Mandatory Nutrition Labeling
There has been a lot of discussion about requiring restaurants-typically chains-to post nutrition information for their menu items. To date, only one jurisdiction- King County, Washington- has enacted such legislation, and it goes into effect August1, 2008. This legislation requires King County restaurants that are part of a chain with 10 or more outlets nationally to sqecify nutrition information for each item (including calories, carbohydrates, fats and sodium) that is on their menu for at least 60days. Information for beverages, including wine, liquor, etc. must also be listed.
A well-publicized measure proposed in New York City was overturned by a judge. And in October, California's Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed legislation that would have made California the first state to require restaurants with 14 or more locations to post calorie information on restaurant menus. Similar legislation is pending in six states( Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylwania)and Washington, D.C., as well as in Chicago,Philadelphia, Westchester County(NY)and Montgomery County (MD).
Legislation banning the use of artificial trans fats in restaurant-prepared foods has been enacted in eight municipalitied, including Philadelphia and New York; and defeated in six states. Several municipalities,including Los Angeles and Baltimore, are encouraging voluntary compliance with trans fat elimination/reduction measures, along with an educational campaign. Legislation has been introduced in another eight states, including California , Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, New Jersey and Cermont. Stay tuned to see how these turn out.
So what do these measures mean for you in the event that they pass?Regardless of whether the government requires you to post nutrition information or refrain from using artificial trans fats, the fact is that a growing number of consumers are looking for healthier ooptions and nuttition information. So, many restaurant operators believe that part of their business strategy should include accommodating the needs of health-and nutrition-minded diners.
The National Reataurant Association provides an excellent overview on what's happening in your area as well as nationwide with respect to nutrition-related legislation. To stay up to date,pleasevisit:http://www.restaurant.org/government/state/nutrition/index.cfm.
In adddition to the legislative issues that made headlines in2007,several nurtition trends have gained traction:
Greater interest in healthier choices for kids-both in terms of packaged foods and restaurant menu offerings. Manufacturers and public health officials are recognizing that the health of our children is at risk. And now, they're beginning to adopt solutions.
Increased focus on organic and Iocally grown foods-such choices have a "halo"effect in terms of being healthful, and locally grown certainly means more environmentally friendly. What's more, organic and locally grown foods often taste better. They're picked at their peak and are featured on menus that night.
More fruits and vegetables -each week seems to bring another study touting the health benefits of fruits and vegetables.
No more shuning of carbohydrates, but a focus on healthy complex carbohydrates
like brown rice and whole wheat pasta-an appreciation of whole grains is gaining ground. In fact, many Asian restaurants are offering brown rice in addition to white, and are finding that an increasing number of consumers are asking gor these options.
Small plates-2007 brought the rise of "small plates", with more and more restaurants recognizing consumers interest in options . With small plates, diners can order two or three dishes, try them all, and still fit into their jeans at the end of the meal. They also offer guests an opportunity to taste several chefs creations rather than just one.
The importance of phytochemicals and individual nutrients-consumers are becoming savvier about what they put on their plate. They're learning how different nutrients affect their bodied and what they can do to boost their immunity and stave off disease. And they 're looking to restaurateurs to proveide them with healthful options that feature these nutrients. For example, omega-3s in fish.
Gluten-free and allergen information-those with allergies and conditions like celiac disease (who can't consume foods that contain gluten) are speaking up. Look for more products and recipes that are geared for their needs.