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Nutrition labels at independent L.A. restaurants

April 17, 2009 | 11:45 am

Menu 

Raul Morales, owner of Taqueria Vista Hermosa, shows off his new menu board, which lists calories for every menu item.

Seven independent restaurants -- including the popular Chichen Itza -- are letting customers know the nutritional content of their standard menu items in a project aimed at curbing obesity in South Los Angeles.

The restaurant owners, along with some politicians and health officials, celebrated that effort Thursday at Mercado La Palmona near downtown. It's called the "smart menu" program,

The menu labeling project was organized by South Los Angeles Healthy Eating, Active Communities, part of a statewide initiative sponsored by the California Endowment to prevent obesity in young people. HEAC provided the recipe analysis and menu signs.

The other restaurants taking part in the labeling program are Burger Plaza Grill, La Maison de la Creme, Mo Chica, Oaxacalifornia, Taqueria Vista Hermosa and Thai Corner. They're all housed at Mercado La Palmoma.

"This project was a natural fit for our participation because Mercado La Paloma was developed in part to offer the community a venue where they could find fresh, homemade meals and healthy options," said Nancy Ibrahim, the executive director of Esperanza Community Housing Corp., which redeveloped the market site.

HEAC provided a registered dietician to work with the owners to analyze menu items and offer consultation to owners to make some items more nutritious. 

In Los Angeles, nearly a third of Latino and African American residents are obese. Chain restaurants with 15 or more outlets must spill the beans on calories and other aspects of their food, thanks to state legislation passed last year.

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Chichen Itza showcases one of its new, healthier recipes.

-- Mary MacVean

(Photos courtesy of HEAC)

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