¡Por Vida! Program Makes Eating Out Healthier in San Antonio

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Gilbert de Hoyos opened Barrio Barista because he enjoys serving coffee to West Side residents in San Antonio (67% Latino).

He also likes to cook.

So de Hoyos added a small menu. And he didn’t want it full of unhealthy options, either.

De Hoyos is among a growing number of eateries that have joined a city health program, ¡Por Vida!, that unites nutritionists with restaurants to promote healthier menu options.

San Antonio and especially the West Side have a reputation of not having healthy foods and I want to change that by cooking delicious foods that also support a healthy life. It's my way of giving back to the community.

Gilbert de Hoyos
Owner of Barrio Barista Coffeehouse

“San Antonio and especially the West Side have a reputation of not having healthy foods and I want to change that by cooking delicious foods that also support a healthy life,” de Hoyos said. “It’s my way of giving back to the community.”

One of those options is his roasted vegetable tacos with remoulade sauce served on a corn tortilla, Kens5 reports.

The Need for Healthier Food in San Antonio

Latinos in San Antonio and across the country often lack access to affordable healthy food options.

They are disproportionately exposed to more unhealthy foods and more ads for unhealthy food in their schools and communities than their peers, according to a Salud America! research review.

In San Antonio, 65% of adults and 30% of young people were obese or overweight.

Greater access to healthy food options can help Latinos to live healthier lives.

Several years ago, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District (Metro Health), started working to do just that.

The Start of ¡Por Vida!

In 2009, Metro Health joined forces with the San Antonio Restaurant Association and the Texas Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics to create the Healthy Restaurants Coalition.

They wanted to promote good nutrition by ensuring people have and can easily identify healthy food choices in restaurants.

So they started the ¡Por Vida! restaurant recognition program to help families find healthy items on menus.

The program evaluates restaurant menus and determines “healthy” items using ¡Por Vida! Nutrition Standards that are based on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. They even formed a task force to revise program standards in 2016 when the dietary guidelines were updated in 2015 to ensure they are in line with the most current nutrition research and recommendations.

Metro Health staff and Registered Dietitians then work with restaurant owners and chefs to provide, label, and market healthy menu options with the ¡Por Vida! logo, to include adult entrees, kids meals, and side items.

De Hoyos added the logo to two ¡Por Vida! items on his menu, sweet potato hash and veggie tacos, in July of 2016.

“We sold twice as many veggie tacos this September than last September,” de Hoyos said. “I think some people are more inclined to order those items because they know they are healthier.”

More than 30 restaurants participate in the program and offer healthy menu items at 130 locations in San Antonio.

Watch this video about why McDonalds decided to get involved in ¡Por Vida!.

The ¡Por Vida! website promotes these restaurants, provides an interactive map of restaurant locations, and encourages more local or chain restaurants, eateries, catering establishments, worksites, university cafeterias, and food trucks to join.

For example, major and midsize employers in San Antonio, like Valero, Baptist Health System, and the Education Service Center Region 20, are participating in ¡Por Vida! to offer healthy food options to employees and clients.

To further spread the word about healthy food choices, ¡Por Vida! staff teamed up with the San Antonio Mayor’s Fitness Council to also promote FitCitySA, the main community portal for healthy living in San Antonio. The idea behind FitCitySA is to be San Antonio’s one-stop resource for ways to eat better, move more, and be connected.

One of their fun summer traditions is a city-wide health and wellness scavenger hunt, known as Fit Pass. Of course, ¡Por Vida! participates in this, too.

As part of another community initiative, through the Bexar County Health Collaborative, ¡Por Vida! staff are committing to additional outreach in vulnerable areas of the city with higher rates of obesity and limited access to healthy food.

Three other counties in Texas have joined the ¡Por Vida! program, too.

If you are in San Antonio and would like ¡Por Vida! recognize your restaurant, call the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District 210.207.2722 or send an email.

If you are not in San Antonio, ask your health department how you can start or support a similar program in your community!

Barrio Barista Coffeehouse. Source: Local Sugar

Gilbert de Hoyos endorses the program.

¡Por Vida! Nutritional Criteria

The ¡Por Vida! Meal Standards Are No More Than:
700 Calories
8 grams Saturated Fat
12 grams Added Sugars
750 mg Sodium (salt)
No Fried Foods
No Hydrogenated or Partially-Hydrogenated Oils

The ¡Por Vida! Single Entrée Standards Are No More Than:
300 Calories
3.5 grams Saturated Fat
5 grams Added Sugars
325 mg Sodium (salt)
No Fried Foods
No Hydrogenated or Partially-Hydrogenated Oils

The ¡Por Vida! Side Item Standards Are No More Than:
200 Calories
2 grams Saturated Fat
3.5 grams Added Sugars
215 mg Sodium (salt)
No Fried Foods
No Hydrogenated or Partially-Hydrogenated Oils

By The Numbers By The Numbers

37

Percent

of Head Start and Early Head Start participants are Latino.

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