Are you ready for the first official #simpleswap spotlight? Check out my latest insights into what’s trending in the field of nutrition today!
By a show of hands, whose been to a chain restaurant lately? Yep, I’m talking McDonald’s, Rubios, Hometown Buffet… don’t worry, I’m not judging!
Did the restaurant have nutrition information on their menu? If so, how many of you used that nutrition information as a guide to make your menu choice? Again… no judging!
Well, like it or not, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, chain restaurants must make the calorie information available on menus by December 2016. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hope by providing the nutrition information, the public will have access to consistent, accurate stats to help make informed choices. With over 33% of meals consumed away from home, it’s the first step in giving consumers right to know information about the foods they are consuming.
What’s interesting to me is the fashion in which the restaurants will have to post the calorie information. Think about all the restaurants listed above and the different way they portray their menus. Some have menu boards, some have hand held menus and some are buffets, right?
Under the new regulations, any printed menu must have the calorie information in the same SIZE font as the price or name of the item (it cannot be smaller than the smallest print already present). For restaurants with buffet style set ups, menu cards with calorie information must be present on the line. Check out some of the photos I snagged from some local restaurants… can you see the nutrition info? Not gonna lie, I had to take out my glasses on some of them!
According to recent research published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, when calorie information was used by consumers, it did result in the purchase of a lower total caloric value meal. Unfortunately though, this study was limited and did indicate that simply having the calorie information available did not prove to motivate all consumers to use the information, especially when taking into consideration the different socioeconomic and educational statuses of the participants.
So, what’s the bottom line? Diners are making a choice to dine out, obviously. By providing customers with the information at the point of sale (or point of choice) the FDA is taking the first step to focus on preventative measures with high hopes of changing the obesity epidemic that we’re in. However, that’s only the beginning. Not only is education important to infuse in the marketing campaigns of chain restaurants as to what these NEW, FRESH menu items are, but equally important is to work with their culinary teams to take a “stealth health” approach.
What do I mean? Take a close look at the moms out there that are pureeing broccoli and carrots into their kids spaghetti sauce… yep, you get me. Stealth health is any way we can infuse those healthier, better for you options into the menu to increase the nutrient density without sacrificing the flavor.
If we could only get the latest chili cheese fry trend to infuse some mushrooms into the mix and nix the beef for a lean ground turkey we may just have the first major mainstream “stealth health” makeover on the planet!
Now… the big question…will this law “bring sexy back”?! With nearly 67% of Americans considered overweight or obese, it will be interesting to see how this number changes (for better or worse) in the next decade as these laws unfold within the restaurant industry.
What do you think about the menu labeling regulations? Do you find restaurants are presenting the information in an easy to read way? I’d love to hear your thoughts- comment below or send me an email.
For more information on how to infuse stealth health into your menus, check out Menus of Change!