Article contributed by Lucy Wyndham
An estimated 66% of American adults are overweight or obese and the number of children and adolescents who are overweight is rapidly rising.
Convenience is more important than ever before with people’s lifestyles demanding food on the go and quick options. It seems the majority of the catering industry has gravitated towards foods that are delicious but have very little nutritional value. This has resulted in people eating foods on a daily basis that should only be consumed as a treat. So, just how much can the catering industry do to help take on the growing obesity problem?
Offer healthy options
As of 2018, the FDA requires chain restaurants to list calorie information on their menus in a bid to fight obesity. However, a recent study by Treadmill Reviews found that many people still can’t say how many calories are in some of their favorite foods. Of those that can see the calorie content, 54% say they pay little or no attention to it. So, if nobody is paying attention to the amount of calories, it’s not going to help the problem. More catering companies are offering healthy options on their menus, but it’s important that these aren’t just a fruit bag or switching fries for veggies and that the focus in on the whole meal. For people who are trying to take responsibility for their health and weight by making lifestyle changes, they need to have healthy options on the menus, otherwise they have little choice but to eat unhealthily. Ultimately, menus need to represent what people should be eating, putting health before profits.
Make unhealthy options healthier
Unhealthy options aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and there’s nothing wrong with having unhealthy options on menus for people to treat themselves to. However, it’s important catering companies look at these options and see where they can cut back on calories and fat while increasing the nutrient content of it. This can be as simple as changing the way the food is cooked, such as baked or cooked in an air fryer instead of deep-fried and switching to low-fat versions of certain ingredients. For desserts, fruit can be used instead of sugar to sweeten things up and making fresh juice instead of selling branded ones that are packed full of sugar will save a lot of calories. It all helps, and most people won’t even notice the difference when it comes to taste.
The impact of advertising
Health advocates are starting to call for a ban on advertising unhealthy foods. Research shows that TV food ads make up 50% of all ads on children’s shows and are dominated by unhealthy options. Unsurprisingly, the more exposure children have to TV ads of unhealthy foods, the higher their risk for obesity. It would be difficult to ban advertising unhealthy foods altogether as the definition of what makes something unhealthy varies between people and calorie or fat content isn’t always enough. However, catering companies can prioritize advertising healthy options to both children and adults. This can help to influence people into making better choices or, at the very least, make them aware that the healthy options are there.
The obesity crisis that America and many other parts of the world are facing has been caused by a long list of reasons. It’s up to individuals to care for their own health, but the catering industry certainly plays a large role. After all, how can people make healthy choices when the options aren’t there, or they simply don’t know they exist?