Smaller portions and more fruits and vegetables are on the menu at Heavenly Pancakes.
The San Fernando eatery is the latest addition to the growing list of Choose Health LA Restaurants, a program from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LADPH) that seeks to bring healthier options to angelenos when dining out.
In return, the department promotes the restaurants and posts large decals on their windows. The county will also list the participants on an interactive map at ChooseHealthLA.com.
Already 750 restaurants are part of the effort, including Buffalo Bruce’s Mercantile in Sylmar and Que Ricos, which are located in several areas throughout the Valley.
Choose Health LA is an effort to attack the obesity epidemic in Los Angeles County.
According to Dr. Tony Kuo of the LADPH’s Division of Chronic Disease and Injury Prevention, two out of three adults are overweight in Los Angeles County and two out of three adults have pre diabetes.
Many children are also overweight, a combination of too much eating and too little exercise.
To turn this tide, the program requires participating restaurants to offer healthier fare especially to minors.
“We created this program to help parents and families make healthier choices when dining out,” Dr. Kuo noted.
This is important because Angelenos love to go out to eat. The average family goes out to eat four times a week, and when they do, they eat more calories than they do at home, according to the department.
The Northeast Valley Health Corporation (NEVHC), which first approached Heavenly Pancakes to join the Choose Health LA effort, is hoping to convince other local restaurants to take part.
“We want to make sure it’s a healthy choice and an easy choice for the customers,” said Denise Torres, program coordinator for NEVHC.
NEVHC also benefits from the program, indirectly.
In 2013, the nonprofit health agency saw 2,611 diabetic patients. This year that number will rise to more than 4,000.
“Having healthy eating habits really help our efforts,” said Kurt Cabrera-Miller, Chairman, NEVHC Board of Directors.
At Heavenly Pancakes, “the only real change was smaller portions. We want to show people that they can eat less and still be satisfied,” said Victor Magaña, owner and chef.
But smaller portions also mean smaller prices. Magana said they had lowered prices on many of their dishes to reflect less food.
For example, a popular menu item Spinach mushroom omelette previously featured three eggs and three pancakes. Now it’s two eggs and two pancakes.
There’s also a bigger selection of salads, and all child’s plates will be served with a side of fruit.
It may not be earth shattering, but every little bit counts.
“We want to serve good food for the public, something they enjoy and healthy,” said Magaña, a chef for more than 28 years at renowned restaurants like L’Ermitage and the Meridian Hotel in Beverly Hills, and who became an entrepreneur 12 years ago when a friend suggested he take over the restaurant in San Fernando.
But most of their menu has remained the same because, as Victor’s wife and restaurant administrator Selva Magaña pointed out, many of their dishes are already pretty healthy.
“It may take a while, but everything’s prepared to order. We don’t have anything precooked,” Selva said.
Two years ago, the business had a major setback when part of the kitchen burned down. They had to rebuild and began an advertising effort, that according to Selva, has borne fruit.
They hope this latest effort makes the dining experience more pleasant — and healthier.