- Shake the salt habit – Minimize the use of processed foods, use fresh or frozen ingredients when possible or look 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.
- Keep it simple – Use simple, back-to-basics prep and cooking methods such as steaming 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.
- Up the nutrition – Increase the amount of fruit, vegetables and whole grains in your dishes and feature them more prominently. Fruit and vegetables are not only versatile and loaded with nutrition, but also add colour, flavour and texture. Most whole grains are nutrition packed and work well in all food categories. Additionally, these whole foods provide fibre and a feeling of fullness.
- Balance the plate – Fill half the plate with fruit and vegetables, one-quarter with protein rich foods and one-quarter with grains (preferably whole grains) for a balanced and healthy plate. Offer meat alternatives such as legumes and soy products for appetizing mains and nutritious vegetarian options.
- Cut the calories – Many consumers are looking for lower calorie options when dining out. Prepare foods simply using the healthier cooking methods mentioned above, watch the added fat and minimize use of highly processed foods, which are often high in calories, fat and sodium. Offer appropriate portion sizes.
- Watch the size – Over the years, some restaurant menu item portion sizes have increased in an effort to provide more value and as a result, some Canadians could be eating much more than necessary. But diners are now expecting value not just in terms of quantity, but also in quality. Focus on “better” not “bigger.” Instead of filling up the plate, plate your food in a creative and appealing way.
- Offer healthy choices for kids – More and more Canadians want healthy options for their kids when dining out. Promote and cook up some appetizing and healthy options for kids. Instead of fried foods combined with soft drinks, 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. Get creative with your menu names to appeal to your young customers. Make it fun.
About the author
Samara Foisy is a registered dietitian of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. She works with the Foundation’s food information program, Health CheckTM, to help restaurants provide healthier options for their diners.