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"Easy Choices" Healthy Foods Program

Easy Choices helps people who want to eat a more balanced and healthier diet when they are eating out, including at the DHMC Dining Room and East Mall Cafe. The Easy Choices “apple” labels allow people to quickly understand what items on a menu may help them reach their dietary goals. Menu items identified with red “apples” are ones that have more vegetables and fruit, more whole grains, and/or beans while limiting trans-fats and excess saturated fats, calories and salt. The more Easy Choices “apples” an entrée or side dish receives, the more healthy diet criteria it meets.

Easy Choices

What is Easy Choices?
Easy Choices helps people who want to eat a more balanced and healthier diet when they are eating out, including at the DHMC Dining Room and East Mall Cafe. The Easy Choices "apple" labels allow people to quickly understand what items on a menu may help them reach their dietary goals. Menu items identified with red "apples" are ones that help people achieve a diet with more vegetables and fruit, more whole grains, and/or beans while limiting trans-fats and excess saturated fats, calories, and salt. The more Easy Choices "apples" an entrée or side dish receives, the more healthy diet criteria it meets.

Why are we doing this?
Many people want to make more balanced and healthier dietary choices when they are eating out, but it is not always easy to identify healthier options. Easy Choices is a way to understand which foods eaten out are most consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

How did Easy Choices originate?
Our colleagues at Cheshire Medical Center / Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene pioneered these criteria as the "Turn a New Leaf" initiative about two years ago and implemented it at Cheshire Medical Center and community locations. CHaD’s Upper Valley Healthy Eating Active Living Partnership (UV HEAL) identified "healthier eating out" as a key priority this past fall, and began to adapt "Turn a New Leaf" to the Upper Valley region, with DHMC as the first implementation site.

How were the Easy Choices criteria chosen?
Easy Choices criteria are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. A summary of the Guidelines can be viewed on the USDA website. The specific criteria used in Easy Choices were identified by community health leaders at Cheshire Medical Center / Dartmouth-Hitchcock Keene after a review of numerous nutrition cueing systems used in other parts of the United States.

Where will Easy Choices be implemented and will it cover all food service offerings?
Easy Choices will be used with steam-table entrees, starches and vegetables, wok entrees, grille sandwiches, soups, and certain premade salads in the Main Dining Room and the East Mall CafJ.

Why aren’t salad bar items marked with Easy Choices "apple" labels?
Self-serve items like salads are not easy to evaluate through the Easy Choices because every salad or combination of foods is individually created.

If an offering does not have any "apples," what does that mean?
This means the item did not meet at least three entree or two side dish Easy Choices criteria. Generally, if an entrée has no "apples," it is higher in calories, salt and fats.

I thought salmon (especially without the Caesar salad) was a healthy item. How come it isn't a "three-apple item"?
The salmon by itself is very healthy, but you can make it a "three-apple entree" by adding a vegetable or whole grain as a side dish and having fruit for dessert. We encourage eating more vegetables, fruit and whole grains.

If something only gets "one apple," is there a way to know which Easy Choices criteria it missed?
On the display sign, the color of the criteria will be coded to indicate if it did or did not meet the criteria.

Will prices rise for items that earn more Easy Choice "apples?"
No.

I’m trying to follow a disease-specific diet. Will Easy Choices help me?
Easy Choices is a broad set of criteria that will help people make choices more consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. However, it is not a tailored dietary guidance program and some of its criteria are different than might be recommended for persons with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease or other conditions. If you have a health condition for which you are following a specific diet, please consult with your health-care team or registered dietitian. D-H employees and family members can schedule a free consultation with the Live Well/Work Well dietitian for specific recommendations.

I need to count my carbohydrates. Will that information be posted? I follow a Weight Watchers point diet plan. Will I still be able to get calories, grams of carbohydrate or fiber numbers?
Most of the nutritional signs will include this information. We will continue to label foods that are gluten-free for people seeking a gluten-free diet.

How will the food service measure an "ounce of whole grains" when addressing Easy Choices criteria?
If whole grains in the recipe contain three or more grams of fiber per serving, then the item is given credit for this criterion.

What qualifies as a serving of fruits and vegetables under Easy Choices criteria?
One serving is equal to 1/2 cup of cooked or raw fruits or vegetables, 1/2 cup of fruit juice, 1/4 cup of dried fruit or 1 cup of leafy greens.

How are we defining trans-fat under Easy Choices criteria?
No trans-fat is defined as either containing no added hydrogenated fat or is labeled as 0 grams of trans-fat on the nutrition facts panel. In accordance with the FDA, products containing less than 0.5 grams of trans-fat are labeled as 0 grams trans-fat. Some trans-fats occur naturally in meat and dairy.

Will entrees that do not meet the criteria and receive no "apples" be removed from the menu?
Easy Choices is a choice-support tool. We will continue to serve some of the items that do not receive any "apples." If you are trying to make healthy dietary choices for yourself, Easy Choices "apples" will provide you with an easy reference point when you are making your personal food choices.

Will Easy Choices be offered as part of our patient food offerings?
Easy Choices criteria follow healthy dietary guidelines for the broader population, but are not patient-specific, so we do not foresee using them on patient menus at this time. Patients and visitors eating at the DHMC Main Dining Room and East Mall Cafe; will benefit from the Easy Choices labels.

How does Easy Choices relate to the Good-to-Go (stoplight) initiative we used to have?
The Good-to-Go program focused only on the percent of total fat calories. The rating system for Easy Choices includes other important nutrients and food groups.

Is Easy Choices the same as Hannford’s Guiding Stars®?
Guiding Stars® is a patented system that helps consumers who want to make more nutritious food choices. Locally, it is in use at Hannaford supermarket. Both are cueing systems that support people who desire to eat a more balanced diet.

Will we see Easy Choices being used in other Upper Valley institutions?
The Upper Valley Healthy Eating Active Living Partnership, housed at CHaD, is currently in discussion with several eating-out venues in the Upper Valley region, to make this a broader population health initiative. We hope to see Easy Choices "apples" in a growing number of Upper Valley restaurants, markets, prepared food vendors, and other organizations over the next several years.

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