The United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC) announced that its “REAL Certified” nutrition and sustainability certification program has been selected by the State of Tennessee to be part of an initiative focused on innovative education and prevention of diabetes and obesity. As part of a statewide effort to combat these preventable diet-related diseases, the USHFC has received a three-year, $346,000 grant to rollout “Eat REALTM Tennessee,” whereby restaurants and foodservice establishments will be assessed and recognized for their Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL).
“With so many of us regularly enjoying enticing food prepared away from home, we all need the creative energy of preparers to make food that is attractive, delicious and nutritious so the easy choice can also be the healthy choice,” says Tennessee health commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “We support this effort to encourage our Tennessee food servers to provide wonderful and healthy foods to their customers.”
REAL Certification was developed by the USHFC to engage foodservice operators in improving nutrition standards and providing consumers increased access to healthy options. Similar to LEED certification in the building industry, REAL Certification utilizes a flexible points-based model to recognize restaurants and other foodservice operations for following nutrition and sustainability best practices.
“Our goal is to support businesses that help Tennesseans make responsible choices when it comes to health and sustainability,” says Lawrence Williams, president and CEO of the United States Healthful Food Council. “Given the extraordinary contribution that diet-related diseases make to healthcare costs, increasing the consumption of ‘better for you’ foods is ultimately in the best interest of everyone.”
Eat REAL Tennessee will focus initially on the Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville regions, partnering with area restaurants, as well as corporate and college and university dining facilities to promote healthy dining. The project will also serve as a community outreach platform, educating the public on nutrition and healthy dietary choices. As part of the certification process, Registered Dietitians assess establishments' menus and overall practices across a range of criteria such as the utilization of healthy produce, whole grains, moderate portion sizes, unsweetened beverages, healthy children's menus and sustainable sourcing.
“As a long-time chef and Tennessee restaurant owner, I recognize the increasingly important role restaurants play in shaping consumer dietary habits,” says Jeremy Barlow, acclaimed Nashville chef and author of Chefs Can Change the World. “But instead of having regulations for minimum requirements that all restaurants must meet, voluntary programs such as REAL allow foodservice providers that want to emphasize the nutrition and environmental quality of their food to opt-in and distinguish themselves.”
REAL Certification launched with a restaurant campaign in Washington, DC, earlier this year and has since expanded to corporate and public café settings in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Boston.