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National Restaurant Association - Healthful eating, kids' nutrition and exercise are tops with consumers

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Healthful eating, kids' nutrition and exercise are tops with consumers

Consumers are more likely to eat healthfully and exercise, wellness experts said at a recent education session during the 2012 National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show at McCormick Place in Chicago.

Those wellness trends are especially popular among women and older adults, panelists said during the session "What's on Our Plate: New Health & Wellness Trends".

Presented by Dr. Joy Dubost, the NRA's director of nutrition and healthy living, the panel also included Sylvia Escott-Stump, president of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and Dr. Adam Brumberg, deputy director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

According to Escott-Stump, a survey conducted by her organization in 2011 found that 42 percent of the 754 adults questioned said they diet and exercise.

"There seems to be an increase in awareness among consumers and a gradual trend upward toward getting some kind of exercise," she said, "and women were more likely than men to say diet and exercise were more important to them."

She added that the study found that 49 percent of respondents with children said they aren't doing all they can to eat healthfully or exercise.

"The challenge for us is moving those consumers to action," she said.

Despite the data regarding parents and healthfulness, the study determined that children's nutrition is significantly improved and that nutrition on the whole is better understood and practiced. Berries, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat, low-sugar and low-sodium foods, and Omega 3 fatty acids, are among the items people are consuming with more frequency.

Dubost cited the findings of the NRA's 2012 What's Hot Survey, which polled 1,800 professional chefs affiliated with the American Culinary Federation who said the top 20 industry trends included the use of more locally sourced products, health and nutrition and the offering of more healthful kids meals. The survey also found that more QSR restaurants offered fruit and veggie sides and low-fat or nonfat milk and 100-percent juices with their kids' meals.

Dubost also talked about the NRA's Kids LiveWell Initiative, which provides nutritional information on participating restaurant chains' children's menu items.

"We launched the initiative in July and started with 19 brands," she said, "but the program is growing by leaps and bounds. We are beyond 85 brands now."

She also emphasized that the program is open to all restaurateurs - chains and independents alike.

"This isn't just a chainwide initiative," Dubost said. "It's for anyone out there."

Cornell Food and Brand Lab's Brumberg said, "Building sets of options is really important. If you set rules that are too rigid, people will say they can't [watch their diets].

He also suggested serving more healthful options in nice bowls and in well-lit areas.

"Make healthier options most visible," he said. "Be aware of how choices influence other choices. If you can do things better for people and better for your bottom line, that's a win-win."

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