Striking a balance with nutrition facts

By 
Brett Dworski, Associate Editor, Consumer Insights

nutrition facts label

Before dinner, the staff at 1912, the restaurant at Otterbein Lebanon Senior Lifestyle Community in Lebanon, Ohio, go over the specials and menu changes for the evening. And recently, they’ve begun reviewing the nutritional value of the daily specials.                    

Residents have been requesting information about sodium and calorie counts more and more, which Otterbein is now providing, says Drew Allen, the community’s director of culinary services. “[Some] residents are staying home so they can eat the amount of calories and sodium they know they can make, compared to having to figure that out in the restaurant,” he says. “If we can post these for them on our menu, hopefully it will drive their visitation.”

Although 1912 currently only provides the sodium count for its soups, one of the restaurant’s goals for 2018 is to add the calorie counts as well, and for all menu items, Allen says. He notes that the guests at Otterbein—such as the 1912 regular who requests the sodium count for every item he orders—want as much nutritional information as possible. “We’re hoping this will encourage people who usually don’t eat with us to do so more often,” he says.

The future of menu labeling

The senior residents at Otterbein aren’t the only consumers requesting nutritional information. The newly renovated cafeteria in the Baltimore Ravens training facility features menu boards and iPads for players to review upon ordering. Tenille Moore, the Ravens’ director of foodservice, says her team began providing such information to start a conversation with the players about taking care of their bodies during their careers and when they leave the NFL.

“We’re saying, ‘Here are your best options to eat,’” she says. “Some players need to lose weight, and the team nutritionist works with them individually to set up diet plans.”

Once given those diet plans, Moore says, the players become well-aware of what they can and cannot eat. The iPads and menu boards provide the players with the information they need to understand which foods to include or exclude from their diets.

The Ravens foodservice team provides quick facts about the foods the players are eating. For instance, they have an iPad slideshow outlining the benefits of turmeric, noting that it’s good for inflammation and cleanses the liver. Moore says they keep it simple, easy and quick so players can find the most important info they need during what is usually a 30-minute mealtime.

Eliminating information overload

Another reason for keeping it simple and easy, Moore says, is to prevent the players from feeling overwhelmed by all the information. “We’re not giving them too much [information],” she says. “We talk about the main ingredients or health benefits of each item. It becomes overwhelming when all the calories are listed and you can’t decide what to eat.”

So how much is too much? That question isn’t as clear-cut at Otterbein. Allen says that depends on each resident and what their doctors tell them to look for. “[Residents] meet with dietitians to work out meal plans, who tell them what to monitor,” he says. “It can get overwhelming, but we have the knowledge and expertise to help them through that process.”

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