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Research: Healthy Restaurant Options Good For You and Business

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  March 5, 2013 10:31 AM

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When it comes to generating restaurant sales, less appears to be more.

According to a report by the Hudson Institute of over 20 of the largest restaurant chains, those establishments that offered more lower-calorie food and beverage options had a 5.5 percent increase in sales compared with a 5.5 percent decrease among chains offering fewer healthier options over a 5-year period.  The report looked at chains such as Applebee’s, Olive Garden, McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Taco Bell.  “Consumers are hungry for restaurant meals that won’t expand their waist lines, and the chains that recognize this are doing better than those that don’t,” said Hank Cardello, a lead author of the report. 

As a strong proponent of consumer choice, this is a classic example of the power of the credit card.  By repeatedly frequenting those restaurants that have a variety of healthier options, patrons are sending a strong message as to what they want to see on the menu.  If the restaurant delivers, they will come back and bring their credit card with them.

So what are some of the more popular healthier options that folks keep coming back to order?  Here are the tops picks from several chains:

Napa Chicken Portbello                                                                 Zesty Roma Chicken and Shrimp
450 calories, 12 grams fat                                                                    410 calories, 11 grams fat
Photo Source:  Applebee's

Olive Garden

Venetian Apricot Chicken
400 calories, 7 grams fat
Photo Source:  Olive Garden


 Half Size Apple Pecan Chicken Salad                                          Ultimate Grilled Chicken Sandwich
      w/ Pomegranate Vinaigrette                                                          400 calories, 10 grams fat
        340 calories, 18 grams fat

Photo Source: Wendy's


Fruit and Maple Oatmeal                                                              Honey Mustard Grill Snack Wrap
290 calories                                                                                   250 calories
4.5 grams fat                                                                                  8 grams fat

Photo Source:  McDonald's

Have you tried any of these lighter restaurant options?  What did you think?

Follow Joan on Twitter at:  joansalgeblake
Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.
This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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