Caterers must act now to meet the demand for food that's actually good for us - before we're faced with lots of new rules
This week we kick off Healthy Eating Month, our five-part guide to catering for an increasingly health-aware nation, by exploring the response the hospitality industry needs to make to the country's growing inclination to eat itself fitter. Can it afford to bury its head in the sand and continue to view dining out of home as a chance to eat all those naughty-but-nice treats you know you shouldn't yield to, but do anyway? Or should it assume the role of public health policeman?
In truth, the answer probably lies midway between these two extreme stances. The days when food providers could dismiss eating healthily as something done by consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes are long gone. Even if they still end up opting for the cheeseburger and fries, consumers demand a range of food options that ranges from the indulgent to the ascetic. It's a matter of choice. As our disposable income, and therefore the number of meals we eat out of home, grows, so the industry needs to take a growing responsibility for the food it serves to the general public.
Nobody wants to turn restaurants and food outlets into extensions of Weightwatchers classes. But, as we learn this week, traffic light labelling systems, enforced calorie counts and heavy-handed directives on fats, sugar and salt all lie in wait if operators do not act swiftly to offer a greater range of healthier options and to make existing menu options healthier.
In the coming three issues we'll take the Three Ages of Man as our theme, as we turn our focus on meal provision for the young, the employed and the elderly. Case studies, opinions and legal and regulatory heads-ups will provide you with a route map to the healthy eating landscape. Healthy Eating Month concludes with an edition of our products digest, Buy It!, highlighting the healthier, more nutritious food and beverages products on the market.
Mark Lewis, group editor, Caterer and Hotelkeeper
Advice, information and encouragement
- British Dietetic Association www.bda.uk.com
- British Nutrition Foundation www.nutrition.org.uk
- Department of Health www.dh.gov.uk
- Food Standards Agency www.food.gov.uk
- Food Vision ( an information portal for local authorities) www.foodvision.gov.uk
- Sustain - the Alliance for Better Food and Farming www.sustainweb.org
- Food & Health Alliance www.fhascot.org.uk (Scotland)
- Physical Activity and Nutrition Network Wales (for all individuals, organisations and sectors with a role to play in improving nutrition) www.physicalactivityandnutritionwales.org.uk