Diners say taste outweighs health when ordering

CHICAGO Despite increased demand for nutrition information about restaurant menu items, a new survey indicates that American diners still don’t order more healthful options, Mintel International said Monday.

In a survey of consumers, the Chicago-based market research firm found that although one in five respondents, or 20 percent, ranked food health as an important factor when ordering dinner, 77 percent ranked taste as more important and 44 percent said hunger satisfaction was essential.

Three-quarters of respondents also said they would like to see more healthful items on restaurant menus, but only slightly more than half, or 51 percent, said they usually order them.

“There’s definitely a dichotomy between what people say they want and what they actually do when it comes to healthy restaurant eating,” said Maria Caranfa, a registered dietitian and director of Mintel Menu Insights. “Over eight in 10 adults told us it’s very or somewhat important to them to eat healthy, but when it comes to dining out, most people are really looking for taste, texture and experience. So healthy menu items need to perfect the balance between nutrition and flavor.”

Price, however, may also be a factor, the survey found. More than half, or 54 percent, said the healthful options on menus tend to be more expensive.

“When it comes to healthy menu items, the prices are often higher and less promoted,” said Caranfa.

In addition, less healthful options tend to dominate most menus, the survey found. Looking at menu additions by restaurants during the first quarter, Mintel found that only 5 percent of new menu items carried a nutritional claim, and one in five food items was fried.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected] [2].