Academic journal article The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health

Catering for Health: A Review

Academic journal article The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health

Catering for Health: A Review

Article excerpt


Food, nutrition and health are currently under scrutiny. British eating patterns have radically changed over the past few decades, with the emergence of a 'grazing', 'snacking' culture. Simultaneously, more food is eaten outside the home and therefore the nutritional composition of foods/meals provided by catering establishments is of increasing relevance to the diet overall. Consumers are aware of the need for a healthy lifestyle and are encouraged to follow improved eating habits to avoid 'diseases of affluence' such as coronary heart disease, obesity, diet-related cancer and type 2 diabetes. For both economic and health reasons caterers should be encouraged to provide healthy options; however, often misconceptions exist and gaps are evident in the nutritional knowledge of this profession. Training curricula require revision. With the right information, training and support caterers can play a vital role in improving the health of the population.

Key words

Application; catering for health; consumers


British eating patterns have changed radically over the past few decades. The traditional three meals a day once redolent throughout Britain has now deteriorated into a 'snacking' culture, where consumers plan their meals around their lives and not the other way around.1 Simultaneously, there has been a growth in the number of meals taken outside the home with a fifth of all consumers eating out at least once a week.2 Dining out is now an integral part of consumers' lifestyles fuelled by the need for convenience and the desire to maximise leisure time.

Much of eating out is concentrated on casual dining with an evident decline in the growth rate of traditional restaurants.2 Eating on the 'hoof' has proved a challenge for the nation's health. The catering industry has difficulty in providing healthy fast food. Deep fat frying is a fast and efficient way of producing food quickly, using little manpower.3 Consequently, meals consumed outside the home can make a significant contribution to the fat content of the diet.4 Food eaten out provides a higher proportion of energy from fat and saturated fat than does food eaten in the home. Excluding the contribution of alcohol, 39.3% of energy from food eaten out is derived from fat compared to 37.4% of energy from household food.5 This has not always been the situation; during the war when rationing was in place, the British diet was perceived to be 'healthier' with a staple fare of cabbage, carrots and potatoes. Eating out was infrequent with a visit to the pub the highlight of hospitality.


By the 1960s eating habits had radically changed with the advent of coffee bars and ethnic cuisine. New technology in the 1970s, together with emergence of the 'throw away' society, encouraged an increasing reliance on convenience manufactured foods which nutritionally were not always sound.

The fat content of some of these foods could be high as increasing fat levels often enables a longer shelf life and improves taste. It was at this time that the relationship between inappropriate diet and certain diseases ('diseases of affluence') became apparent. As knowledge increased and more scientific evidence became available there was a demand for structured advice in health education.

In response, the National Advisory Committee on Nutrition Education was formed from key stakeholders such as the British Nutrition Foundation, Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food, the Department of Health and Social security and representatives from the food industry. The resultant report 'Proposals for Nutritional Guidelines for Health Education in Britain' in 1983,6 advocated a radical change in food habits. An intermediary step was provided to allow public attitudes, agricultural practices, food manufacturing techniques and legislation to adapt.

The most noticeable recommendation was for a total reduction in fat intake and in the short term, a change in consumption from saturated to unsaturated fat. …

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