The Healthy Food Issue

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When New York City tried to ban supersized soft drinks, there was an uproar loud and clear. Not only would the ban of supersized soft drinks hurt sales, but people didn’t want to be bullied by the local government making a decision for them about a personal choice. So, just what is the healthy food issue about?


What Are People Objecting To?

Most people do want to eat healthy.  They like having the calorie count, fat content and other information about nutrition on the sides of packages and on their fast food orders, so that isn’t the issue. What people don’t like is having the right of decision taken away from them. The Harvard’s School of Public Health did a poll on the new health issues. People were behind the effort to get kids to exercise more and eat more fruits and vegetables. What people objected to is not having their voices heard in the process and feeling forced to comply with new rules whether they agreed with them or not.


How is This Impacting the Food Service Industry?

Few food service operators can ignore the growing demand for gluten free foods, or the public’s desire for finding ways to reduce sugar, salt and bad fats in foods if they want to keep sales. By being inventive and trying new ways to serve food, food service operators are coping. School districts are struggling to stay within the guidelines mandated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dealing with new meal regulations though. Corporate Chef Ryan McNulty of Metz and Associates of Dallas, Pa., says “We offer different flavor profiles so guests can customize their meals,” McNulty says. “They can have a different soup every day even if we don’t change a thing on the line.” He adds that in testing done with students, “kids really liked the idea. Everyone loves soup, and with the new regulations, the one comforting standard we’ve found is soup.”


What About Costs?

Because of the rising food prices, innovations often are cost effective. Meatless Mondays is a healthy and price friendly alternative to meat. The cost of a plant based meal instead of a meat based one is a substantial difference and helps make up on the cost factor. “Most hospital cafeterias are struggling with prices; the cost of food is going through the roof,” says Eric Eisenberg, executive chef for Swedish Health Services in Seattle. “We’ve already cut as much as we can in all areas of our budget. But I can’t raise prices at the same rate as our food costs are increasing, or I’d lose all my customers.”


Another option is to make smaller portions as a cost-containment measure which is called “rightsize” portions. Because the portion sizes that are used by fast food companies are equal to two to three sized standard serving sizes, people are used to larger portions. By using the “right size” portion, the food service operators can use the option for the healthy size as a portion control for their customers who want to be aware of and be proactive in what they are eating. Also offering quality over quantity has been found to be a better control for servers in dealing with health conscious diners, and the cost is more effective.


So it boils down to people don’t object to eating healthier if they have the choice; it’s not having the choice that is upsetting. And happy people equal greater sales.


Photo by NCI / Wikimedia


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