Catering for health

01/02/2016 - 15:46
Catering operators increasingly try to offer healthy eating choices and, now, the British Nutrition Foundation has launched an online course to help caterers sharpen their skills in the kitchen, as Helena Gibson-Moore explains.

With Britain’s hospitality industry serving more than 8.3 billion meals each year, those working in the catering industry have a crucial role in helping and encouraging people to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

The food people eat out of home makes up an increasingly important part of their diet. The average person eats one in every six meals out of home and, on average, men consume about a quarter of their calories when eating out and women around a fifth.

However, research suggests that the food offered by catering establishments is more likely to be high in calories, and can also be high in fat and salt, and low in fibre, fruit and vegetables.

Almost two thirds of adults and a third of children are overweight or obese, and it is estimated that associated health problems cost the NHS more than £5 billion every year. Obesity is a risk factor for the major chronic diseases in the UK such as stroke, heart disease and some cancers.

It is thought that a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through improved diet, and physical activity and body weight. On average, UK adults and children consume more saturated fat, salt and sugars, and less fruit and vegetables, fibre and oily fish than government recommendations.

People who work in the catering industry are in the ideal position to provide healthier food and drink choices that can have a significant influence in helping improve the health of the nation.

Catering for Health Online is a training course developed by the British Nutrition Foundation that provides an opportunity for those working in the catering industry to learn more about the importance and benefits of healthier catering.

It is aimed at all foodservice providers who are in a position to influence catering practices and policies in establishments such as schools, workplace restaurants, hospitals and care homes, as well as other public sector catering venues such as prisons and military establishments.

It works just as well, of course, in the retail sector – in pubs, restaurants, takeaway restaurants, cafes and sandwich shops.

The content has been informed by nutrition scientists, chefs and caterers, has been piloted by catering students at Westminster Kingsway College, and has also been reviewed by Public Health England and leading catering companies.

The course is split into seven modules – each one a combination of presentations, videos and practical activities, with end-of-module questions to help evaluate learning outcomes.

By the end of the course, participants should have an understanding of: the need and opportunities for healthier catering practices; the essentials of nutrition; menu planning; healthier preparation and cooking practices; recipe modification; and how to market healthier food and drink options.

Can it benefit your organisation? As consumers become more nutritionally aware and demand for healthy options grows, seizing the opportunity to produce and market healthier food could not only help improve public health but also be a sound business decision.

For more information please contact Helena Gibson-Moore h.gibson-moore@nutrition.org.uk.

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