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Posted on January 17 2018

Seductive nutrition is a new idea that attempts to sway consumers into eating more healthily. The basic idea behind seductive nutrition is to bring the food service industry together to work towards alleviating the growing global obesity epidemic. The facts regarding obesity are astounding– 1.4 billion adults worldwide are overweight, and of those approximately 500 million are considered obese. This problem carries dire implications not only for individual health, but also for economic and environmental sustainability in a world with booming populations and dwindling resources.

The folks at Unilever Food Solutions came up with the concept of seductive nutrition as a small solution that can make a big difference in the fight against obesity. Chefs who choose to participate in the initiative can contribute to the overall health of their customers in two simple ways:

  • Make top-selling menu items slightly healthier by adding vegetables and reducing calories.
  • Entice customers to choose healthier options by using more descriptive, “seductive” language.

These two small tenets work for chefs and customers alike because they promote healthy eating without sacrificing customer satisfaction. Let’s take a closer look at the reasons behind these two tactics and tips for how to implement them.


A key finding in Unilever’s World Menu Report shows that 71% of global respondents prefer to treat themselves when eating out. For that reason, while there is a general increase in demand for healthy menu options, customers do not often choose those items when offered. By making your top-seller a bit healthier, you are enabling guests to order based on preference while still getting the added health benefits. Unilever recommends these three basic ways to make a meal more nutritious:

  • Add more vegetables.You can still serve up that burger, but serve it with a healthy side salad in place of fries to increase the nutritional value of the meal.
  • Lower fat content.There are a number of ways to do this: you can bake items instead of frying them, or replace fatty meats with lean alternatives. It is also a good idea to replace unhealthy saturated fats with healthier incarnations.
  • Reduce portion size.This is a simple way to reduce caloric intake from any given meal. By plating a meal creatively, you can serve smaller portions without customers feeling shortchanged.

We know that small changes in the menu can make a big difference in consumers’ dining choices. An item might be a hot seller or a slow-mover depending solely on where it is placed on the menu. Food descriptions also go a long way in swaying a customer’s decision. According to menu engineer Gregg Rapp, you can increase sales by up to 30% using descriptive language. While this tactic is traditionally used to draw attention to your most profitable items, it can also be used to make healthy options more appealing.

When it comes to food descriptions, Unilever has identified three determining factors that contribute to consumer dining choices:

  • Geographic descriptions:Alaskan salmon, Kansas City BBQ and Colorado trout are all more likely to wind up on customers’ plates than their plainer, homeless counterparts.
  • Nostalgic descriptions:Descriptions that can set off pleasant associations, such as Aunt Millie’s Chicken Pot Pie or Old World Italian Sausage, can push customers to purchase those items. Not only that, but these descriptors set the expectation that the meal is a “comfort” food, even when it is actually quite healthy.
  • Sensory descriptions:Words that evoke taste, smell and texture make food descriptions more enticing.

Making your menu healthier for customers isn’t just the responsible thing to do; it also increases guest satisfaction and can drive repeat business. Consumers are looking for healthy options, but they also want to treat themselves when they go out to eat. With seductive nutrition, they can have both!


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