[aesop_image imgwidth=”500px” img=”https://www.signaltribunenewspaper.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Screen-Shot-2016-02-04-at-4.10.08-PM.png” credit=”Courtesy Office of Councilmember Al Austin” align=”left” lightbox=”on” caption=”On Feb. 2, Long Beach 8th District Councilmember Al Austin and restaurant owner Ryna Mean shared a pair of giant scissors at the ribbon-cutting event of Kim Sun Kitchen, the first business in the city to enroll in the Choose Health LA Restaurant initiative. As a part of this program funded by a grant with the LA County, staff members from The Children’s Clinic worked with Mean to offer healthier meal choices at her restaurant.” captionposition=”left”]
For Long Beach restaurateur Ryna Mean, taking over the family business meant serious change. It’s been about a month since Kim Sun Kitchen has been officially transferred to the 31-year-old’s name, and Mean is concentrating on how to provide a healthier menu for the customers who are hoping to sample better-for-you versions of Cambodian-Chinese dishes.
“Health has always been important to me,” Mean said in a phone interview this week. With the help of staff from The Children’s Clinic, “Serving Children & Their Families,” Mean has developed a menu that offers healthier options of the more popular items served at her restaurant, including chow mein and chop suey.
She’s conscientious about reducing the portion sizes and the overall amount of meat and rice on the plate, while increasing the amount of vegetables served. She also advocates for water instead of soda on the menu, reducing the amount of sugar and calories in the meal.
Kim Sung Kitchen is the first restaurant in Long Beach to take advantage of the Choose Health LA Restaurant Program, offered through The Children’s Clinic, according to the clinic’s CEO Elisa Nicholas. This particular initiative is part of the organization’s program, funded through a grant with LA County and First 5 LA.
“We have been long committed to helping our families lead healthier lifestyles,” Nicholas said in a phone interview this week. She noted that obesity is a significant problem with children in Long Beach, as well as the rest of the country, and her organization aims to help families that are both in a clinical and community setting. 40 percent of children in Long Beach suffer from obesity, according to Nicholas.
Her organization also offers trips to the grocery stores, as well as cooking classes.
“We know that we need to make the healthy choice the easy choice for families,” Nicholas said, “but we also have to give them skills and educate them about how to make those choices and how to!shop better, prepare food in a different way, and really how to partner with us in their own health and well being.”
Long Beach 8th District Councilmember Al Austin is supportive of the effort to encourage restaurants to improve their menus.
“Providing healthy menu options at restaurants, especially for children, is a key part of promoting healthier communities,” Austin said in a statement released by The Children’s Clinic. “I am very proud of Kim Sun Kitchen, an [8th]-district business, for being the first Choose Health LA Restaurant to partner with The Children’s Clinic in Long Beach.”
Austin spoke at Kim Sun Kitchen’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, Feb. 2, as owner Mean celebrated the restaurant’s new milestone.
One of the major components of the program requires participating restaurants to pay attention to portion sizes. Nicholas emphasized the need to balance the amount of carbohydrates and proteins.
“Portion control is extremely important,” Nicholas said, noting that serving sizes for hamburgers and french fries used to be about a third of what they are now. “So people really have a distorted sense of what a portion is, and I think that’s a very big part of our obesity epidemic.”
Mean said that the restaurant itself has been around for 40 to 45 years. For the first 25 years, her uncle owned it, and Mean herself has been working at the business since she came to the United States.
The effort to turn around the menu also had a personal appeal. She said that while many of her relatives look healthy, they have diabetes. Their diets already had a lot of rice and noodles. Mean noticed that her own mother started to suffer from high blood pressure and vision problems. However, soon after they incorporated positive changes in her diet, Mean noticed a change for the better in her mother’s health and mood.
The restaurant owner acknowledged that some of the customers didn’t fully embrace the change in the menu since the portions of rice on the healthier menu options were reduced. However, that doesn’t stop her efforts. She is also looking forward to incorporating other changes down the line, like offering more fruit and juice on the dessert menu.
Kim Sun Kitchen
5449 Cherry Ave.
Long Beach, CA 90805
Choose Health LA Restaurants
The Children’s Clinic
“Serving Children & Their Families”
701 E. 28th St., Suite 200
Long Beach, CA 90806