A familiar dish returns to the cafeteria line

March 08, 2016

University Hospital cafeteria relaunches ¡Por Vida! healthy dining options, alongside other healthy menu items. Some customers look for the label at restaurants, other locations.

(SAN ANTONIO, TX March 8, 2016) A hospital’s job is to make people healthy. That mission extends to the cafeteria, and now visitors to University Hospital’s cafeteria will soon have a wider selection of healthy meals to choose from.

On March 9, in time for National Nutrition Month, University Hospital’s cafeteria will relaunch its participation in the San Antonio-area ¡Por Vida! campaign, aimed at promoting healthier food choices in area food establishments.  Menu items that carry the ¡Por Vida! labeling must follow strict nutritional guidelines.

University Health System was an early partner in ¡Por Vida!, which was created in 2009  by the Healthy Restaurants Coalition, a partnership of the San Antonio Restaurant Association, the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District and the South Texas Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

University Hospital’s cafeteria never abandoned its commitment to healthy eating choices. Sodexo, its food service vendor, introduced Mindful, a program that identifies healthier selections on the menu.  Mindful selections also meet strict nutritional guidelines, and post the nutritional contents for diners to see.

But recognizing that many in the community are more familiar with ¡Por Vida!, University Hospital is bringing back the program so people can find those items alongside Mindful selections and other fare.

“We have responsibility as a hospital to give people those healthy choices, to make them more prominent,” said Yogesh Mirkhelker, director of nutrition services at University Health System.

“We’re thrilled to have University Health System supporting the ¡Por Vida! program,” said Anna Macnak, chronic disease prevention dietitian at Metro Health.  “This will give their customers another way to identify healthy options on the menu.”

University Health System is an active member of the Bexar Healthy Beverage Coalition, a group of health, government, education and business groups dedicated to informing local families about the sugar content in beverages. University Health System eliminated sugary beverages at its Texas Diabetes Institute, and rearranged its vending machines in other locations to emphasize healthy choices.  

¡Por Vida! entrées cannot exceed 300 calories, 10 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat and 325 mg of sodium. A ¡Por Vida! side dish cannot exceed 200 calories, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams trans fats and 215 mg sodium. ¡Por Vida!-approved items cannot be fried.

¡Por Vida!’s restaurant partners include Cocina Heritage, Powerhouse Bakery, Papouli’s Greek Grill, Luby’s, D.R. Healthy Catering, Delicious Tamales, The Egg and I, Catalyst Catering, Estela’s, Zedric’s, Corner Bakery, and McDonald’s. Business partners include NuStar’s Grill on the Hill, UTSA Roadrunner Café and Valero.