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National Restaurant Association - The rise of nutrition analysis

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The rise of nutrition analysis

Federal regulations are set to take effect concerning the disclosure of calories and other nutrition information at restaurants of 20 or more locations. Here’s what you need to know about providing accurate nutrition information to stay informed and best serve your customers.

Be familiar with nutrition-analysis methods

Nutrition analysis measures the nutrition content of food or beverage samples through either chemical testing or manual calculation.

With chemical testing, food companies or restaurants send multiple samples to a laboratory. The food is incinerated and then tested using chemical analysis to determine its nutritional content. Afterward, the lab sends a report to the company or restaurant. The process is highly accurate and can be particularly beneficial for fried items or more complicated recipes or preparation methods.

In applying manual calculation to nutrition analysis, a food company or restaurant uses information from ingredients or food items that have already been tested in a laboratory. To determine final nutrition values, operators can check reference books, cookbooks and reputable nutrition-information databases and then enter the data into a computer or a calculator. Several software packages also are available to simplify this process by avoiding data collection and manual calculation.

For either procedure, portion sizes being analyzed must be accurate and consistent according to what is served in the restaurant. It’s also important to test samples prepared by different people on different days. If your business has more than one location, samples from the others should be included as well. For instance, some operators collect 12 total samples of a particular menu item from locations nationwide.

Many restaurants looking for support are turning to nutrition-analysis resources such as Healthy Dining, a team of masters-level nutrition professionals and registered dietitians. As a partner of the National Restaurant Association, Healthy Dining offers a member discount on its consultation and analysis services.

Get a head start on regulations

Many restaurants are already taking steps to prepare for the new regulations. Both large restaurants and smaller operations have started analyzing or verifying nutrition information that is currently being provided.

“It will be important for restaurants to ensure the information provided is accurate in accordance with the final regulations,” says Joan McGlockton, vice president of industry affairs and food policy at the National Restaurant Association. “With growing interest in accurate disclosure, restaurants are making every effort through various means of nutrient analysis.”

McGlockton also points out that inherent variability exists in both food itself and food prepared by hand, so variance in nutrient content is expected. Overall results suggest that stated information on calorie content in restaurants is broadly accurate.

By understanding nutrition analysis and taking proactive measures, you can continue to excel in providing what your customers wish for.

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