The restaraunt industry’s low-calorie controversy
By Brent Lyons
Whole Foods, Trader Joes and Sprouts are popping up all across America.
Over the past decade more and more Americans are choosing to purchase healthy alternatives when it comes to grocery shopping.
Restaurants and grocery stores that were previously considered unhealthy are being forced to step up in order to maintain their customers.
A new study by the Hudson Institute finds that demand for traditional items at restaurants is falling, with “low-calorie” items rising to take their place.
This study defined “low-calorie” as less than 500 calories for entrées, 50 calories per 8 oz. beverage, and 150 calories for side dishes, appetizers and desserts.
This means that some fast foods were within this category.
It was inclusive of many menu choices.
It clearly included the items that most would consider healthy such as apple slices and grilled chicken.
However, McRib sandwiches at 500 calories and Egg McMuffins at 300 calories were also on the list.
Do not make the mistake of thinking all fast food burgers are on the list.
Many top sandwiches still reach over 900 calories.
Some fast food chains caught on to the trend before others.
Sales of signature beef burgers at Burger King, McDonald’s, Sonic and Wendy’s dropped 28 percent from 2006 to 2011, says the report’s author Hank Cardello, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.
This was despite a 3.7 percent increase in traffic at these chains.
The study shows that these fast food chains were smart to introduce alternatives.
Many of these restaurants that saw an increase in traffic as their signature burger sales went significantly down were the same ones that introduced the “low-calorie” options.
Overall in the fast food industry 11 out of 12 “iconic burgers” saw a decrease in the amount of burgers purchased over the past five years.
This is clear evidence that consumers are choosing the “healthier” option.
Fatty burgers were not the only change.
Orders of fries dropped by 1.9 percent at the largest fast food chains. Sales of all higher-calorie foods fell by 1.3 billion orders from 2006 to 2011, according to the report.
Beyond fast food, the study looked at 21 large restaurant chains to examine the main trends in the market.
Sales of all “low-calorie” items increased by 472.4 million servings from 2006 to 2011.
In addition to low calorie foods, beverages such as diet soda and coffee are also growing categories.
This trend is expected to keep growing, and fast.
In 2014, restaurants in America with more than 20 locations will be required to post all of their menus with the calorie values on them.
This policy is due to The Affordable Care Act.
This already takes place in some counties and even some entire states.
The exact details of the Affordable Care Act are not known.
The facts show fatty foods are on the out and low calorie choices are on the rise.
USD students seem to have already caught on to the healthy food initiative.
“I like knowing what I’m eating. I always ask about the calories and contents in the food if they’re not posted” said sophomore Jenna Palazzo.
Another idea is for schools to post the calorie content on the menu.
This would include middle schools, high schools, and college campuses.
The root of the debate seems to be that some consumers do not want to know how many calories they are consuming.
Many consumers argue that posting the contents of their food can go as far as ruining their meals.
“I hate when restaurants have the calories posted” said junior Katelyn Montero. “Sometimes I just want to eat something without knowing what’s in it.”
On the other side, some consumers love the idea of knowing exactly what they are consuming, whether it is at school, home or at a fast food restaurant.
“I don’t think it’s bad when calories are posted” said sophomore Lauren Vujovich. “In fact, I think that information should be there for those who want to know.”
The food and restaurant industry is certainly improving in terms of healthy choices.
Whether or not these restaurants will be able to keep up with the demand for low calorie, affordable meals, however, still remains a mystery.