Commentary

What Healthy Eating Means To Moms

Upheaval continues across the food industry as brands struggle to appeal to moms’ desires for their families to eat healthier. But what do today’s moms see as healthy eating? Low carb. Gluten free. Vegetarian. Low sugar. Paleo. “Clean” eating. What’s next? 

While most restaurants shy away from adopting the newest trend, the question remains: how can you respond to the growing demand for healthier options? 

Listen to what moms say. When we did, we uncovered four ways restaurants can give moms what they want when it comes to healthier eating.

1. Today’s definition of “healthier” means mix-and-match behavior 

While “healthier” used to mean low-fat, low-calorie, tasteless food, today’s moms (and dads, too) are smarter. In their expanded definition of healthy, fat is no longer the enemy — it can be healthy fat. It’s not just how many calories are in a food item; it’s what type of calories. Whole foods aren’t just fancy grocery stores; they’re minimally processed and closer to their natural state. 

This more complex view of healthier eating often looks beyond a specific meal. Moms balance healthy vs. indulgent choices for themselves and their families not just within a meal or even a day, but sometimes the whole week. With all sorts of apps to measure calories, carbs, etc., building mix & match meal plans is easier. Your challenge – fit into whatever plan they choose at the moment.

2. Customization is everything

Our research shows moms view restaurants that encourage customization to be healthier. Think about it … if you leave off the cheese, replace it with healthy fat (like avocado) and get sauce on the side, it gives the meal a healthier twist. 

Your guests are willing to take the responsibility of making better choices. Take advantage of their willingness by giving them ways to do it and clearly show them options on menus and other collateral. 

Moms have to know your restaurant makes it easy to customize. If their perception is the opposite, you could be shoved out of consideration and end up in “special occasion” land. 

3. Special occasions are for indulgence … but do they always have to be?

Traditionally, we think of special occasions as when you let it all go. But if your restaurant becomes synonymous with indulgent “special occasions” as many casual dining brands have, this can impact sustained traffic. 

For instance, we saw while families loved gooey, cheesy, hot sandwiches, they were seen as too indulgent given new, healthier options in the market. The result – frequency was down.

How about reshaping the special occasion into an indulgently healthy experience? 

Example – Ruby Tuesday’s expanded Garden Bar with 55+ ingredients beautifully displayed with fresh, hand-made dressings to make the casual dining experience feel like a special occasion that doesn’t derail healthy eating. 

4. Don’t forget about appealing to kids

With rising childhood obesity, moms are looking for healthier options for their kids, too. The goal in eating out with kids today is getting the right food into them – without a scene. 

Chicken nuggets may be an easy sell for picky kids, but today’s moms aren’t settling. Besides, kid-friendly, healthier food needn’t be an oxymoron. How to get kids to eat healthier? Make it fun

Remember that new Garden Bar … eating vegetables is fun when kids get to put together their own creations from so many Mom-approved choices. Make sure you have a range of kid-friendly healthy choices. 

We found a lot more about what moms want. As competition for share of family meals continues to explode, from grocery takeout to delivery to meal prep services to new dining out options, now’s the time to act!

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