Snacks used to be those after-school occasions when children savored milk and cookies, or an adult grabbed an apple to tide herself over until dinner. Now snacks are edging in on meal territory, representing half of all eating occasions.

The reasons for this shift are embedded in U.S. food culture. People’s time — and therefore their traditional meals — have become increasingly fragmented, leaving snacks to carry a greater proportion of the physical, emotional, social and cultural desires people have around food, according to The Hartman Group’s 2013 report, “Modern Eating: Cultural Roots, Daily Behaviors.” For example:

  • 73% of snacking is physically driven: That includes 44 percent hunger abatement, often between meals, plus 15 percent nutritional support to recover from physical exertion or meet specific nutrient needs and 12 percent pick-me-ups for a burst of energy to combat lethargy or mental fatigue.
  • 36% of snacking is emotionally driven: That includes 23 percent “time markers” to create structure in the day and provide moments of anticipation, plus 13 percent boredom alleviation and 6 percent reward, encouragement or temporary alleviation of discipline.
  • (read more…)

As the healthy dining trend continues to gain steam, restaurants are not only competing with each other for consumers’ dining dollars, they also need to consider the growing amount of health-conscious eaters who choose to prepare food at home in order to have control over ingredients and portion size.

Offering a healthy menu with customizable options can help restaurants win these customers back and attract new ones. Crafting a healthy menu doesn’t have to mean a total overhaul, according to Joy Dubost, director of nutrition and healthy living at the National Restaurant Association. Dubost said honoring special requests to put dressing on the side or omit bread or chips can go a long way towards making customers feel as if their healthy eating needs are being met. “Along the lines of customization, I think sometimes people are afraid to either request or ask, and I would encourage folks when they go into the restaurant to ask for a special request or modification to what’s listed because a lot of times that can be accommodated,” she said. (read more…)

Healthy Dining works to inspire chefs to create healthier options for consumers and help diners find meals that fit into a healthy lifestyle. Last fall, the initiative’s dining and nutrition guide, HealthyDiningFinder.com, launched a mobile site featuring 4,000 menu items served at more than 60,000 participating restaurants to make it even easier for consumers to find healthy options on the go. I interviewed Healthy Dining’s founder Anita Jones-Mueller about how technology is impacting the restaurant industry and inspiring more consumers to turn to mobile devices for help maintaining a healthy diet.

How is technology impacting nutrition and how is that affecting the restaurant industry?

It is an exciting time of change in terms of technology and nutrition and overall in how our nation is accelerating change as it relates to how we eat. And I believe that restaurants will be a driving force in that accelerated change.

One of the biggest changes I see is the impact that mobile health technologies will have on our future and especially on the way we live and eat. (read more…)

Just ask for whole grains buttonOn Wednesday, April 2, 2014, Healthy Dining and several of Healthy Dining’s restaurant partners will join the Whole Grain Council’s annual Whole Grain Sampling Day (WGSD). Along with the participating restaurants, a medley of other foodservice entities including grocery stores, schools, workplaces and universities will also be participating. This celebration will give Americans the delicious opportunity to sample and taste the wonderful flavors of whole grains. Whole grains are an important component of a healthy day and are filled with important antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Healthy Dining Finder is promoting WGSD to consumers and restaurants via blogs on our website, HealthyDiningFinder.com, in our e-newsletter, as well as through promotion of whole-grain recipes via both Twitter and Pinterest. We’re also promoting WGSD to restaurants on RestaurantNutrition.com and in conversation when working directly with our restaurants.

Here are some examples from some of the restaurants participating:

Menu Offerings

Denny’s is delighted to show their support for Whole Grain Sampling Day by highlighting items throughout each meal of the day, such as their new Fit Fare® Fruity 7 Grain French Toast Breakfast. (read more…)

Nearly a year ago, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a challenge to New York City’s restaurants to cut their food waste in half. About 150 restaurant companies signed onto the Food Waste Challenge, including Union Square Hospitality GroupJuice Generation and Batali & Bastianich Hospitality Group’s Eataly.

For these companies, the challenge didn’t come as a big change — efforts to cut food waste were already part of their sustainability efforts, for both environmental and financial reasons. “Food waste is directly tied to food costs, so every time chefs throw something out, that’s their bottom line,” says Elizabeth Meltz, B&BHG’s director of food safety and sustainability.

Somewhere between 30% and 70% of the waste produced by restaurants is actually food waste, according to author Jonathan Bloom in his book American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food. Some 74% of restaurant waste is compostable, he writes, including food, paper and cardboard. (read more…)