A desire to meet changing customer needs prompted two local restaurant owners to agree to a dietitian's assessment of their menus, which now include a variety of healthy choices for diners. The menu review was carried out at Fountain on Main in Reinbeck and Morris Inn in Morrison by Crystal Petersen, registered dietitian and head of food and nutrition services at Grundy County Memorial Hospital.
The project measures restaurant environments and compares menu choices and portions to a set of healthy standards. "Both restaurant owners willingly embraced changes so that diners will find it easier to make healthy choices when eating out," says Petersen. She evaluated portion sizes and the nutritional make-up of menu items, while restaurant owners focused on adding add new healthier choices.
Morris Inn owner Tom McLean says he was eager to accept the challenge to perform a menu makeover. "I look forward to providing what customers want, and an increasing number of customers have made a commitment to eat healthier. We want diners to know they can enjoy dining out while sticking with their eating plan."
Tom McLean, owner of the Morris Inn, proudly displays the new menu options he’s created to dietitian Crystal Petersen, who is food and nutrition manager at Grundy County Memorial Hospital. Petersen assisted the Grundy County Public Health Department with its transformation grant and the assessment of local menus to improve healthy dining options.
Fountain on Main owner Glenda Billerbeck says both regular customers and new diners are enjoying her new menu. "I had a couple of ladies from Boston recently. They were amazed by the salads and other fresh food choices. Personally, I enjoy healthy eating and I appreciate the input I received from Crystal. It gave me a reason to expand my menu choices and offer a wider variety of healthy choices." Billerbeck has added a variety of smoothie choices to her menu at the Fountain, in addition to the traditional ice cream treats.
Petersen emphasizes that the menu assessment did not require the restaurants to eliminate any food items from their menu, adding that the same great tasting homemade favorite are available. "The process focused instead on featuring entrees that are lower in calories and fat, listing healthy side dishes, and offering smaller portions without a premium price," says Petersen. The Morris Inn also added a kid's menu that provides fruit as the regular side for young people, rather than the traditional French fries. "It's amazing most children are sticking with the fruits, rather than asking for the fries," remarks McLean.
McLean has worked with his wait staff to enable them to accommodate customers' requests for healthy entrees and sides. Other healthy dining strategies that are encouraged include splitting meals and packaging to take a portion of your meal home. Both restaurants have included a key to indicate healthy choices on the menu.
Billerbeck says that it was nice to work with a dietitian on the menu project. "It's a good change. You see all around you that people are definitely interested in a healthier lifestyle whether it's walking more, working out, or eating healthier."
The restaurant menu assessment was a project of the Community Transformation Grant, a program of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The grant is administered by the Grundy County Public Health Department, and its aim is to reduce risk factors responsible for the leading causes of death and disability by creating healthier communities.
"Transforming the health of Grundy County has been a collaborative effort so all residents can be physically active, have access to healthy food and drinks, and live in tobacco-free environments," remarks Wendy Monaghan, RN BSN, Public Health Manager. "Grant money has been put to work across Grundy County the past three years to support projects that make the healthy choice the easy choice for community members. For instance, curb cuts to make walking and biking easier, new bike racks, funds to help with a disc golf course, and education about tobacco-free environments has all been accomplished through the grant."
Additional local restaurants who are interested in a menu assessment are encouraged to contact Petersen at Grundy County Memorial Hospital, phone 319-824-5421 or email firstname.lastname@example.org