Menu Wars: Should You Serve Healthy or Tasty Food?

by | Jan 25, 2023 | Restaurant Trends

Eating healthy can mean many things. For some, it is as easy as including healthy meal options on your menu. For others, it means incorporating plant-based or low-carb dishes into your weekly specials. Whatever approach you take, you will want some recipes you can trust – and there’s nothing like a roundup of what’s already a fan favorite.

According to data from Outside VoiceSMADM’s proprietary consumer insights platform, consumer interest in holistic nutrition is “skyrocketing.” While healthy food labels highlight health benefits, researchers say many people prioritize taste when choosing what to eat. Either that or more people are eating tastier-sounding labels topped with flashy words or ingredient lists. So, which should you serve at your establishment? 

Key Takeaways:

  • Consumers want to know what they are eating, and food nutrition labels (especially on menus) help restaurant-goers choose between healthy or tasty food. 
  • Healthy food options can help restaurant patrons maintain a healthy weight and healthier lifestyle.
  • Restaurants that offer healthy food options help parents instill good eating habits in their children.
  • The USDA sets guidelines for healthy and tasty food served to children and adults, and restaurant owners can glean insights on menu options based on these guidelines.

The Influence of Food Nutrition Labels  

Consumers want to know what they are eating. Originally food labels were used to warn consumers about the potential for foodborne illnesses as far back as the 1850s. By 2007, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) had finalized their guidelines and requirements for food labels, and consumers began seeing nutritional information on foods they purchased in the store.

Not long after, restaurants began adding this information to their menus. Consumers wanted to know whether what they were eating was nutritious. With all this push for nutritional facts, you may wonder why restaurants highlight the tasty qualities of foods. While consumers focus on health, it seems they want it all when it comes to tasty versus healthy food. 

Should Restaurants Serve Only Healthy Foods?

The notion that all restaurants should only have healthy food options is a controversial topic. It is possible to achieve, but how can you meet the demands of all your customers if you do not offer both healthy and tasty foods? Can food be both? Of course, they can, and here are some reasons you should absolutely serve healthy food (that’s also tasty) at your restaurant. 

Helps the Public Maintain a Healthy Weight

Consumers want healthy options. That is why many niche restaurants and cafes cater to people who only want to eat healthy regardless of taste. For example, the restaurant Sweetgreen, located in Philadelphia and Houston, focuses its menu on only offering healthy options to build “healthier communities by connecting people to real food,” quoting their mission statement. They believe it is essential to keep patrons healthy by helping them maintain a healthier diet. 

That can help consumers maintain a healthy weight and lead a healthier lifestyle. It can be difficult to do, but if more restaurants serve healthy food, patrons will have an easier time eating healthy to help them maintain a healthy weight. Keep in mind that you do not have to only serve healthy foods, but consumers want these options.

Healthy Eating Leads to Overall Healthier Lifestyles   

Eating a healthy diet promotes good overall health and wellness. Plus, this practice can prevent not only illnesses but also some diseases. A Harvard study showed that people are more likely to live longer when they make better lifestyle choices. Beyond immunity, the Harvard research revealed that people that follow these five key habits live over 10 years longer on average than their counterparts: 

  • Eating healthy
  • Keeping a healthy body weight
  • Regular exercise
  • Not smoking
  • Not drinking too much alcohol

Infographic of how people who tend to eat healthier live healthier lifestyles.

Image Courtesy of Harvard School of Public Health

Help Instill Good Eating Habits in Children

Parents that eat healthy tend to have children with good eating habits. Yet, when eating out, children will often gravitate toward foods that are not as healthy, like ordering chicken nuggets and fries instead of a salad. If restaurants offer tasty healthy food options, children will be more likely to choose those. It is also a good idea to make food fun for children eating at your restaurant – for instance offering foods they can eat with their hands. 

What the USDA Says About Serving Tasty or Healthy Foods  

The USDA created worksheets for schools to help empower Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) providers to implement meal configuration requirements. Restaurant owners can use this as a basis to balance healthy and tasty food options on their menus. The CACFP also has options for people of all ages and can provide restaurant owners with menu ideas. 

Infographic of healthy and tasty foods in the Child and Adult Care Food Program published by the USDA.

Image Courtesy of USDA

See the Latest Consumer Trends at the Next SIAL America Food Show

Consumers today want healthy and tasty food options, and there isn’t much room for compromise. Fortunately for restaurant owners and chefs, incorporating menu items that give customers both are easier than ever – especially with the rise of plate-based foods

At SIAL America, we bring food service and hospitality professionals together under one roof. Stay up-to-date with the latest consumer trends centered on healthy and tasty foods and collaborate with other big names in the food and beverage industry. Discover new ways to create a menu that will ultimately boost profits while keeping your patrons happy and coming back for more. 

Register as an exhibitor or attendee today to be a part of SIAL America 2023 in Las Vegas. We look forward to seeing you there.