Cutting Calories off of Menus
"As part of our global Sustainable Living Plan, we are committed to making a positive impact on the health and well-being of restaurant guests," said Simon Marshall, president of Unilever Food Solutions North America. "We also recognize that in order for our customers to achieve success and deliver healthier choices for their guests, we must make the 'Seductive Nutrition' approach fit seamlessly into their operations."
U.S. diners have echoed the desire for small adjustments rather than an overhaul to menus to help them make healthy choices when dining out. In the recent Unilever Food Solutions' World Menu Report titled "Seductive Nutrition," 52% of the surveyed U.S diners noted that they look for the healthy option on menus, but 60% of the surveyed restaurant guests would prefer to have just slightly healthier food options when eating out.
Brian Wansink, Ph.D., director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University and author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, says that the consumption of an extra 100 or 200 calories can slowly add up to pounds from year to year, but awareness and small changes can have an impact on restaurant guests' eating habits and waistlines.
"Restaurateurs and chefs can make subtle changes that nudge their guests into healthier choices and better eating habits," said Wansink. "From the existing research, we've found that everything from the description of the menu item to the size of the plate to who you dine with can have an effect on a person feeling satisfied."
In addition to making their top dishes slightly healthier with ingredient and preparation adjustments, restaurant operators also can appeal to guests' senses by enhancing the menu item descriptions. The World Menu Report on "Seductive Nutrition" found that 50% of U.S. diners perceived the "seductive" or more improved menu description to be tastier than a neutral description.
"In recent years, chefs and restaurant operators have responded to restaurant guests' requests for healthier dishes at restaurants and eateries by including these options on their menus," said Steve Jilleba, corporate executive chef for Unilever Food Solutions. "But to encourage diners to try these dishes, we also have to design our menus so that the healthier items sound as delicious as they are so they become attractive options for restaurant guests to choose."
To help restaurant operators and chefs create healthier dishes with strong menu appeal, Unilever Food Solutions now offers several resources, including the Seductive Nutrition tool, calorie reduction techniques and tips to enhance menu item descriptions.
The Seductive Nutrition tool illustrates Unilever Food Solutions' new approach to menu development with a before-and-after look at 10 top menu items updated with small changes to the nutrition profile and enhanced menu descriptions.
Calorie reduction techniques from Lisa Carlson, MS, RD, nutrition manager at Unilever Food Solutions, offer suggestions for small changes to help restaurant guests benefit from slightly fewer calories while enjoying their favorite meals.
Menu description tips developed by Chef Jilleba show how to make menu items sound as appealing as they taste by enhancing ingredient descriptions, noting place of origin and adding a bit of romance language.
To participate in the "Seductive Nutrition Challenge," restaurant operators are encouraged to join Unilever Food Solutions in making a commitment to reduce the calories in a top dish by 100 calories and enhance the menu description to make it more appealing to guests to choose the slightly healthier menu items. From all of the participants, 45 restaurant operators will be randomly selected to submit results demonstrating their "Seductive Nutrition" commitment. Unilever Food Solutions then will select 10 restaurant operators from the 45 finalists to receive the opportunity to present their "Seductive Nutrition" success story during a weekend-long workshop experience at the Culinary Institute of America-Greystone.
Unilever Food Solutions also will host workshops throughout July and August to introduce the "Seductive Nutrition Challenge" and the new Seductive Nutrition tools and resources to restaurant operators. The workshops will be held in nine markets across the U.S. and Canada, including Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Kan., Portland, Ore., Providence, R.I., San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto and Washington, D.C.
To learn more about the Unilever Food Solutions' "Seductive Nutrition Challenge," and to view the "Seductive Nutrition" tool, visit www.unileverfoodsolutions.us/challenge.