How cafes and restaurants can help customers eat more healthily
As much as a quarter of our calories come from eating outside the home. That is one of the reasons why the food and drink being offered out-of-home is currently a key focus for public health policy.
Eating out in Edinburgh
Following some of my own research, which involved me consuming meals and snacks in a variety of cafes and restaurants in Edinburgh, there are quite a few actions that these places could take to help customers eat healthier.
In Edinburgh, as in many cities, there is a wide range of places to grab lunch on-the-go, enjoy a meal or have a drink and snack. From my own observations there seems to be an increasing number of places promoting themselves as cafes for health-conscious customers, or offering ‘healthy’ grab-and-go food and drink options. But how can customers tell if the food has been prepared using healthier ingredients and preparation methods?
The healthyliving Award
One way to know if a cafe or restaurant is offering healthier food and drink is to look out for places that have achieved the healthyliving Award. This is a national award for the foodservice sector in Scotland. The award criteria are based on general principles of a healthy balanced diet and have been developed with Scottish dietary targets in mind. The criteria ensure that healthier ingredients and cooking methods are used to keep fat, salt and sugars to a minimum.
From my role as a healthyliving assessor and from my own observations as a Nutritionist here’s 10 suggestions on what cafes and restaurants could do to help customers eat more healthily.
10 suggestions to help your customers eat more healthily
Offer undressed salad and don’t add salt. You could offer a vinegar-based dressing and herbs so that customers can add this to their own salad if they choose.
Include vegetables, beans and pulses in dishes whenever possible and cook vegetables by steaming, microwaving or stir frying.
Use oils that are higher in unsaturated fats such as olive oil or rapeseed oil rather than butter or coconut oil. Replace cream with yoghurt or quark and use cornflour to thicken sauces rather than making a roux-based sauce.
Minimise sugars by using dried fruit or fruit juices to sweeten dishes rather than sugars or sweeteners.
Let your customers know about how you are making their food healthier. Where applicable use messages such as: ‘we always use reduced-fat mayonnaise’ or ‘no butter or margarine is used in sandwich preparation’.
Make tap water easily accessible to customers.
Having an attractive looking and clearly visible fruit basket may be an easy action for some cafes and quick service eateries.
Make sure front-of-house staff are aware of the healthier catering practices you use and what the healthier options are on the menu so that they can inform customers.
Offer healthy incentives such as lunch meal deals at a discount, which include, for example, a sandwich, low-fat yoghurt and a piece of fruit.
Make the most of the various awareness days to promote your business and your healthy options. For example, this week (from 8th July) is Great British Pea Week – Can you highlight your pea and mint soup special? Or can you offer Crushed peas and chilli flakes on toast as an interesting alternative to avocado toast? National Cherry Day is coming up on the 16th of July and National Cheesecake Day is the 30th July. For smaller independent cafes and restaurants - can you offer customers a Cherry Kefir Cheesecake to celebrate both of these awareness days?! If you do, please let me know as I’ll be first in line to try it!
For more suggestions, you can read the article I wrote for Food Spark on ‘What can caterers do to help people eat better?’
As a Registered Nutritionist, I offer tailored advice to cafes, restaurants and quick service eateries to help them meet the growing consumer demand for healthier food and improve their image as a responsible health conscious business.
If you’d like to know more, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org