A programme designed to help Jamaicans choose healthier meal options is being launched today by the Ministry of Health and Wellness with eight of the island’s most popular restaurant chains.

The ‘Better For You’ programme, as it is being called, is a response to the growing incidences of lifestyle diseases in Jamaica, the ministry said in a news release yesterday.

The programme was borne out of focus groups for the national change agenda on lifestyle or non-communicable diseases programme ‘Jamaica Moves’, where participants indicated that due to their hectic schedules they were unable to properly prepare meals at home, thus turning to restaurants to provide that service, the ministry added.

Using that information, the ministry’s team, led by Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton, consulted with leading selected restaurant chains over the past two years to see how they could partner to devise a programme which would allow people to have recognisable healthier options. That process culminated with an agreed position for a designation of selected menu options labelled ‘Better For You’ in participating restaurants.

The eight restaurants are KFC, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, Burger King, Popeyes, Little Caesars, Island Grill, and Juici.

“In public health, we must accept the cultural shifts in our society away from home-cooked meals to restaurant meals and respond by encouraging consumer choice towards healthier options,” the ministry release quotes Dr Tufton.

“This is only possible by providing information and encouraging better, healthier choices. This is what the ‘Better For You’ menu designation is intended to do. Over time we will promote this designation in all types of food establishments. In the meantime, we are happy for the collaboration with these initial restaurant chains,” Dr Tufton added.

Maurice Sloley, operations manager of Wendy’s, one of the participating restaurants, welcomed the initiative.

“At Wendy’s, we believe in fresh food and in giving people choices to live a balanced lifestyle. We are excited to partner with the ministry on this initiative towards making Jamaica an overall healthier society,” the release quotes Sloley.

Andrei Roper, brand manager for KFC, agreed, noting that KFC is fully aligned and fully supportive of the programme.

“We understand that people lead busy lives and that they are always on the go and need a quick solution. Better For You helps KFC to highlight that we have choices to fit every lifestyle,” Roper said.

The ministry said the Better For You programme will be represented by a special icon affixed to the menu offering and available at the participating restaurants.

Jamaica Observer