Nutrition-wise blog

A call for healthier options across the globe

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. June 12, 2012

Americans aren't the only ones who want help making healthy choices when they're eating out.

Consumers from around the globe were asked about what they want when they eat out. The research, conducted by Unilever Food Solutions, included individuals from the U.S., United Kingdom, Germany, China, Brazil, Russia, Turkey, Poland, South Africa and Indonesia.

The researchers found that 90 percent of those polled in non-Western countries want information available to guide healthier choices. Other interesting results include:

  • 70 percent of those surveyed claim that knowing nutrition content of meals would influence their choices.
  • Westerners would like clearer direction about salt.
  • Those in China want to know about vitamins and protein content.

Even though 66 percent of consumers say they seek the healthier option on a menu, 72 percent say they "treat themselves" when eating out. Good intentions do not always translate into action. What are the perceived barriers?

  • 75 percent don't know recommended daily intake of fat.
  • 57 percent believe that healthier options are more expensive.
  • 45 percent say that healthy food isn't filling.
  • 43 percent say that healthy options are less appetizing.

These results point out that while healthier options are wanted, they must be perceived as filling, appealing and budget-friendly.

The study provides some glimpses of how restaurants could make this happen:

  • 65 percent of people say that they would like a "slightly healthier" dish when eating out.
  • When presented with a healthy dish described plainly or in more appealing terms, most respondents choose the one with more appealing wording.
  • Items that are higher in vegetables and lower in fat are seen as more important for health than those designated as lower in calories.

Is it possible that the tide is turning? I certainly believe so. How about you? How can restaurants make this happen?

- Jennifer

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June 12, 2012