Portion sizes have grown exponentially over the years, as has the collective weight of Canadians. Larger servings mean more calories, and restaurants have led the charge by offering supersized platters of food. But all of that may be about to change.
A recent study highlights the need for foodservice outlets to serve more lower-calorie, portion-controlled options to keep customers satisfied. And if foodservice establishments listen to customer demand we may see more lower-calorie offerings in the future.
Supersizing is out, downsizing is in
Lower-Calorie Foods: It’s Just Good Businessa study conducted by Washington-based non-profit organization The Hudson Institute, analyzed 21 of the US’s largest quick-service and sit-down restaurant chains. The study authors learned that foodservice establishments offering lower-calorie foods had better sales growth, larger increases in customer traffic and stronger gains in total servings vs. restaurants offering more high-calorie fare. Their conclusion? Lower calorie is what consumers want.
In the study, a main course with less than 500 calories was considered low-calorie, while side dishes, appetizers and desserts were low calorie if they had 150 calories or less. And these items were very popular. These lower-calorie offerings increased as a percentage of total servings across all 21 chains.
Over the five-year study period, the restaurants collectively saw an increase of over 470 million total servings of lower-calorie items, compared with a decrease of about 1.3 billion servings for the traditional, calorie-dense foods. For example, French fries are seen to be declining in both number of servings and share of total food servings among quick-service chains that have more than $3 billion in sales.
Pump up the volume
Researcher Barbara Rolls, PhD, Professor and Chair of Nutritional Sciences at The Pennsylvania State University, has developed a lower-calorie eating plan called Volumetrics. The concept is simple. High-calorie foods (oils, baked goods) are eaten in smaller portions and filling foods with few calories (broth-based soups, fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy, puffed grains and fish) should take up more room on each plate.
By choosing foods with high water content (vegetables, fruit, broth), or extra air (mousse-style yogurt, popcorn, puffed cereal), people feel full but are eating fewer calories. Research shows that the amount of food we eat has a greater effect on how full we feel than the calorie content of the food. So, eating lower-calorie foods can be satisfying too!
The first tenet of weight control is to consume fewer calories, and with 60% of Canadians being overweight or obese, offering delicious and satisfying meals that contain fewer calories is a smart move, especially now that data supports it as a choice consumers want to have.
Adding some more volumetric salads (light on dressing!) to each plate is a great start, as is serving sodium-reduce soups. And there is no need to eliminate the higher calorie fare from your menu but downsizing the portion size of these options is a good idea. If you do not currently serve any entrees that are under 500 calories or side dishes under 150 calories, it is certainly an area to investigate.
Almost all Maple Leaf Foodservice centre-of-the-plate entrées are less than 500 calories per serving! Here are some delicious options:
- 125g Pot Pies (Beef, Chicken & Turkey) are all 350 to 370 calories each
- 4 oz Salisbury Steak – 325 calories
- 3 oz Rib O’ Pork – 180 calories
- NEW Chicken Dippers (90g) – 160 calories
- Thick Carved Pot Roast in Gravy (85g) – 105 calories