"Fed Up" Documentary Inspires Healthier Culinary Choices Amongst Diners and Chefs

Healthy Menu Selections  | Brian Murphy for FoodableTV

Healthy Menu Selections | Brian Murphy for FoodableTV

By Brian Murphy, Foodable Contributor

The 2014 film “Fed Up” enlightened viewers on sugar consumption and served as a powerful commentary on sugar consumption in general. While the film followed pre-teen and teenagers’ lives, the message rang loud and clear for viewers. Fast forward to January 2016 and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released which will be the guidelines for five years. The recommendations have potential to change industries, so rather than worry, smart concepts are anticipating the change and making necessary adjustments.

Playing by the Rules

First off, who really sees those guidelines? And what is the percentage of consumers that really follow them? Considering these things, it is clear that the sky is not falling. Yet. Though refined sugar is on the brink of going the way of the cigarette. The film’s focus is on the food industry and the use of refined sugar. A significant portion of the film focuses on packaged food, but the restaurant industry is not ignored. The industry takeaway is to note the inevitable decrease in consumption of sugary beverages, snacks, and menu items. Additionally, there is no room for anything less than smart menu planning.

Generation Changes

Consumers are making changes and younger guests, that seemingly every business is attempting to hook on their product or service, is a savvy bunch. When word of the latest release of the Dietary Guidelines spreads, the smartest move is to be prepared for big changes in consumer habits. The impact is only going to grow, as “Fed Up” highlights preteens and teens as the main characters in the film. The film is being shown in classrooms, and the young audience not only connects with the characters, but empathizes and realizes that something needs to happen. If only at a base level, the impact of Generation Z on the marketplace will be significant. MillennialMarketing reports 200 billion plus in buying power already, and when the youngest of the bunch are done influencing their parents’ income and spending on their own, look out!

Menu Changes

Overly Indulgent Chocolate Cake  | Brian Murphy for FoodableTV

Overly Indulgent Chocolate Cake | Brian Murphy for FoodableTV

The craving for more healthful options and “craft” menu items is insatiable. Deliver. The notion of a “healthy” menu should be considered on many levels, and remember that “healthy” doesn’t need to mean “light.” The confusion of these two things is rampant, and an effort to keep them separate will translate to a superior product and happier guests. Lightening up heavier or excessively fatty or rich menu items provides health conscious guests more variety and makes the restaurant a place worthy of more frequent return visits. Consider the establishment that is attempting to be a great neighborhood eatery, but the majority of the menu is fatty pub fare. Delicious, somewhat decadent, and “restaurant-quality,” but often that is translating to an occasional treat for the younger clientele. Creating dishes that pack in the flavor, contain wholesome and whole ingredients, all without pushing calorie counts into the entire “recommended daily allowance” range is completely possible. Portions don’t need to be so over the top, and the dish can still be good without excessive amounts of fat and/or sugar.

Sourcing is becoming more important than ever. Younger guests want a story and crave authentic and whole ingredients. Finding a local source for produce or protein affords restaurants the opportunity to build mutually beneficial relationships with growers. This can lead to cross-promotion, more healthful options, and helps tell a story as well. The due diligence in an establishment sourcing better ingredients is what customers are after not just because it’s “craft” or just plain trendy, but because it shows that the restaurant cares. Younger, target-market guests are educating themselves and want transparency. Being a leader with this effort in the industry is wise.  

Planning Ahead

Armed with more knowledge than ever, tech-savvy guests are researching where to vote with their dollar more and more. Ingredients and nutritional information pages for corporate websites will continue to see climbs in the analytics reports. Whether it is related to allergies, diet limitations, weight management, or simply the guest looking for a more healthful meal, homework before dining is becoming more prevalent. Looking at menus ahead of time is a common practice for a growing percentage of the population because of the excessive calories, fat, and sugar lurking all over menus. What a relief for potential guests when they find they don’t have to worry about dining in a particular establishment because of responsible sourcing, portions, and transparency. This worry will continue to grow, as the film “Fed Up” suggests that over half of the United States’ population is sick.

Be the Change

The guidelines have changed, the movement to modify an industry is underway, and in order to evolve in the direction of success, restaurants need to consider films like “Fed Up.” Adjustments don’t need to be drastic immediately, though they could be. There is room and time to assess what to adjust and how to effectively implement it. Research and development should most definitely be underway in the restaurant and beverage programs in order to truly be ahead of what guests will soon demand.