How to Get the Most Accurate Nutrition Information for Your Menu

How to Get the Most Accurate Nutrition Information for Your Menu September 26, 2016
By Anita Jones-Mueller, MPH, President, Healthy Dining and Sara Lucero

Whether you are considering menu nutrition analysis as a way to address guest requests for nutrition and allergens, a strategic step towards greater transparency to strengthen your brand or as a necessary part of menu labeling compliance, it’s important to get the most accurate results. It’s not just about serving up the best possible information for guests, either. Accurate nutrition information is a smart business move to potentially save you from:

  • Additional printing costs down the road
  • Additional costs of redoing nutrient analysis for all or part of your menu
  • Fines from inspectors
  • Loss of guest trust
  • Poor publicity
Investing extra time now to get the most accurate nutrition information may help save you time and money down the road. 

There are several methods available for completing nutrition analysis, each with its own pros, cons and level of accuracy, but that’s not all that can impact your nutrition information. Before beginning the process, the most important thing you can do to help ensure the accuracy of your final data and streamline the nutrition analysis process itself is to create or verify your standardized recipes.

We’ve talked about standardized recipes in the past and how important they are to help culinary staff prepare plates that match the nutrition information you provide to guests, but development and verification of these recipes prior to completing your menu nutrition analysis is a must to get the best results. 

A standardized recipe details and lists ingredients, amounts of ingredients, specific product brands and cooking procedures used to prepare the dish. These should be in place for all recipes, including sub or prep recipes, and plated recipes – and to maintain accuracy, they should be updated any time a product, ingredient or quantity is changed.

Prior to completing nutrition analysis, spend time creating these detailed recipes that include:

  • Recipe name
  • Recipe yield  
  • List of ingredients, including brand names used, whether the items are fresh, canned, frozen or pre-packaged, etc. (i.e., low-fat cream cheese, 80/20 ground beef, boneless/skinless chicken breast). Don’t forget to include the “givens,” such as the oil and salt used in preparation or added to the plate as it leaves the kitchen.
  • Specific amounts of ingredients used, including all weights and measurements, such as 3.25 cups, 1.5 quarts, 3 fl. oz., 1.75 teaspoons
  • Preparation information and instructions, such as shredded, diced or cubed
  • Cooking information, like cook time and temperature, and method of cooking, such as grilled, baked, sautéed, fried
  • Plating information including any garnishes added prior to serving
If your restaurant already has standardized recipes like these in place, now is a great time to do some quality control. Verify that all products, ingredients, measurements and procedures are still accurate and match up with how the culinary staff regularly prepares the recipes. This can also help your restaurant control food costs, another boost to your bottom line, and may uncover areas to improve the nutrition profile of the recipe prior to your posting the numbers for guests.

Documenting your restaurant’s recipes in this detailed way is a smart first step when it comes to menu nutrition analysis.  Once these recipes are in place, the nutrition analysis process can move forward much more efficiently and you can feel more confident in the information you ultimately provide to guests.