6 Tips for Planning a Nutritious Menu

Farm_produceIt seems like the entire country was waiting with baited breath for NYC’s super-size drink ban to go into effect. Alas, in his last minute ruling, State Supreme Court Justice Milton Tingling dismissed the law. He explained the city’s Board of Health was only meant to intervene “when the City is facing imminent danger due to disease” despite Mayor Bloomberg’s protests that obesity is an epidemic.

All of the news and rhetoric regarding the sugary drink ban stuck out to me. Our society is inundated with health foods. With magazines, celebrities, and daytime talk shows boasting about the latest fad food – I’m looking at you goji berries – how do foodservice providers keep up?

Over the past decade, we’ve seen many foodservice operators commit to addressing obesity by revamping their menus to accommodate a more health-conscious society. A movement that started out as the addition of four or five gourmet salads on menus has more recently expanded to healthy appetizers, entrees and desserts. So what’s the key to planning a nutritious menu with enough variety to please picky eaters? I did a little research and found some great tips from the Idaho State Department of Education’s Healthy Menu Planning Guide. While this is geared toward child nutrition programs, the tips below are universal enough for any foodservice establishment:

  1. Strive for Balance: Balance flavors by incorporating sweet, tart, sour, savory and slightly spicy in the same menu. It will keep those taste buds awake.
  2. Emphasize Variety: Include a wide variety of foods day to day; change up the courses you serve. Include different foods and prepare them in a variety of ways, and include an unfamiliar food periodically.
  3. Add Contrast: Think about texture of foods as well as their taste and appearance. Keep in mind fluffy, crunchy, crisp, and smooth textures. Avoid having too much of the same type of food in the same meal.
  4. Think about Color: Avoid using too much of the same color in the same meal. Remember that fruits and veggies are great for adding natural color to side dishes as well as entrees.
  5. Be Aesthetically Pleasing: Consider eye appeal, think about the total presentation. By envisioning how you’ll present the meal on a plate you can ask yourself, “Would I enjoy eating this?”
  6. Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Keep in mind these guidelines developed by the Department of Health and Human Services and Agriculture when planning your menu

I’d love to hear back from you. Have you faced any challenges trying to incorporate healthier menu items?

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