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By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Chinese food isn’t always the healthiest.  And with Chinese take-out restaurants dishing out three million entrees a year in Philadelphia, the city health department today unveiled a groundbreaking initiative to make it healthier.  3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl explains.

Chinese take-out is popular, convenient and usually affordable.  But the reality is, it’s often loaded with sodium.

“In one dish, adults who go to many Chinese take-outs had been getting their full days sodium, so we thought we had an issue,” said Dr. Donald Schwarz, the Philadelphia Health Commissioner.

Too much sodium can lead to high blood pressure, a condition about 50 percent of adults in Philadelphia battle.

So Dr. Schwarz decided to launch the Philadelphia Healthy Chinese Take Out initiative.  More than 200 restaurants across the city are participating.

“They’re educated on the importance of sodium and hypertension, and they received instruction from a professional chef on how to reduce sodium content and still produce tasty food, and they’re doing it,” said Dr. Schwarz.

Over the last 18 months, the restaurants gradually reduced sodium in their entrees by using less sauce, switching to other spices and reducing portion sizes.

“Within six months after training, sodium content went down by 20 percent.  It’s wonderful,” said Dr. Schwarz.

“I think a lot of customer have a positive response.  They are very happy to see the restaurant offer them healthy food,” said Steven Zhu, with the Philadelphia Chinese Restaurant Association.

The health department has been doing unannounced testing on sodium levels, which will continue.

For more information, visit the link below:

Healthy Chinese Take Out Initiative Participating Restaurants- http://philadelphia.maps.arcgis.com/apps/OnePane/basicviewer/index.html?appid=ee8929872ee7499193e45755f9c237e6

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