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Healthier catering guidance for different types of businesses

Northern Ireland specific
Tips for food businesses on providing and promoting healthier food and drink

About this guidance

This healthier catering advice describes simple practical changes that different types of businesses can make when procuring, preparing, cooking, serving and promoting food. This guidance builds on previous work to support local businesses e.g. on salt reduction, and reflects government dietary recommendations for sugars, the Eatwell Guide and 5 A Day advice.

Guidance is available for different types of food businesses:

The key guiding principles for all food and drinks supplied are to:

Reduce portion size

Eating too many calories can lead to obesity, which in turn increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Even small portion size reductions at each meal can make a real difference.

Reduce fats and frying practices

High-fat foods contain lots of calories, which can lead to weight gain. This in turn can lead to diabetes, heart disease and some cancers. Reducing saturated fat intakes can lower blood cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Reduce salt

It’s important to reduce salt intakes as too much salt can lead to high blood pressure and an increased risk of stroke and heart disease.

Reduce sugar

Eating too many foods and drinks high in sugar can contribute to excess calories and lead to weight gain, which in turn increases the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers. It is also linked to tooth decay.

Increase the content of fruit, vegetables and fibre

Fruit and vegetables are typically low in calories and good sources of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre; eating plenty of these and higher fibre foods will help to promote digestive health and can help prevent heart disease, stroke and some cancers.

Promote healthier options

It is important to improve the nutrient content of all offerings/foods on the menu and you can additionally develop promotions to give small businesses a unique selling point and encourage customers to pick a healthier meal or snack to eat.

Source healthier ingredients and food products from suppliers

Businesses should check the labels of products they buy, or ask their supplier to assist them, to choose options with higher fibre and less salt, sugar and fats.

Provide calorie information

Help consumers check the calorie content of food and meals by providing calorie information that can easily be read, on menu’s or at point of sale. Calories should be given per portion or per meal. For more information on putting calories on menus, please see the FSA in NI’s Calorie Wise scheme.

The Food Standards Agency provides a free, online tool called MenuCal which helps businesses to calculate the energy value of food, in both kilojoules and kilocalories. The MenuCal tool also assists businesses to manage allergen information.

Effective staff training is essential to getting these key guiding principles right. The Association for Nutrition's workforce competency framework in Nutrition for Health, Social Care and the Catering workforce provides benchmarks for competences and underpins standards for upskilling the nutrition workforce.

By gradually making the simple changes covered in these tips, businesses can help their customers make healthier choices.