More than ever, healthy menus are a balancing act: Consumers want the option of healthier eating, but they also want flavor and excitement when they dine out.
Many operators are addressing this by reformulating or incorporating healthier ingredients in their patrons' favorite dishes—reducing salt, adding more produce, swapping in brown rice for white. They're also adding healthier options like salads, lean vegetarian options, and grilled foods, without necessarily promoting them as such. It's a strategy that many refer to as "stealth health."
Consumers enjoy visiting restaurants that are perceived as healthy because these venues make them feel good about themselves and their meal choices. Consumers might opt to visit the 'healthy' restaurant, but be wooed by the not-so-healthy LTOs (Limited-Time Only items) offered at these places.
Experience has shown that a heavy hand doesn't work with health messaging on menus. On the other hand, nutritional disclosure will become a fact of life for many operators thanks to mandates tucked into the new healthcare reform bill—and they're already in place in many localities. Regardless of whether customers actually want to know how many calories are in their cheeseburgers, many operators are getting ready for the day when they'll be required to post that information by being more proactive in the types of foods they offer.
Easy Ways to Make Your Menu More Healthy
- Offer more grilled, poached, and broiled items, rather than deep-fried
- Make egg whites and egg substitutes available at breakfast
- Add nutritious grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and farro to the menu in the form of flavorful pilafs and other side dishes
- "Sneak" grated carrots, zucchini, mushrooms, or other vegetables into meatloaf and ground-meat mixtures
- Menu produce-intensive specialties like roasted vegetables and other side dishes, broth-basted vegetable soups, salads, and fresh fruit
- Use whole grain flours such as buckwheat in pancakes and other batter cakes