LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Louisiana has the highest obesity rates in the nation and it also leads the nation in other preventable chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke, according to the Bureau of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
Healthy isn't always the first word that comes to mind when you think of foods in Southwest Louisiana but for restaurants like Cotten's, that's about to change.
"When people think about Cotten's, they don't think healthy and we have a lot of healthy options and it's a good way to get the word out for us and let everyone know you can go places that aren't traditionally healthy and get good food," said Owner Kate Cotten.
She's one of the newest partners in the Eat Healthy initiative spearheaded by A Healthier Southwest Louisiana.
"If you go out to lunch in Lake Charles, you can't get a healthy menu option, and that reflects in our health outcomes; we have some of the worst health outcomes in the nation," said John O'Donnell, coalition coordinator of A Healthier Southwest Louisiana and representative of the Well-Ahead Program in the area, which has helped in revitalizing the initiative.
He's focusing on restaurants like Cotten's, which is famous for its mouth-watering hamburgers - but did you know it also has other options like egg white omelets?
"We have spinach; we have mushrooms; we make grilled salads with chicken and shrimp and that's all without oil and it has flavor 'cause its fresh," said Cotten.
In order to have items that are considered healthy on the menu, they have to be low-calorie, low-fat, and low-sodium.
"You can go and eat a bland chicken breast and steamed broccoli anywhere, but we want to create healthy menu items that are exciting that you are going to look forward to," said O'Donnell.
To do this, a dietitian and culinary expert will be sent in to work with ingredients already on the restaurant's menu. Also in the plan is a more educational experience, listing nutritional facts and advising patrons of the healthier options.
The program is all-encompassing and will improve other aspects of the restaurants, like including bike racks outside and creating a larger smoke-free environment.
These new menu items will be available in the coming weeks.
Click HERE for a map of restaurants and other businesses in the area considered Well-Ahead "Wellspots".
Click HERE for more on Eat Healthy Southwest Louisiana.