The Mississippi Hospitality & Restaurant Association (MHRA) has unveiled an initiative called "Eat Healthy Mississippi" that aims to curb the state's obesity rates, which are the highest in the nation. Mississippi is the first state to launch this type of campaign.

Governor Phil Bryant, along with Department of Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith and Healthy Dining President Anita Jones-Mueller, joined the MHRA in launching the program.

"Eat Healthy Mississippi" is designed to promote locally grown produce in the preparation of dietitian-approved, Healthy Dining menu options at restaurants throughout the state. All approved menu choices will be featured on HealthyDiningFinder.com, along with resources to educate restaurants and consumers about nutrition and eating and living well.

In his comments, Governor Phil Bryant urged Mississippians and visitors to understand the benefits of smart lifestyle choices.

"We all must take seriously the impact lifestyle choices make on health," he said. "Poor choices can lead to obesity, disease and other health complications, but smart choices such as healthful diets and regular exercise can lead to a longer life. I encourage everyone to adopt a healthy lifestyle and choose wholesome foods at home and when dining out."

Through MHRA's partnership with HealthyDiningFinder.com, participating restaurants that join the "Eat Healthy Mississippi" program will have the benefit of having several menu items analyzed and approved by Healthy Dining's dietitians, and their restaurant and healthier choices will be featured on HealthyDiningFinder.com – also accessible via its mobile site and iPhone app ("yumPower") for on-the-go consumers.

"Eat Healthy Mississippi" restaurant participants may also qualify to participate in the Kids LiveWell program, a National Restaurant Association initiative developed in collaboration with Healthy Dining, that provides parents and children with a growing selection of restaurants providing healthful children's menu options.

"This landmark effort can greatly enhance the health and well-being of Mississippi residents and tourists. It serves as a model that other states can emulate in contributing both to better health and a vibrant economy," said Jones-Mueller. "With HealthyDiningFinder.com, it is easy for those eating away from home to find restaurants offering menu items with health and taste in mind."

The "Eat Healthy Mississippi" campaign has been made possible by a grant of more than $83,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as partnerships with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture & Commerce, Mississippi Division of Tourism, the Mississippi Department of Health, local farmers and growers, and other local and national support.

Read more about health and nutrition.

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