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Six Tips to Reduce Calories on Your Restaurant Menu

Dec 12, 2014
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently rolled out two rules requiring that calorie information be listed on menus and menu boards in chain restaurants, similar retail food establishments and vending machines with 20 or more locations. These new requirements have food service operators scrambling, because the truth may hard to swallow- many menu items at restaurants are very calorie dense.

One strategy for coping is to reduce the amount of high calorie meat or starch in recipes, and replace that volume with low calorie, nutrient packed produce! Though it's a big change, not to worry, according to Technomic, 67% of Americans now say they feel a vegetarian meal can be just as satisfying as a non-veggie version.

With the shifting attitude towards vegetables, we've compiled a list of ideas to help you reinvent your menu and keep your health conscious customers happy:

  1. Stack your sides. Cut down portion sizes of meat, then place the vegetables on top of the entree rather than keeping them in the corners of the plate, this adds volume visually without piling on calories.
  2. Put the entree inside the vegetable. Stuffing protein inside items like peppers and mushrooms helps keep the the portions manageable and calories down.
  3. Grind veggies into the entree. For example, grinding mushrooms in with beef for a hamburger patty helps keep the volume up and calories down, while simultaneously packing extra flavor.
  4. Reexamine the ingredients. There are all sorts of low calorie vegetable alternatives to starches these days. Use zucchini ribbons or spaghetti squash instead of pasta, or grated cauliflower for rice.
  5. Build the dish around the vegetables. Rethink how you create new entrees, start by considering the fresh produce you want to use, and build the flavors around them.
  6. Use produce to add visual interest. Fresh produce is beautiful to behold, so flaunt it.
Do you have any additional tips on how you've successfully used produce to improve the nutrition of your menu items? Let us know!

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