US restaurants promote healthy choices on menus


More restaurants in the US are labeling menu dishes as healthy, according to new Mintel research. The move follows last month’s recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC).

Mintel found that between Q2 2009 and Q2 2010 menu items labeled as ‘healthy’ grew by 65%.

The DGAC recommendations also include specific instructions for children’s menus, urging restaurants to include a focus on kids, as “prevention of obesity in childhood is the single most powerful public health approach to combating America’s obesity epidemic”.

Mintel reports there has been a 10% increase in menu items that contain fruits or vegetables between Q2 2007 and Q2 2010. It is a start, say researchers, but restaurants still have a way to go.

“Restaurants should start considering how they’re going to make kids’ menus healthier,” said Eric Giandelone, director of foodservice research at Mintel. “It’s important to get feedback from both parents and kids to provide a healthy balance on the menu that kids will want to eat and of which parents will approve.”

Adults need their fruits and veggies just as much as children do and, according to the DGAC, menus should provide it. Mintel research found among restaurant-goers who say they’re eating more healthfully when dining out, more than half are doing so by including more fruits and vegetables. There has also been a 12% increase in menu items labeled as vegetarian between Q2 2007 and Q2 2010.

“A healthy menu development opportunity exists in providing vegetable and seafood-based appetisers, soups, salads and entrees,” added Giandelone. “An added bonus in offering these ingredients is, if prepared thoughtfully, they will naturally cut down on the fat and calories of a menu item, making it a more favorable choice for their patrons.”