NEW RESTAURANT NUTRITION RATING SYSTEM INTRODUCED TO AID CONSUMERS
REAL Certification Will Support Healthful Food Service Providers
WASHINGTON, DC (July 23, 2012)– The United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC) today announced Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL), a voluntary, holistic and consensus-based nutrition rating program designed to increase access to healthful, affordable food and beverage options when dining away from home. Through its “Eat REAL” campaign, the USHFC will promote certified restaurants and other food service providers that utilize nutrition and sustainability best practices.
REAL is flexible, points-based certification based on an establishment’s numerous factors such as the use of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, moderate portions sizes, minimally processed foods, healthy children’s menus, and unsweetened beverages, as well as the reduced use of unhealthful additives such as hydrogenated and trans fats, sodium, MSG, high-fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners. Similar to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, the REAL certification will be issued at four different levels: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum.
“Americans are cooking less and eating out more, resulting in less control over what they are eating. As a result, many Americans are in search of healthful, affordable options away from home, and that is what REAL symbolizes,” says Lawrence Williams, USHFC President. “Our goal is to help connect people who are looking for more healthy choices, with those that provide them.”
With most Americans now consuming the majority of their calories through food prepared away from home, restaurants and food service providers are uniquely poised to play a powerful and positive role in reconditioning Americans toward more healthful foods. REAL will enable consumers to make more informed decisions on where to dine, while simultaneously assisting food establishments with marketing and promoting the healthfulness of their menus to customers.
“REAL guides both diners and restaurants. First, it gives restaurants a guide on how they can be healthier, and it gives consumers a guide as to where they can eat,” said Brian Wansink, Ph.D, author, professor and former Executive Director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. “REAL is one of those rare win-win-win healthy solutions for consumers, restaurants, and our country.”
The USHFC also has a REAL program for food distributors and purveyors to encourage the utilization of ingredients associated with a positive nutritional impact, ultimately linking the entire “farm to fork” supply chain. Over time, this program should result in more healthful items becoming available at lower prices. The USHFC will drive health-conscious consumers to participating establishments through an aggressive campaign utilizing both on and off-line marketing channels such as the Eat-REAL.org website, mobile applications and partnerships with restaurant reservation systems and food review websites. Consumers will also be able to identify certified establishments by attractive, metallic REAL certification plates that will be prominently displayed inside restaurants, reassuring diners that establishments are serving tasty and nutritious food.
REAL is designed to fill a much-needed void in addressing the increasing influence that food served away from home is having on the dietary habits of Americans and its contribution to the nationwide epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic disease that are decreasing quality of life and increasing healthcare costs.
“Over two-thirds of Americans are now obese or overweight, diabetes is rising at alarming rates, and recent studies indicate that most entrees sold at top chain eateries exceed USDA recommendations,” said Tara Gidus, a nationally recognized registered dietitian and nutrition expert. “Obesity is one of the biggest drivers of preventable chronic diseases and health care costs in this United States, and the only way we’re going to address this problem is if we figure out a way to align business’s bottom-lines with American waistlines.”
The USHFC will be launching a series of REAL pilot projects across the nation later this year in partnership with food service providers, foundations, and municipalities that are committed to addressing the obesity and diabetes epidemics by encouraging higher nutrition standards at food establishments. Several locations are already under consideration to be selected as inaugural sites for the REAL program. The USHFC is working with potential partners to ensure that REAL is affordable to consumers across socio-economic backgrounds, ensuring that this health-promoting program is ultimately available everywhere from fine dining establishments to soup kitchens.
About the U.S. Healthful Food Council (USHFC)
Established in 2011, the U.S. Healthful Food Council (USHFC) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to improving the health of Americans by awarding and providing incentives, programs and tools to restaurants and the contract food service industry. The USHFC enables the industry to more profitably serve healthful, minimally processed, local, and environmentally friendly food and beverages. The Council works towards its mission through its REAL food service certification program. REAL a holistic and consensus-based nutrition-rating program, promotes affordable and healthful food and beverages, recipe analysis, menu labeling assistance, nutrition consulting, and educational roundtables and workshops. REAL is a trademark of the USHFC. For more information, please visit www.ushfc.org and www.Eat-REAL.org.