Colorado’s Smart Meal Program offers Nutrition Analysis to Restaurants

The Smart Meal program, created by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, has established nutrition requirements for restaurants who wish to participate in the program. They also provide nutrition analysis for these restaurants. They are already boasting some pretty big names like McDonalds and Jason’s Deli! In return for participating, each menu item that qualifies gets the Smart Meal seal of approval.  This allows consumers to make healthier choices, or at least have the option.

Actually, I just read an article this morning in Prepared Foods magazine that highlighted a recent study in South Africa. If found that 81% if women aged 18-30 would opt for a healthier meal option at fast food restaurant if it were offered. And some 73% of men had the same opinion. Okay, so that’s South Africa, not the United States, and certainly not Texas. But you can see that there’s starting to be a trend worldwide to shift to healthier restaurant options.

Smart Meal is one of the first government agency supported programs that I’ve seen to support the healthy menu items cause. Nutrition analysis is done on menu and then evaluated to see if they fit into the program. In order to be considered a “smart meal”, each dish has to meet the following guidelines (I copied and pasted from their website):

Nutrition Analysis

The nutritional guidelines for the Smart Meal program are as follows:

  • Two servings or more of beans, whole grains, fruits, or vegetables. May substitute one serving for a serving of low-fat or fat-free milk or equivalent milk product (only one serving for a side dish)
  • 700 calories or less (300 for a side dish)
  • 30 percent or less of total calories from fat or 23 grams or less of total fat (10 grams for a side dish)
  • 10 percent or less of calories from saturated fat or 8 grams or less of saturated fat (3 grams for a side dish)
  • 0.5 grams or less of trans fat (no added or artificial trans fat)
  • 1,350 mg or less of sodium (650 mg for a side dish)
  • Participating restaurants are required to have at least two qualifying menu items

Smart Meal for Kids

  • Two servings or more of beans, whole grains, fruits, or vegetables. May substitute one serving for a serving of low-fat or fat-free milk or equivalent milk product
  • 400-600 calories
  • 30 percent or less of total calories from fat or 13-23 grams or less of total fat
  • 10 percent or less of calories from saturated fat or 4-7 grams or less of saturated fat
  • 0.5 grams or less of trans fat (no added or artificial trans fat)
  • 600-800 mg or less of sodium
  • Participating restaurants are required to have at least two qualifying menu items

You might be thinking that the sodium levels are a bit high. They are. However, you’d be shocked if you knew how much sodium was in most restaurant meals, so this definitely a good goal. Less is better, but let’s all start with reasonable goals.

I would love to hear what Texas have to say about this type of program. It’s basically menu labeling to support healthy meal options at restaurants. Evaluate the Plate can sure get on board with that!