Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Thoona Pub supports Benalla healthy eating initiative

Healthier meals and smaller portion sizes are available at Thoona Pub as part of Benalla's new Small Plates Project.

MONIQUE FREER July 9, 2014 3:38am

Benalla Health dietician Kathryn McQualter, Benalla Health community health director Neil Stott, Thoona Pub owner Jodie Wells and son Josh and Benalla Rural City community services manager Deb Randich launched the Small Plates Project last week.

Healthier children’s meals and smaller portion sizes are now on the menu at Thoona Pub as part of a project to encourage healthier eating across Benalla and district.

The Small Plates Project is a collaboration between Benalla Health and Benalla Rural City and was launched at the district hotel last Tuesday.

Benalla Health dietitian Kathryn McQualter said the project was in response to Benalla Rural City’s food security scan last year.

‘‘We identified that we needed to improve our culture of eating in Benalla and some parents in some focus groups suggested that healthier options in restaurants can help create a culture where children aren’t expecting high fat foods as a normal thing to eat when they go out,’’ Ms McQualter said.

‘‘More and more people are wanting the healthier choice when they eat out so it responds to that demand now that we want healthy portions and we don’t want to stuff ourselves.’’

Ms McQualter said the small plates project gave local restaurants the chance to model what families should be eating at home.

The new small plates menu includes the option to replace chips with healthier side dishes such as vegetables or salad with children’s meals.

Adults also have the option of opting for a smaller serving sizes of their favourite restaurant meals.

Thoona Pub is the first business to come on board and owner Jodie Wells said it did not require major changes to their menu.

‘‘We’ve always offered vegies and salad with kids’ meals if people asked, but it wasn’t promoted,’’ Ms Wells said.

‘‘What was surprising is that we had a few meals that were already green light, dietitian approved, such as roast of the day and spaghetti bolognese.

‘‘We’ve now also got beef and vegie burritos and honey soy chicken skewers with rice and salad or vegies, so now we have five green light menu options.’’

Ms Wells said the pub had received great feedback from its customers since the launch.

‘‘Based on the feedback we’ve received so far, it’s something that when we redo our menus we’ll definitely incorporate it, if it continues to go as it is,’’ she said.

Benalla Rural City community services manager Deb Randich said the project addressed the needs and concerns of parents in the community.

‘‘In Benalla Rural City nearly half of Benalla residents are overweight or obese, with 67 per cent of children not eating enough fruit and vegetables,’’ Ms Randich said.

‘‘Parents who attended focus groups in 2013 said they would like mini adult meals or alternatives to chips and nuggets in restaurants to help their children eat healthier, and the Small Plates Project answers that need.’’

The Small Plates Project will be trialled in Thoona this year, and Benalla Health is encouraging families to sample the menu changes.

Any food businesses interested in being a part of the Small Plates Project can phone Kathryn McQualter on 57614500.

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