Pakistan Journal of Nutrition 1 (2): 85-88, 2002 ?? Asian Network for Scientific Information 2002 85 Chefs’ Perception of the Importance of Nutrition in Menu Planning Lesley J. Johnson *, Carola Raab , Elena Champaner and Carolyn Leontos 1 1 2 3 Department of Food and Beverage Management, University of Nevada Las Vegas 1 Department of Hotel Management, University of Nevada Las Vegas 2 College of Cooperative Extension University of Nevada, USA 3 lesley. [email protected] nevada. edu Abstract: This study surveyed chefs attending the American Culinary Federation Chefs Forum 2001.
They were surveyed regarding their perceptions of the role of nutrition in menu planning. The results showed that chefs strongly agree that food service professionals view nutrition as important in menu planning. The chefs, however, did not perceive that the number of customer requests for modified menu items was increasing or that consumers consider nutrition an important factor when selecting a restaurant. The study found that the chefs’ personal health conditions, length of work experience, and recent nutrition education were significantly related to nutrition issues in menu planning.
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The survey also indicated that chefs no longer perceive that the preparation of low-fat foods requires additional work, and that they can be made equal in taste to foods containing higher amounts of fat. Key words: Chef, nutrition, menu planning Introduction Consumers and foodservice operators view eating out as a necessity with today’s fast-paced lifestyle (Spence, 1995; Strauss, 1994). According to a report issued by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) (Kantor, 1998), more than two out of three adults say that going out to a restaurant with family or friends not only offers an opportunity to socialize, but ptimizes their time by dispensing with cooking and cleaning tasks. The frequency of eating away from home has risen by more than two-thirds over the past two decades and commercially prepared food accounts for 34% of the typical person’s total calorie intake (Hunter, 2000). It is anticipated that the upward trend of eating commercially prepared meals will continue in the foreseeable future. At the same time that the number of meals consumers eat away from home is on the rise, the overall nutritional quality of the typical American diet is on the decline. The United States
Department of Agriculture(USDA) (Lin et al. , 1999) reports that the nutrient content of meals consumed away from home is failing to keep pace with the nutritional improvements in home-prepared meals. Compared with home-prepared foods, commercially prepared foods have greater amounts of dietary components, such as saturated fat and calories, which Americans overconsume, and less of the nutrients, such as calcium and fiber, that are under-consumed. This excessive consumption of fat and calories from commercially prepared meals is linked with America’s obesity epidemic.
In summarizing recent articles published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Jonas (2001) reports that 63% of men and 55% of women are overweight. In the past twenty years, the prevalence of adult obesity has increased from 14. 5 to 22. 5%. Type 2 diabetes, gallbladder disease, coronary artery disease, osteoarthritis, hypertension, and elevated serum cholesterol are from 50 to 500% more common in obese individuals than normal weight people. Obesity is related to the consumption of commercially prepared foods and portion size lays a substantial role. A Tufts University Diet and Nutrition Letter survey found that serving sizes at a variety of popular restaurant chains far exceeded USDA guidelines (Linder, 2001). Nutrition and the Restaurant Industry: Four out of ten deaths in this country are attributed, at least in part, to poor diet and lack of exercise (Dinkins, 2001). Given that the American public consumes 1 billion commercially prepared meals each week (National Restaurant Association, 2000), eating away from home has a tremendous impact on overall health. One goal of The
Healthy People 2000 national health promotion and disease prevention program is to “increase to at least 90 percent the proportion of restaurants and other institutional food service operators that offer identifiable low-fat, low-calorie food choices, consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans” (Healthy People, 2000). Some restaurants have responded by offering healthy menu items ranging from low-fat tostados to full-course meals featuring seafood or chicken dishes that are low in sodium and fat but high in fiber and vitamins (Kurtzweil, 2000; Wenzel et al. 1999). The nutrition expertise of chefs is a key component in the continuing effort to convince consumers to change their eating habits and to seek out healthy food items when eating out. To accomplish this, consumers must adapt home eating habits to the commercial environment. Nutrition education for chefs is crucial if restaurants are to stay competitive in the future, as studies have shown that healthful food will be accepted by customers only if the food appeals to the senses, looks exciting and tastes good (Rouslin and Vieria, 1998).
Reichler and Dalton (1998) found that although chefs were practicing some healthful food preparation techniques, the factors of time, taste and training still posed barriers. For example, more than 50% of the chefs surveyed in this study agreed or strongly agreed that recipe modification was time consuming, and only 39% agreed or strongly agreed that food would taste good if current dietary guidelines were followed. The chefs acknowledged having responsibility for the nutrient content of the dishes prepared and providing nutrition information to patrons.
The authors suggest that chefs and dietitians work together in food service settings to create foods that not only meet the dietary guidelines, but also enhance customer satisfaction with modified menu items. Rouslin and Vieira (1998) found that chefs are becoming more nutrition aware and responsive to customers’ demands for healthful menu items. A survey conducted by Fitzpatrick et al. (1997) found that customer satisfaction with lower-fat items was significantly greater than satisfaction with their higher fat counterparts, regardless of the menu-item type, dining experience, or respondent characteristics.
But the majority of restaurateurs still report that although customers say they want healthier menu items, they do not consistently select healthful menu items (Jones,1999). Studies concerning the importance of nutrition in the consumers’ selection of commercially prepared foods show conflicting results. The chefs surveyed by Reichler and Dalton (1998) did not think that customers were concerned about nutrition. A National Restaurant Association study reported in Frozen Food Digest (Wenzel, 1994) found that 55% of respondents considered the