Restaurant Equipment & Supply

Making Your Menu Items Healthier

Aug 26, 2014 9:55:51 AM

Making Your Menu Items Healthier

The Five Most Common Menu Items Made Healthier

The restaurant industry is constantly under pressure to offer increasingly healthy menu options. Diners are actively looking for ways to cut back on calories, sodium, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and other ingredients that are unfavorable to good nutrition. With so many consumers being more conscious of what they eat, especially when they eat out, restaurants need to be increasingly aware of the nutritional content of their meals. Below are a few tips from an online article published by QSR Magazine on how restaurants can make nutritional improvements to five of the most popular menu items: burgers, fries, pizza, sandwiches and chicken.

The hamburger has proven to be a mainstay of the American diet, and data shows that the burger will not be decreasing in popularity anytime soon. While many restaurants have tried to enhance their burger offerings by touting premium ingredients and better product sourcing, restaurant operators are still finding it difficult to create an actual “healthy” burger.

Nutritional analysts have concluded that the main issue with burgers is their high content of calories and saturated fats. Surprisingly enough the bun is one of the higher calorie ingredients in a burger, with many buns containing upwards of 300 calories. One way to combat this is to use a smaller bun or consider offering a bun-less burger wrapped with lettuce. Another way to cut some of the calories and fat is to use a leaner grade of meat. You could also try offering other types of protein, such as turkey burgers or veggie burgers.

French fries are undoubtedly the most popular side item for most restaurants.  Although fries are not quite as bad as one might think, they still contain more than their share of calories, fat, and sodium. In general, potatoes have the ability to be a relatively healthy side option as they are a great source of potassium and fiber.
Many pre-packaged, frozen fries have a coating added to the potato, which increases the fat, sodium, and carbohydrate content of the fries and give them their bad rap. One of the simplest ways to increase the nutritional value of your fries is to make them yourself with fresh, hand-cut potatoes. The nutritional value of the fries will also increase if you leave the skin on the potato, which will save valuable time during the preparation process.  The frying process also affects the fat content of French fries.  If your oil is hot and clean you will be able to prevent your fries from soaking up as much fat from the fry oil.

When made thoughtfully, pizza has the potential to be a healthy menu item. One of main reasons why pizza can so unhealthy is that diners often end up eating more than the recommended serving size. However, there are ways to improve the nutrition of individual ingredients in the pizza.

One of the easiest places to start is the crust. Serving a thin crusted pizza is an easy way to cut some of the calories and carbohydrates. Restaurants that make their own crust also have the ability to experiment with different types of flours, which can be another easy way to boost the nutritional value of the pizza.  Other adjustments can be made by using leaner meats, fresh vegetable toppings, and using low- or reduced-fat cheeses.

Known as one of the most customizable menu staples, the sandwich has seen a fair amount of innovation and attention regarding quality ingredients. However, when you break down the ingredients in a sandwich, it can kind of make you wonder why sandwiches are thought of as a healthy menu item. Most breads contains a high carbohydrate count, deli meats and cheeses are known for having a high sodium content, and added condiments can quickly increase the calorie and fat content.

Probably one of the first places to start when trying to increase the nutritional value of your sandwich offerings is the bread. Try giving diners a bread choice such as white or whole wheat, or even offering a low-carb option like a flatbread or a wrap. You can also try to source deli meats and cheeses that feature a lower sodium content, which makes them more attractive to diners looking for heart-healthy menu options. Offering reduced fat mayonnaise can be another easy way to help cut calories. You may even consider creating your own sandwich sauces with ingredients like hummus or yogurt. 

When looking for the ultimate lean form or protein, most diners will turn towards chicken. In its natural state chicken is an excellent source of lean protein, but when seasoned, battered, and fried it becomes a completely different food. Seasonings can add additional sodium and fried breading can drive up the fat content. For optimal nutritional value, make sure you give diners a non-breaded chicken offering that is baked, grilled or boiled.

Another way to increase the health factor in your chicken is make sure you are purchasing low-sodium poultry. It is not uncommon for poultry to be injected with salt water to increase food safety, so it can be worthwhile for restaurant operators to check around to see if they can find suppliers that offer healthier, low-sodium poultry.


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