Restaurants are adding more healthful items to their menus, according to research from Mintel.
Data released Wednesday by the Chicago-based market research firm found the number of menu items that restaurants labeled as "healthy" increased 65 percent from the second quarter of 2009 through the second quarter of 2010.
The study also found the number of menu items featuring fruits or vegetables increased 10 percent between the second quarter of 2007 and the second quarter of 2010. Menu items labeled as vegetarian increased 12 percent during that same three-year period.
Mintel said it monitored 350 of the largest chain restaurants, 200 independent restaurants and 25 beverage-centric restaurants for the study.
In another study that polled 2,000 adults online, respondents told Mintel they were eating more healthfully when dining out, and ordering more fruits and vegetables when choosing their menu items.
“Healthy menu development opportunity exists in providing vegetable and seafood appetizers, soups, salads and entrées,” said Eric Giandelone, director of food research at Mintel. “An added bonus in offering these ingredients is if [they are] prepared thoughtfully, they will naturally cut down on the fat and calories of a menu item, making it a more favorable choice for their patrons.”
Giandelone also said operators should follow guidelines recommended last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which urged restaurants to pay more attention to creating healthful kids’ menus in order to fight the nation's childhood obesity epidemic.
“Restaurants should start considering how they’re going to make kids’ menus healthier,” Giandelone said. “It’s important to get feedback from both parents and kids to provide a healthy balance on the menu that kids will want to eat and parents will approve of.”
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