More than 30 Beach Cities restaurants were honored Thursday morning for their efforts to make healthy eating easy for customers.
The Healthways-Blue Zones Vitality City initiative recognized eateries from Redondo Beach to Manhattan Beach as Blue Zones restaurants, meaning they changed their menus to highlight healthy eating, created healthier dishes or banned smoking.
The two Beach Cities restaurants were the first establishments to receive Blue Zone certification, according to owner Cris Bennett.
As part of its menu makeover, Good Stuff started offering steamed vegetables and created "16 under 600" menus for lunch/dinner and breakfast, which feature 16 entrees with less than 600 calories.
"It was amazing how well it was received," Bennett said, adding that he was looking at including calorie counts for all menu items. "[We're] getting caught up in the Vitality City wave."
After a fresh fruit dessert did not not sell well at dinner, the local chain created a "brownie bite" dessert—basically, a small brownie square topped with strawberries with a little whipped cream on the side. The entire dessert has fewer than 150 calories.
At in Redondo Beach, the restaurant started listing all the sides in order according to healthiness, trained servers to offer to-go bags and highlight healthier options and added a fresh-fruit dessert.
"For us, our menu is fresh fish," said owner Robert Hyman. "It was a great fit for us to be part of Vitality City."
Before presenting the certificates, Vitality City Director Joel Spoonheim told attendees that "Americans eat out more and more every year." The Blue Zones certification, he explained, encourages people to make healthier choices.
Additionally, because restaurants in the program tend to be small chains and individual restaurants that have control over their menus, the program helps out the community, he said.
"We're really excited to be supporting local businesses," Spoonheim said.
chair Lisa Santora agreed. "We're looking at not only improving the health of this community, but the prosperity of the community," she said.
The program's emphasis lies on making small changes that have larger effects, such as changing the order of items on a menu, or only serving fries with entrees when specifically requested.
"We want to make healthy choices the easiest choices," Santora said.
Restaurant owners are noticing a difference. Barbara Kubo, who owns in Manhattan Beach, said her restaurant started offering steamed vegetables and brown rice.
"It's been phenomenal," she said.