Making the healthy choice isn’t always easy, especially when there are so many temptations to go the less-than-healthy route.
When it comes to eating right, the healthy choice is too often the hard choice. You may know that an apple is better for you than a cheeseburger, but there are dozens of issues at play that make you more likely to settle for a cheeseburger — or two, or three — when you know you shouldn’t.
If you are one of the 18,000 people in Allen County living in what the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as a Food Desert, there’s a good chance you have more than a mile to travel to find a fresh, affordable apple.
If you don’t have a car or access to public transportation, that’s a long walk. On that walk, you are likely to stroll past at least one fast food restaurant where you can buy that cheeseburger for about the same amount you’d spend on an apple. Or, if you’re not passing the restaurant, you are almost certainly going to run across an ad or billboard telling you just how delicious that burger would be.
The challenges don’t stop there. Eating healthy takes some work. You have to find a grocery or farmers market with produce. You have to know how to cook it. And you have to get your family to eat it. That cheeseburger, you can just drive through and pick it up. You don’t have to take the time to cook it, and you know your children will eat it and be full when they are done. That’s the easy choice.
But that easy choice is killing us. Almost 70 percent of Allen County adults and close to 40 percent of our third-graders are overweight. Nearly 65 percent of adults say they haven’t eaten a single non-potato vegetable in the past week. And as shocking as those numbers are, they are less so when you see that 66 percent of Allen County restaurants are classified as fast food. That compares to 55 percent state-wide and a national benchmark of 27 percent.
Realizing that people are going to make the easy choice, Activate Allen County is working with local restaurant owners to make that the healthy choice as well. This month, we have launched the Activate Menu Challenge. In partnership with the West Central Ohio Regional Healthcare Alliance, we are approaching local restaurants and asking them to offer healthier options for their customers. Those that meet the standards — including offering at least two choices of fruits and vegetables (not including potatoes or fried vegetables), allow salad substitutions, offer smaller portions and more — will receive the Activate Approved designation. You can expect to see stickers with that designation in the windows of local businesses soon.
We are proud to say the Meeting Place on Market is the first Activate Approved restaurant in Allen County. We hope many more will follow.
If you own a restaurant, or just have a favorite you’d like to see acknowledged, contact the Activate Allen County office or go to www.activateallencounty.com for program details and applications.
Health tips courtesy of Activate Allen County will appear in this space every Monday.