What’s “Healthy” at Restaurants? Consumers’ Definitions are Evolving

Consumers are becoming increasingly health-conscious, but their perceptions of what is considered healthy eating at restaurants are also changing. Contemporary definitions of health are strongly associated with local, natural, organic and sustainable food and drink. Additionally, consumers are taking more of a balanced and personal approach to healthy eating—seeking out better-for-you foods, while enjoying occasional indulgences.

“More consumers than ever before tell us that eating healthy and paying attention to nutrition is important,” says Darren Tristano, Vice President of Technomic. “However, there’s a shift happening in terms of what actually defines healthy for them. We’re seeing more consumers gravitate toward health-halo claims—such as local, natural and organic, as well as whole-wheat and free-range. Operators can leverage this growing interest in the health halo by developing the kinds of menu offerings that can underscore health without detracting from the taste perception.”

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To help foodservice executives better understand consumer behavior, preferences and attitudes regarding healthy eating, Technomic has developed the Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report. Interesting findings include:

  • Sixty-four percent of consumers today—up from 57 percent in 2010—agree that it is important to eat healthy and pay attention to nutrition.
  • Half of today’s consumers (50 percent) report that they eat healthy food to have a nutritious and balanced diet.
  • Half of consumers say they would like restaurants to offer more healthy foods, and nearly as many say they would probably order these options if they were offered.
  • Thirty-eight percent of consumers today—up from 33 percent in 2010—say they are more likely to visit restaurants that have healthy menu options, even if they do not order a better-for-you item.
  • More consumers today than polled in 2010 report that they consume local, organic, natural and sustainable foods at least once a week.
  • Half of consumers say that descriptors such as low salt, lowfat and low sugar clearly signal health, yet strongly detract from the taste of food. However, foods that indicate a serving of fruit or vegetables, or 100% whole wheat highlight health on the menu, while strongly enhancing consumers’ taste perceptions.

Technomic’s Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report is a comprehensive study exploring healthy dining and health-attribute purchase drivers. The report provides information on today’s developments around how healthy food and beverage offerings are being promoted on menus to appeal to health-conscious consumers.

The Menu Insights section uses Technomic’s exclusive MenuMonitor data to provide year-over-year analysis of more than 50 traditional and contemporary health claims on menus, while uncovering current trends in healthy-menu development.

The Consumer Insights section examines consumer definitions, usage, purchasing behavior and preferences for healthy dining occasions based on findings from an exclusive survey from 1,500 consumers.

Report appendices feature detailed concept and menu profiles for 20 concepts that reveal how operators are positioning brands and menus to cater to the health needs of consumers.

Note: This post originally appeared as a company press releaseFor more information on this report, please view details on our website.



Technomic provides clients with the facts, insights and consulting support they need to enhance their business strategies, decisions and results. Its services include numerous publications and digital products, as well as proprietary studies and ongoing research on all aspects of the food industry.

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