Made ya’ look! But don’t feel guilty for clicking on the link; we’re talking about health food items for your menu. Trends are showing a continued interest in more petite and healthy selections to help folks slim their waistlines. What really makes a menu item ‘healthy’? While some only factor in the calorie count, there are others who take into account the overall selection of the menu item. Let’s clarify the general consensus for ‘healthy’ while giving your creativity a kick in the tuckus, which is sure to be slimmer after eating healthier meals!
Healthy Dining is a restaurant and nutrition guideline for what constitutes a healthy meal. U-T San Diego says, ‘Healthy Dining, while it maintains a set of strict criteria for determining what makes it onto its list of healthful restaurant dishes, it also acknowledges that the menu items don't necessarily meet the FDA's even stricter definition of what is healthy.’ So while many of these recommendations may not meet the FDA standards for ‘healthy’, they’re generally regarded as healthier selections that are appropriate for restaurants.
Here are the key criteria by which restaurant menu items are measured:
Entrées (or full meals) must include at least two of the following:
- Fruits and/or Vegetables
- Lean Protein (skinless white meat poultry, fish, seafood, beef, pork, tofu, beans, eggs)
- Whole Grains
- Unsaturated Fats
Menu items must meet the following criteria:
Entrées (or full meals)
- 750 calories or less
- 25 grams of fat or less
- 8 grams of saturated fat or less
Appetizers, side dishes and desserts
- 250 calories or less
- 8 grams of fat or less
- 3 grams of saturated fat or less
Spending a little extra time designing a menu to these parameters - even if it’s just a few selections in addition to your main lineup - can mean big profits for your restaurant. Eating out at restaurants used to be considered a splurge, but now health-conscious Americans still try to mind their waistline even when dining out. You may want to consider hiring a dietician to help with your healthy menu selections.
Both the ingredients you use and the methods you use to cook them will determine the overall ‘healthiness’ of any given entree. An experienced chef or dietician can help you wade through the muck to achieve a tasty, flavorful, healthy selection.