Unilever offers free calorie counter tool to compile healthy menus

A new toolkit from Unilever Food Solutions may help make the task of putting calorie counts on menus somewhat easier.

Its Seductive Nutrition Toolkit supports and demonstrates to chefs and food operators how small changes to their top-selling dishes will make these dishes healthier. This service also shows how improving the descriptions of these dishes on menus will make them more appealing to customers.

As part of this Seductive Nutrition Service, the company has developed its innovative free tool to have the potential to support the food service industry in implementing calorie menu labelling. Calorie menu labelling, as darkly referred to by the Minister for Health recently, is proving a major challenge for the foodservice industry as most foodservice businesses in Ireland are not equipped to calculate the calorie content of items on their menus.

But according to local research findings from Unilever, 69 per cent of Irish consumers believe that calorie labelling on menus would help lower obesity rates in Ireland while 71 per cent of Irish consumers said that calorie labelling on menus would affect their choices when eating out of home.

Unilever’s calorie counter toolkit allows chefs and operators to experiment with different ingredients to see how they can affect the calories of a dish. Chefs can search for specific ingredients and create a dish from scratch by dragging the onscreen ingredients onto the onscreen plate then adjusting weights. Alternatively, chefs and operators can search through a database of popular dishes tailored to different types of catering outlets.

With the campaign tagline of ‘Reduce Calories without Compromise’ Unilever believes that by making smart ingredient choices, reviewing portion sizes and rethinking cooking techniques, chefs and operators can reduce the calorie content of their top-selling dishes without compromising on quality and taste. In so doing, they can not only keep customers satisfied and coming back for more, but can also have a positive impact on the overall health of the nation.

Unilever’s recent call-to-action formed part of the company’s bi-annual report on eating out-of-home trends. The third instalment of the report was launched in L’Ecrivan restaurant in Dublin and to compliment the research findings L’Ecrivain’s Derry Clarke presented a bespoke three-course menu to demonstrate how rethinking ingredients and cooking techniques could have a significant impact on the calorie content of the menu without compromising on the taste of the dish.

According to the findings contained in the World Menu Report 3: Seductive Nutrition, Irish consumers want to eat more healthily when dining out with more than half indicating that they often look for the healthy option on menus. Globally, two-thirds of people said that they look for the healthier option on menus even if they don’t end up choosing it.

Here at home research showed that two-thirds of Irish consumers would prefer slightly healthier options when eating out with more than half indicating that they often look for the healthy option on menus. Next to this, 80 per cent of Irish consumers said that when they eat out they prefer to treat themselves. This highlights a clear struggle between intention and choice with what people want to eat winning out over what they think they should eat.

Unilever’s research findings here point to a number of perceived barriers to healthy eating: healthier options tend to be more expensive (54 per cent), the healthy option is not very filling (48 per cent) and the healthy option usually doesn’t sound very appealing (49 per cent). 72 per cent of Irish consumers are also unsure of their recommended daily calorie intake. This suggests that the healthier option on a menu is not always clear to the consumer. Nevertheless, Unilever’s research reveals that 74 per cent of Irish consumers believe that restaurants should guide customers on healthy options when eating out.

Tracey Rogers, Managing Director at Unilever Food Solutions, commented, “We need to show consumers that healthy options don’t have to be more expensive, less tasty or less filling”.

Seductive Nutrition is part of Unilever Food Solution’s response to the global obesity crisis.

The calorie calculator is free to download from where a copy of the World Menu Report 3 can also be found.











Ireland – 2nd highest obesity rate in Europe
Ireland has the second-highest obesity rate in Europe. Since 1990 obesity has doubled amongst Irish women and tripled amongst Irish men. Today, more than one in three adult Irish men are overweight with one in five classified as ‘obese’. One-third of Irish women are overweight with one in six being categorised as obese.
Recent Irish data show that 18 to 64 year-olds consume 24 per cent of their total energy from food and drink outside the home. Meanwhile research commissioned by Bord Bia indicates that almost half of the population (46 per cent) eat out at least once a month while 14 per cent of Irish people eat out at last once a week. This is where the food service sector can potentially play a very positive role in promoting more health-conscious and informed food choice amongst consumers.
Jim Reeves, Customer Director at Unilever Food Solutions, said, “Irish people are still eating out on a regular basis and while the food service industry is not to blame for the obesity crisis, there are actions that we can take right now to position ourselves as leaders in tackling the issue. We have a real opportunity to respond to consumer demands and make significant changes that will provide part of a solution to a growing crisis”.

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