TORONTO, ONTARIO ? Unilever Food Solutions is rallying restaurant chefs and operators across Canada and the United States to join the "Seductive Nutrition Challenge" by committing to remove 100 calories from one of their top dishes. Collectively, the small changes that restaurant operators make to top menu items has the potential to eliminate up to 10 million calories from restaurant meals, a goal Unilever Food Solutions set for the inaugural program.
"As part of our global Sustainable Living Plan, we are committed to making a positive impact on the health and well-being of restaurant guests," said Simon Marshall, president of Unilever Food Solutions North America. "We also recognize that in order for our customers to achieve success and deliver healthier choices for their guests, we must make the 'Seductive Nutrition' approach fit seamlessly into their operations."
Diners have echoed the desire for small adjustments rather than an overhaul to menus to help them make healthier choices when dining out. A recent Unilever Food Solutions' World Menu Report, "Seductive Nutrition," found that 66% of the diners surveyed globally noted that they look for the healthier option on menus, but the same number (66%) of respondents would prefer to have just slightly healthier food options when eating out.
Brian Wansink, director of the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University and author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, says that the consumption of an extra 100 or 200 calories can slowly add up to pounds from year to year, but awareness and small changes can have an impact on restaurant guests' eating habits and waistlines.
"Restaurateurs and chefs can make subtle changes that nudge their guests into healthier choices and better eating habits," said Wansink. "From the existing research, we've found that everything from the description of the menu item to the size of the plate to who you dine with can have an effect on a person feeling satisfied."
In addition to making their top dishes slightly healthier with ingredient and preparation adjustments, restaurant operators also can appeal to guests' senses by enhancing the menu item descriptions. The World Menu Report on "Seductive Nutrition" found that diners in nine out of 10 countries perceived the "seductive" or more improved menu description to be tastier than a neutral description.
"In recent years, chefs and restaurant operators have responded to restaurant guests' requests for healthier dishes at restaurants and eateries by including these options on their menus," said Steve Jilleba, corporate executive chef for Unilever Food Solutions. "But to encourage diners to try these dishes, we also have to design our menus so that the healthier items sound as delicious as they are so they become attractive options for restaurant guests to choose."
To help restaurant operators and chefs create healthier dishes with strong menu appeal, Unilever Food Solutions now offers several resources, including the Seductive Nutrition tool, calorie reduction techniques and tips to enhance menu item descriptions.
Unilever Food Solutions will host workshops throughout July and August to introduce the "Seductive Nutrition Challenge" and the new Seductive Nutrition tools and resources to restaurant operators. The workshops will be held in nine markets across Canada and the U.S., including Toronto, Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, KS; Portland, OR: Providence, RI; San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC.