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Healthy menu options coming to a Utah national park near you

Published June 6, 2013 6:45 am

Don't like gluten-free almond-crusted chicken? Don't worry: You can still get a cheeseburger.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Washington • Visitors heading to national parks in Utah and other areas this summer can expect to complement their wholesome outdoor experience with new nutritious food options.

As part of a healthful and sustainable food initiative announced Wednesday by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, concessionaires in national parks will offer a new range of options catering to the more discerning diner.

"There's no reason," Jarvis said, "to take a vacation from eating well when you visit a national park."

This new initiative aims to build on the 2011 "Healthy Parks, Healthy People" program to pair visitors' health with the great outdoors.

"We want to add to that by providing food that is lower in calories, is lower in fat and sodium," he said. "It's meat without hormones, and it's fresh and local as well and highly sustainable."

Park officials on Wednesday showcased from the four largest concession vendors some new menu options, including juniper smoked bison strip loin, gluten-free almond crusted chicken tenders and fresh spring strawberries and cream.

"We're really in a crisis in this country when it comes to our kids and our families' health," said Sam Kass, executive director of "Let's Move!," first lady Michelle Obama's program aimed at eradicating childhood obesity. The potential impact of this new initiative is huge, he said, given the number of visitors who pass through national parks every year.

"This is what families are calling for," Kass said. "Parents are calling for better choices, healthier options at an affordable price, and this is a huge step in that direction.

Mike Litterst,a spokesman for the National Park Service, said that these healthier options were more in keeping with the activities available in U.S. national parks.

"If you spend the day in America's great outdoors hiking or fishing or kayaking," he said, "perfect sense is you want to come back at the end of the day and have a healthy meal."

Jewell praised the efforts of the concessionaires present at the ceremony.

"Healthy food is something that they have been continuing to provide over a long period of time," she said, "but this commitment today is about getting the word out on that."

Visitors who prefer to fuel their outdoor activities with traditional comfort foods will still have the opportunity to indulge. The new healthy options are an addition, Litterst said, not a substitution.

"We're not taking things away; we're not saying you can't have that cheeseburger if that's what you want," he said, "but we're offering a range of new choices, healthy menu options, fruits, vegetables, lower-fat options."

The initiative is geared toward educating kids, not just about healthy eating, but about local culture through learning about locally sourced products and regional dishes, officials said.

"You can showcase the foods of your region, you can tell the story of the Indian tribes in Utah," Jewell said. "This gives us a platform to do that and tell a bigger story that incorporates food."

Bruce Fears, president of Aramark Parks and Destinations, the concessionaire for Lake Powell, said that his company had been working to ensure that healthful options don't hit consumers in the pocket.

"We try to really work to make sure that we are competitive and the price is reasonable for a family traveling to Lake Powell," he said. Healthy options are currently available at Aramark outlets throughout the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, including at a new restaurant slated to open at Wahweap next month.

imarkham@sltrib.com

Utah National Parks

Utah has five national parks:

Canyonlands

Arches

Zion

Capitol Reef

Bryce Canyon

The state also has seven national monuments, one national historic site and one national recreation area.

Source: state of Utah