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Consumers Define ‘Healthy’ in Many Ways. Here’s How Restaurants Can Cater to Them All. 

Dessert Trends, Food Delivery, Food Trends, Foodservice, Global Flavors, Ingredient Trends, Innovation, Menu Trends, Restaurants, Sales Effectiveness

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It feels like a secret recipe that many restaurants exhaust themselves trying to crack: How to cater to health-conscious consumers when healthy means something different to just about everyone.

If you asked 100 consumers what they’re doing to eat healthier, you’d probably get 100 different answers. A quarter of consumers have decreased their red meat consumption, while more increased their intake of poultry and seafood. A high percentage of consumers are cutting sugar and sodium, and making other specific dietary tweaks. It seems that all consumers have a different idea of their perfect path to health. But they do tend to agree that it needs to happen. Almost 60% (57%) of consumers say they need to eat healthier.

How that translates to eating out can be an even more complicated recipe, given the fact that some consumers want to find restaurants that cater to their specific desires and still others want to throw health out the window when they eat out and opt for indulgent dishes.

But our recently released Healthy keynote report offers a number of consumer insights that will help operators cut through the noise, and menu healthy options that many patrons can get behind.

Here are some options consumers say would make them eat healthier at restaurants, and some research findings that can help you steer your menu:

Baked and Grilled Options

Nearly half (47%) of consumers say they would be motivated to eat healthier at restaurants if given the option of grilled or baked items that are normally fried. A third would also be motivated to choose healthy options if they were available in a combo meal or customizable. And 31% of consumers say they’d be motivated if there were no upcharge for healthier options.

Greek, Mediterranean & Asian ingredients

Consumers consider these three categories the healthiest. The top is Greek-Mediterranean, with 57% of consumers perceiving these cuisines are healthy. The next highest is Japanese, at 53%, followed by Thai, Korean and Indian.

American Food Revamp

The cuisines that consumers perceive as being the least healthy are Southern, American, Cajun and Soul. Still, there’s room to flip the script on these ideas by leaning into ingredients these cuisines prominently feature, like shrimp, blackened seafood or poultry and amping up dishes with acid, like lemon juice or vinegar, as opposed to cream or mayonnaise-based sauces.

A Variety of Entrée Salads

Sure, most people want to splurge on something indulgent when dining out. But there’s still a sizable slice of consumers who want healthy options. Over half (53%) of consumers say it’s important to them to have healthful main dish options. The most important? Salads, with 64% of consumers saying they want them on the menu, even if they opt for an indulgent meal some of the time.

Watch the Sugar (And the Salt)

Almost half (45%) of consumers are actively avoiding or limiting their sugar intake, but many are also vigilant about avoiding refined/processed sugar and artificial ingredients. The solution could be limiting the sugar in drinks and desserts, but also using ingredients that consumers view as more healthful, like maple syrup or agave nectar.

And, as we found from our Desserts report, 82% of consumers are at least somewhat interested in mini desserts. Making a dessert bite-sized might be just the ticket to get a consumer to indulge – if only for a little bit.