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Menu Development Series: Changing Views on Healthy Foods

Menu Development Series: Changing Views on Healthy Foods


Last Published: 01/31/2019

Menu Development Series: Changing Views on Healthy Foods

Not your mother’s health food.


Reading the health call-outs on a menu today looks very different than in the past. The definition of health is continually evolving and now takes on a more positive, “better-for-you” spin rather than being about deprivation. Yesterday’s menu highlighted lower calories, fats and sodium content, while today’s menus emphasize freshness, clean labeling and natural ingredients. Beyond the labeling, operators are also experimenting extensively with substituting healthier options for traditional ingredients, such as South American or Indian spices for salt and Greek or Australian yogurt for sour cream.

Today, having healthier options on menus has become mainstream as consumers continue to learn about the nutritional benefits and pitfalls of certain ingredients. Over a third of consumers (37%) say they are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers some healthy options. A third of consumers (33%) also say that health is very important in their decision of which restaurant to visit.

In the future, look for the demand for plant-based proteins to increase. While burgers made with beans, mushrooms, quinoa and other ingredients are popping up on menus currently, expect to see more experimentation with menu items such as pulled pork tacos made from jackfruit.

Also, snacking will increasingly replace meals. Operators should position small plates as snack items and offer healthier snack options for in between meals.

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