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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Kids Nutrition Takes Center Stage

The National Restaurant Association teamed with the American Culinary Federation for a survey of nearly 1,800 chefs to understand What's Hot in 2012 when chefs' plan their menus.  From a food standpoint, kids nutrition took center stage with local, sustainable products in a strong supporting role.  In addition to nutrition, chefs intend to develop more kid friendly portion plates of adult menu items.
The top menu trends we’re seeing in our What’s Hot in 2012 survey reflect the macro-trends we have seen grow over the last several years. Nutrition – especially when it comes to children – is becoming a major focus for the nation’s nearly one million restaurants, in tune with consumers’ increasing interest in healthful eating.” 
Joy Dubost, Ph.D, R.D., director of Nutrition & Healthy Living for the National Restaurant Association

Here are the top ten 2012 menu trends according to the survey:
1. Locally sourced meats and seafood
2. Locally grown produce
3. Healthful kids’ meals
4. Hyper-local items
5. Sustainability as a culinary theme
6. Children’s nutrition as a culinary theme
7. Gluten-free/food allergy-conscious items
8. Locally produced wine and beer
9. Sustainable seafood
10. Whole grain items in kids’ meals 

Ahead of the curve, the NRA launched the Kids LiveWell program earlier this year to much fanfare.  See the IMPACT Blog post, NRA Takes the Lead with Health Impact, gives the details of the Kids LiveWell launch.  According to Dawn Sweeney, NRA CEO:
Children’s nutrition is one of the strongest trends we’re seeing in the restaurant industry right now. The success of our new Kids LiveWell program demonstrates that the industry is on the right track when it comes to highlighting nutritious options on menus nationwide.
To further support kids nutrition, the Healthier Kids Fare Pavilion debuts at the NRA 2012 Show May 5 - 8. The Pavilion will feature food and beverage manufacturers showcasing nutritious items for kids, including products with limited fats, sugars and sodium, and items that provide essential nutrients.  For more information, see the NRA press release, Healthier Kids Fare Pavilion to Debut at NRA Show 2012.

Sign @ an Atlanta
McDonald's drive through
Restaurants across the board, ranging from quick service to fine dining, understand the importance of serving children healthy food.  More than a trend, the chefs take seriously the impact food they prepare has on the consumer and are at the forefront of ensuring food consumed away from home is nutritious, healthy and, of course, delicious!

Listed as the fourth top trend, hyper-local items may be synonymous with the Zero Waste Zones' closing the loop with on-site chef gardens.  The ZWZ Blog post, Chef Gardens - a Tasty  Way to Close the Loop, spawned a CNN story for Cheff Micah Willix on his amazing rooftop gardens @ Ecco. Thanks to Micah's ingenuity the gardens are irrigated by condensate water from the restaurant's air conditioning system.  See the ZWZ Blog post, Yippee - Chef Micah is World Famous!, for details and link to the video.

The importance of nutrition and health impact is common ground for Elemental Impact and the NRA.  Stay tuned for many developments on the NRA's support for the nation's second largest industry to aid our civilization in creating a healthier lifestyle, one bite at a time.

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