There is a lot of noise in the nutrition world. As consumer demand continues to grow for healthier options, nutrition and allergen information, and locally sourced, higher quality ingredients, operators are paying attention. But they are confused, too. Which trends and diets are the right ones to follow?
I asked three renowned public health leaders for their advice on what the industry is doing right and how restaurants can most effectively contribute to public health. All agree that the major emphasis should be on decreasing sodium, saturated fat, sugar and excess calories while increasing nutrient-dense foods, such as lean protein, vegetables, fruits, whole grains and unsaturated fats.
Here’s what else they added:
PhD, RD, president of Produce for Better Health Foundation
“From my perspective, I think restaurants — from QSRs to fine dining — are doing a great job of offering more fruits and vegetables, either as new entrées or as part of existing meals.
“The most important thing restaurants can do to improve public health is to continue to increase the use of vegetables. Not only will this improve public health, but it will also help restaurants provide the larger portions — but not excess calories — desired by guests.
“Increasing vegetables and decreasing the use of cheese, fried foods, and fatty meats will naturally decrease calories, sodium and fat. In return, restaurants can use less of the expensive meat proteins and more of the inexpensive vegetables, while emphasizing fruit, legumes, nuts, spices, and whole grains to add variety while keeping costs low and nutrition high. For desserts, make fruit the focus. Including chocolate or ice cream in the dessert with the fruit is fine, but just change the proportions: a bit more fruit and a bit less chocolate.
“I believe demand will continue to grow over time, and those restaurants that provide the right balance of healthy, tasty options will ultimately reap the benefits. In the Hudson Institute’s ‘Better-For-You Foods: An Opportunity to Improve Public Health and Increase Food Industry Profits’ report, authors found that those restaurant chains growing their better-for-you menu servings exhibited greater same store sales and traffic.”
Produce for Better Health Foundation is a nonprofit organization devoted to increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables. A passionate advocate of the health-promoting benefits of fruits and vegetables for America’s better health, Dr. Pivonka has been integrally involved with the Foundation’s efforts since it was incorporated in 1991. She is a nationally recognized expert on nutrition and the role fruits and vegetables can play to promote better health and regularly interfaces with policy makers, legislators, regulators, academia and industry on nutrition policy and programs.