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New program to bring healthier, affordable foods to 4 Hartford restaurants

UConn Health's Husky Nutrition team analyzed the menus and worked closely with the restaurant owners to come up with healthier substitutes.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Several local restaurants in Hartford worked with UConn Health experts to create healthier menu options for the community. 

It's taken a lot of work and planning but as part of a new pilot program, there will be some changes to menus at four local restaurants in the North End to add fiber, fruits and vegetables to the list of options.  

"It’s been a process of going with the restaurant owners, seeing what the recipes are, seeing what ingredients they can find," said Catalina Quesada, a dietician at UConn Health Husky Programs. 

The restaurants, Hot Pots, Syps Grille, Mr. Pizza and Dunns River worked with UConn and enhanced their menu options to accommodate healthy changes. 

UConn Health's Husky Nutrition team analyzed the four menus and worked closely with the restaurant owners to come up with healthier substitutes for current food options, reducing both sodium and saturated fat contents while increasing whole grains, fruits and vegetables. 

'We are trying as a community to decrease the prevalence of chronic diseases. People are out and about buying food we want to at least offer a healthier alternative and let them know what they’re getting," said Quesada. 

At Syps Grille, the focus is to shift away from sodium and unhealthy ingredients. The grille's most popular dish is their burger. Now they are no longer adding salt, and the ingredients they're using are more heart healthy, such as low sodium cheeses. They also are adding a vegan menu. 

City leaders and community leaders along with UConn Health experts taste tested some of the new healthy menu options, hoping to have the menus finalized soon. 

City leaders said now is the time to start focusing on the importance of having access to affordable, yet healthy foods. 

"Nowadays with prices of food going up people are just paying more for lesser quality food and in the community we have a lot of health issues that go along with these issues of them just buying food," said Errolgh Barrett, Assistant Community Recreation Counselor with the City of Hartford. 

Plans are already underway to bring healthy foods not only to the four restaurants but also to Parker Memorial Community Center which holds a lot of meetings for the community. 

Lindsey Kane is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at Lkane@fox61.com. Follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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