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Exploring Options for Improving Restaurant Nutrition


A free webinar on Dec. 17 will study policy and program options for improving the nutritional quality of food and beverages served in restaurants.

The webinar comes on the heels of a new report issued by the RAND Corporation, which organized a group of experts to develop strong nutritional guidelines for healthier restaurant meals for adults and children. Improving the nutritional quality of the food and beverages served in restaurants and food outlets is vital in the effort to reduce obesity rates, as Americans consume nearly a third of calories and spend nearly half of their food budgets outside the home. Leader Christine Fry, a senior policy analyst and program director at ChangeLab Solutions, will moderate the webinar, which is slated to begin at 2 p.m. Eastern. Scheduled speakers include Kasey Pape, a registered dietitian with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District; Kathy Payne, director of health promotion for the Certified Healthy Oklahoma Restaurants Program; and Deborah Cohen, a senior natural scientist at the RAND Corporation.

The RAND report recommends that restaurant meals for adults should be limited to 700 calories or less and should include at least 1.5 cups of fruits or vegetables, less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fat, less than 770 milligrams of sodium and less than 35 percent of calories from sugars.  For children, meals should be less than 600 calories and include half a cup of fruits of vegetables. In addition, neither meal should include a sugar-sweetened beverage.

Many states and localities have implemented a number of strategies in recent years to help restaurants serve healthier fare.

For example, some have implemented voluntary healthy restaurant programs, which allow restaurants to receive free publicity and incentives in exchange for offering healthier menu items. Other strategies include point-of-purchase labeling that combines outreach and education to market healthy items.

In the RAND report, experts proposed the creation of a certification system, run by a government agency or nonprofit organization, which would allow restaurants to receive official certification as a healthier restaurant.  Restaurants would be required to meet certain criteria, such as offering at least three meals or 10 percent of items that meet the proposed nutritional guidelines. In addition, restaurants would earn points for meeting other criteria, ranging from making low- or no-calorie beverages the default items with meals or allowing customers to split a meal without charging extra.

Click here to read the full RAND report, titled Performance Standards for Restaurants: A New Approach to Addressing the Obesity Epidemic.

Click here to sign up for the Dec. 17 webinar, titled Healthy Eating Out: Raising the Bar for Nutrition at Restaurants.