fulfill their specific needs. During the next six months, they will test prototypes of the personal health tools with their target populations.
“Whatever the product, good design requires an equally good understanding of how the people who will use it actually live their lives,” said Patricia Flatley Brennan, professor of nursing and industrial and systems engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who heads the project.
Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.