Nutrition trends to watch for in Canadian restaurants and foodservice operations

Top three nutrition trends to boost your bottom line
By Sue Mah
February 7, 2012


One of the best things I love about my job is keeping up with the ever changing nutrition news and top trends. It’s exciting to see national and international news shaping the foods we buy and eat. Here are my top three nutrition headlines and how they could help boost your bottom line.

Ethical eating

Whole Foods supermarkets are now labelling their meat in a way that goes well beyond vitamins and minerals. Using a unique five-step, colour-coded animal welfare rating program, each package of meat sold at their stores tells consumers exactly how the animals were reared. It’s an innovative animal welfare labelling program that started in the U.S. and is currently offered in six Canadian Whole Foods locations.

The rating varies for each type of meat, but generally a minimum rating of one means that the farmer hasn’t used any antibiotics, growth hormones or animal by-products in their feed. As you move up the rating system, the animals must have had access to outdoors and received no physical alterations such as beak trimming, tail docking or teeth removal. Restaurants such as McDonalds and Burger King have already announced animal welfare guidelines and policies such as trying to use cage-free eggs. Just a month ago, in Washington DC, the Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) hosted the State of the Plate DC conference to discuss how restaurants and foodservice can meet the growing consumer demand for sustainably raised meat.

Opportunity: Think beyond local and organic. Get in touch with farmers and make a commitment to sustainable high-welfare farming practices. Share this info with your customers and patrons.

Healthier menus

Darden Restaurants in the U.S. has unveiled plans for a comprehensive new health and wellness initiative. As the world’s largest full-service restaurant company, Darden has signed a legally binding agreement to lower the sodium and calories of its menu items at all of its Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Steakhouse, and other portfolio restaurants. Sodium and calories will be reduced by ten per cent by the year 2016, and down another ten per cent by the year 2021.

Kids’ menus will be more nutritious too. Fruits or vegetables will automatically be served as the default side dish option for kids’ meals, and one per cent milk will be the automatic beverage. Carbonated beverages will not be shown on children’s menus. These changes are expected to be fully implemented by July 2012. First Lady Michelle Obama was on site to share in the announcement, calling this a “breakthrough moment in the restaurant industry” that may help to solve the challenge of childhood obesity.

Opportunity: What can you do to gradually reduce the sodium, fat and caloric content of your menu items? How can you make your kids’ meals healthier?

Meatless Mondays

The Meatless Monday campaign started in 2003, spearheaded by John Hopkins School of Public Health. The intent is not to totally give up meat, but to go meatless at least one day of the week. According to the campaign, reducing meat consumption one day of the week can reduce the risk of chronic diseases and have a beneficial impact on the environment. The overall goal is to make choices that are good for both the people and the planet.

Last year, Iron Chef Mario Batali announced that all 14 of his restaurants would be offering Meatless Monday options. Today, Meatless Mondays have been wildly successful. Case in point – foodservice provider Sodexo announced in January of this year that it would support the Meatless Mondays campaign in over 900 hospital locations across America. Fast forward four months and Sodexo is now offering Meatless Mondays menus to about 3,000 corporate cafeterias and hospitals across the U.S.

In a press release, Arlin Wasserman, vice president sustainability and CSR at Sodexo says, “Meat production can be a significant source of carbon and water emissions. Reducing meat consumption in our diets is an easy step we can all take to lead healthier lives and contribute to a more sustainable food system.”

Opportunity: If you haven’t already, start thinking about creative and delicious Meatless Monday menu options for your patrons. “We’re asking our chefs to be much more creative in the vegan and vegetarian space than they are accustomed to,” says Arlin.

See also: 

About the author

Dietitian Sue Mah is president of Nutrition Solutions Inc., a company specializing in nutrition and media communications. As a nutrition writer and consultant to food and beverage industry, she has helped to develop national nutrition resources and educational media campaigns. Sue teaches aworkshop called “Nutrition for NON-Nutritionists” designed for food/beverage, marketing, sales and PR professionals.

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