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National Parks’ Menus Getting Healthier

Update Date: Jun 05, 2013 09:41 AM EDT

National Parks' menus are getting a healthy makeover according to the National Park Service. Don't worry, the standard hot dogs and fries will still be on the menu for those who might be worried that healthier options were going to take over completely. This latest program developed to encourage healthy eating and lifestyles, the Healthy and Sustainable Food Program, plans on requiring parks to have healthier food and drink options for the community.

Nearly 23 million people purchase food and drinks from national parks per year. If these 23 million people were provided healthier options, many some of them could be persuaded to eat healthier. This new venture includes fish tacos, fresh tomato soup, lentil soups, black-bean sliders, bison hot dogs and grass-feed beef. National parks have been working in conjunction with food and beverage companies that will provide the new options. The program also plans on incorporating local fresh products into the menus as well.

"There's no reason you should have to take a vacation from healthy eating when you're on vacation," the director of the National Park Service, Jonathan Jarvis, said according to USA Today. "[The prices] are affordable to all Americans."

People tend to assume that healthier means more expensive. This program plans on showing people that people can enjoy a nice walk around the park without jeopardizing their waistlines or their wallets. Not only do healthy foods help with maintaining weight, they are less likely to contribute to health issues, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. The program aims to offer low-fat, low-sodium and smaller portions for park goers. On top of that, the program will require all vendors to have a fruit or vegetable option.

"You're taking a walk to get a little exercise. You're breathing fresh air, hearing the birds. It has physical and mental benefits. If you want to maximize that health benefit, we need to provide you an opportunity to eat healthy food," he added.

"Often times the parks are isolated so there may not be many other food venues nearby. You think of going to a park as a healthier vacation because you are hiking and walking around. But if the food isn't healthy, you may come back one or two pounds heavier and never lose it," Margo Wootan said. Wootan is the director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Some national parks that have already gone healthier are Grand Canyon South Rim in Arizona, Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana, the Statute of Liberty in New York, and Muir Woods and Yosemite National Park in California

The Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Jarvis will unveil this new program near the Lincoln Memorial at 11 a.m. today where chefs, including the White House chef, Sam Kass, will distribute free samples. 

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