Top 10 techniques and tips for healthy options on your restaurant’s menu

On the menu: healthy options
By Shirley Kragtwyk-Lefevre, Health Check program, Heart and Stroke Foundation
August 25, 2011

Healthy menu options

Most people enjoy eating outside the home and increasingly, for many Canadians, dining out is a regular part of life. According to CRFA Foodservice Facts and the CREST/NPD Group, there are 17.7 million restaurant visits in Canada each day. 


With these visitor rates, the restaurant and foodservice industry has a great opportunity to satisfy its customers’ growing appetite for healthy choices. The CRFA’s 2011 Chef’s Survey identified nutrition and health as third in their Top 10 Hot Trends. Interesting, other trends in the survey include locally produced food, sustainability, simplicity/back to basics and ancient grains. This clearly indicates that consumers are more knowledgeable and increasingly conscious of the foods they eat. They are looking for choices that are good for them and also make them feel good about their selections.

Canadians are also faced with a huge number of food choices and conflicting health messages.  It can be challenging trying to sort out many pieces of the nutrition puzzle. Restaurant diners are most

Nethris/CGI Jan - 2016

interested in information about fat, sodium, calorie count and protein to help them make their decisions. And consumers are looking for healthier choices in all food categories from starters to desserts. 

Top 10 techniques and tips for healthy options on your menu

  1. Offer choices that are healthy AND delicious – According to the 2010 Canadian Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report by Technomic, only 17 per cent of Canadian consumers feel that food described as healthy does not taste as good as other options. The Canadian Council of Food and Nutrition reports that taste is the number one factor in how Canadians choose the food they eat, but nutrition is a close second. Experiment and use kitchen creativity!
  2. Give them the facts – Provide nutrition information as much as possible, such as calories, fat and sodium for your guests to help them make an informed decision.
  3. Watch the fat – Use lesser amounts of fat and healthier types of oil like olive or canola as ingredients and in food preparation and cooking. Use low fat ingredients or substitutions in recipes, and employ healthier cooking methods like roasting, poaching, grilling and steaming. Add flavour and nutrition by using broth, juices, and fruit and vegetable purees in dressings and sauces. Also skim fat from stock, trim fat from meats and remove skin from poultry. 
  4. Shake the salt habit – Canadians are being encouraged to reduce their salt intake.  You can help by minimizing the use of processed foods that are high in salt, using fresh or frozen ingredients when possible or looking for no or low salt alternatives. Limit the amount of salt added in prep and cooking by exploring a variety of herbs, spices and other salt-free seasonings as well as layering flavours during food preparation and cooking.
  5. Keep it simple – Use simple, back to basics prep and cooking methods to minimize added fat and sodium and maintain the nutritional integrity of foods. If needed, add well-proportioned amounts of low fat garnishes, sauces and condiments with just enough to enhance the food. 
  6. Increase overall nutrition – Increase the amount of fruits, vegetables and whole grains in most dishes and feature them more often as centre of the plate and main entrees. Fruits and vegetables are not only versatile and loaded with nutrition, but also add colour, flavour and texture. Most whole grains are nutrition packed, relatively inexpensive, and work well in all food categories in many different recipes and types of cuisines. Additionally, these whole foods provide fibre and a feeling of satiety.
  7. Balanced plate – Fill half the plate with fruit and vegetables, one-quarter protein rich foods and one-quarter grains (preferably whole grains) for a balanced and healthy plate.  Offer meat alternatives such as fish, legumes, pulses and soy products for appetizing mains and nutritious vegetarian options. 
  8. Cut the calories – Consumers are looking for lower calorie options when dining out. Prepare foods simply using healthy cooking methods and minimize use of highly processed foods which are often high in calories, fat and sodium. Offer appropriate portion sizes.
  9. Size counts – Over the years, portion sizes have increased significantly at home and away. As a result, Canadians are eating much more than necessary. But today’s diners are now expecting value not just in terms of quantity, but also in quality. Focus on “better” not “bigger.”
  10. Offer healthy choices for kids – Promote and cook up some appetizing and healthy options for kids. Develop tasty lower fat and sodium options with more fibre. Include nutritious sides of whole grains and vegetables and fruits with nutritious yogurt based dips. Offer milk or 100 per cent fruit juice as children’s beverages.

For more information on how to make your menu healthier, visit

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