You know what it is like! You want to eat healthy food, but you go out to eat, and it all comes undone. And the main reason why restaurants don’t sell healthy food is because they don’t profit from it. When we go out to eat, we want to indulge, generally, and eat something that we wouldn’t eat at home. Restaurants just cater to this indulgent streak, and the reason why they don’t put healthy food on the menu is because people don’t order it!
There is a great article from Marion Nestle on the subject: Can restaurants do healthy food?. What is really interesting is the comments. Many people acknowledge that a restaurant is a business, and if you don’t like it, you can go somewhere else. It makes me question what our basic imperatives are. Is it some throwback from evolution that inspires us to eat fat and sugar laden food?
It is here that the tension between upstream nutrition and downstream promotion becomes palpable. If we were all walking around, conscious of our health and wanting to put clean healthy food into your body, would we support restaurants who served salads? Where are the salads?
Yesterday evening I saw a man in the supermarket, who was collecting nothing in his shopping basket but pre made dinners. He looked like he was down and out, and perhaps this pizza, and instant lasagne was comfort food. It made me think, that, food can provide such comfort, and for people on the poverty line, a quick and easy, fat filled dinner is probably just the thing. It does make me wonder how values of health and well being come to be instilled within populations. However, it is clearly a case of this same kind of indulgence and that kind of comfort when people are eating out as well.
I said before that it is a question of downstream and upstream nutrition promotion. What strategies would inspire people to order healthier foods, and what kinds of strategies could be used to inspire restaurants to supply that need? It is a chicken or the egg scenario.
An unmet need or opportunity
There is one cafe in the town that I currently live, that sells vegetarian wholefoods and does a roaring trade. People go there, because they are health conscious and the food is just as appetising for being healthy. So there is clearly a market for this kind of thing. It is interesting and inspiring too!
I have often thought about what kinds of health promotion strategies could encourage restaurants and cafes to sell more healthy foods, based on not being able to find these types of options myself and getting frustrated, and this led me to the Marion Nestle article, which made me realise that it is all about profit, in terms of giving people what they want. (perhaps) If that is indeed what you want when you eat out?