With healthy eating becoming increasingly popular in America, restaurants offering nutritious options are popping up around the nation, and more and more restaurants are changing their menus to be more health forward. Considering the major health crisis America is facing, it’s encouraging to see restaurants doing their part to help people live healthier lives.
But for many restaurants, designing a healthy menu isn’t easy. Given how Americans are becoming increasingly concerned with what they eat, it takes a little more effort than simply adding more veggies to a plate to truly be considered a health-conscious restaurant. That’s why I put together this menu evaluation checklist for health-conscious restaurants to use when creating a nutritious menu.
A Menu Evaluation Checklist: Four Key Elements
Some restaurants try to fool customers into thinking their food is healthy by using sneaky marketing tactics. As a result, customers are demanding more information about restaurant food so they can make informed decisions about where and what to eat.
Luckily, you can easily provide customers with the information they desire. There are four key elements you must include on your menu if you want your customers to know that your establishment is serious about offering nutritious food:
Calorie Counts: Calorie counts are the simplest way for people to understand how much energy they are getting from a menu item. While calorie counts are indeed a basic form of nutrition information that doesn’t present the entire picture of a given food (high-calorie foods can still be healthy, for instance), they are still an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to healthy eating. Plus, with the FDA requiring chain restaurants of 20 or more locations to provide calorie counts on menus, customers are beginning to expect this information from restaurants. If you are serious about offering healthy food, consider voluntarily registering with the FDA so you can provide calorie information in compliance with their guidelines.
Nutrition Information: Calorie counts are just one piece of the nutritional picture of a food. Nutrition information—like amounts of vitamins, minerals, fats, carbs, and proteins—is also important. After all, customers are used to having this information on nutrition facts panels from the foods they buy at the grocery store. Nutrition information is also required by the FDA as part of their menu labeling guidelines, so if you decide to provide calorie counts, you’ll need to provide this information, too. The good thing is, this info doesn’t have to appear on your menu. Rather, you can provide it in a separate booklet and let customers know that additional nutrition information is available should they require it.
Nutrient Content Claims: Nutrient content claims are phrases like “low-fat” or “high-fiber” that accompany a specific menu item. Additionally, phrases informing customers how much of a specific nutrient is contained in each dish are also nutrient content claims. This includes claims like, “Contains 80% of the daily value of Vitamin D.” Since the FDA regulates nutrient content claims, there are specific guidelines for using each one. The simplest way to find out if your menu items qualify for any nutrient content claims is to use an online nutrition analysis software. When you analyze your recipes for calorie counts and nutrition information, the software will automatically let you know which claims you qualify for.
Allergen Statements: Food allergies and intolerances are rampant these days, making it difficult for many customers to eat safely in restaurants. Providing allergen statements for the eight major allergens can be hugely helpful for these folks, as well as for people who choose not to eat certain foods. It’s up to you how you want your allergen information to appear on your menu, but I recommend using icons to symbolize which allergens are present in each dish. Include a key in one corner of your menu so customers can check what each symbol means. This way, customers don’t have to worry about having a reaction and will leave your establishment feeling great!
Using Online Nutrition Analysis Software to Create a Healthy Menu
Using an online nutrition analysis software like MenuCalc can be incredibly useful in helping you obtain all this information for your healthy menu. While it may seem like a lot of info to gather, MenuCalc provides it all with each recipe analysis you perform, so it isn’t any extra work.
To obtain this information from MenuCalc, simply:
- Create an account and sign in using your password.
- Enter your recipe using our USDA-compiled database, and add your serving size.
- Calorie counts and nutrition information will immediately appear.
- Review the allergen report showing which of the eight major allergens are present in your recipe.
- See which nutrient content claims your recipe qualifies for.
If you truly want to create a healthy menu your customers can trust, providing calorie counts, nutrition information, nutrient content claims, and allergen statements on your menu is critical. Diners want this information in order to make the best and most informed decisions possible for their health, and with MenuCalc, you can easily provide it for them.
MenuCalc is an industry-leading online nutrition analysis software used and trusted by health-conscious restaurants of all sizes. Try our free 15-day trial or contact us today. Short on time? Our expert menu labeling consultants are happy to do your recipe analysis for you.