Eating healthier in the US restaurants
Choose Health LA Restaurants: A Voluntary Restaurant Recognition Program
Choose Health LA Restaurants Program
The Choose Health LA Restaurants program is a partnership between the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) and local retail restaurants to promote the availability of healthier menu options. To participate in this voluntary program, restaurants must:
- Offer a minimum percentage of menu items in a reduced-size portion;
- Offer children’s meals that contain fruit or vegetables, limit fried-foods, and include healthy beverages; and
- Provide drinking water at no additional cost to customers.
Launched in September 2013, the program currently includes 75 restaurant brands with over 770 locations throughout the county.More information is available at: http://www.choosehealthla.com/eat/restaurants/
Program Logic Framework
Program administration and assessment activities are guided by the program’s logic framework (Figure). Program implementation includes efforts to change the environment (i.e., to recruit restaurant owners to participate and make changes to their menus) and increase awareness of environmental changes among consumers. Reaching consumers through promotional activities can help increase awareness of the program (i.e., availability of healthy options in restaurants) and knowledge related to calorie consumption and portion size. As environmental and educational strategies are combined, people may change behaviors, namely, by choosing different restaurants and changing ordering patterns.
Restaurant Menu and Consumer Assessments
The program team assessed menus from all restaurants that joined within one year of program launch (n=17 restaurant brands)1. Results suggest that participation in the Choose Health LA Restaurants program resulted in restaurants making changes to their primary and children’s menus. The majority of restaurants (12 brands) made at least some changes to increase the availability of reduced-size portions and/or modify the items available on their children’s menu. Results support restaurant compliance with program criteria and menu improvements, even though they are voluntary, representing an important first step toward implementing this strategy in the retail environment.
The program team has also assessed the program’s promotional activities2. Results of the mixed-methods assessment suggest that community engagement, in-store promotion, and media campaign efforts have achieved modest reach and positive reactions from media outlets and consumers. Results support the potential value of coupling environmental change strategies with efforts to increase consumer receptivity and demand for healthy options.
Together, assessment results provide modest support for the positive impacts of the Choose Health LA Restaurants program; however, additional assessment efforts are needed to better understand program impact, especially on consumer behaviors.
- Gase et al. What menu changes do restaurants make after joining a voluntary restaurant recognition program? Appetite. 2015; 89:131-135
- Gase et al. Media outlet and consumer reactions to promotional activities of the Choose Health LA Restaurants program in Los Angeles County. Journal of Public Health Management and Practice. 2016;22(3), 231–244