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Let' Move Blog

Salad Bars and Healthy Menus Sprout in San Antonio

A healthy lunch is becoming easier to find in San Antonio, Texas.

School cafeterias across the city will soon be home to 220 salad bars, thanks to a new partnership with Let’s Move! and the San Antonio Mayor’s Fitness Council. Adaptable to both elementary and high schools, the salad bars will feature fresh fruit and vegetables, including items like mixed greens, spinach, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and garbanzo beans. To keep the bars stocked with fresh, appealing produce year-round, the city is helping connect schools with local food distributors.  Together, they’re developing innovative ways for cafeterias to source fresh produce.

San Antonio’s program is part of the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program, an initiative designed to help curb obesity nationwide. With the help of a Recovery Act-funded CPPW grant, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District (Metro Health) is pioneering a variety of citywide obesity-prevention activities.

Already, San Antonio families can enjoy new healthy options on restaurant menus across the city. Metro Health’s new “Por Vida” program works with restaurants ranging from chains to renowned local establishments to get tasty, tempting dishes in low-calorie, low-sodium versions on local menus. These items, designated with the Por Vida logo, appear on menus in more than 120 restaurant locations across the city.

San Antonio’s renowned traditional Tex-Mex cuisine isn’t typically considered healthy. So Metro Health’s dieticians have worked with famed local eateries like Pico de Gallo to re-imagine some familiar menu favorites -- like a new black bean enchilada plate clocking in at only 450 calories. Chain restaurants like Carino’s Italian and McDonald’s are on board, along with mom and pop-owned restaurants serving neighborhoods affected by health disparities. Across the Por Vida restaurants, lower-calorie options are available for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

The changes have found a fan base beyond just public health experts. The healthier menu items are so popular with the local clientele that, since its launch in October with a base of seven restaurants, 20 other establishments are taking steps to join the program. Several of the restaurants that began by offering only one or two Por Vida items have since added more healthy dishes to their menus. One restaurant has felt so good about helping its patrons make better choices that it is now working with a dietician to bring Por Vida to its children’s menu.

Between new school salad bars and a growing cadre of Por Vida restaurants, the Alamo City is making strides toward creating healthy choices for the whole family — at work, at school, and at meals shared together.