Biggest Loser Says Restaurants Need to Shape Up Their Menus

patrick house, biggest loserPatrick House, winner of the 2010 season of The Biggest Loser, lost a whopping 181 pounds to win $250,000, and he gained a new outlook on life. Now, at a trim 219 pounds, he is coaching teens on weight loss at Mindstream Academy in Bluffton, S.C.

I recently caught up with this former pre-diabetic father of two on some hot restaurant issues – the obesity epidemic and the movement to get healthier options on menus and into the tummies of consumers. Read on for House’s view on these hot button issues and his recommendations for how restaurants can help consumers make better choices.

The Obesity Epidemic and Restaurants
Restaurants with more than 20 locations now have to label their menus with caloric, sodium and fat content. While this regulation is still being debated and the effectiveness is in question, House says restaurants can help Americans become healthier.

“Restaurants need to take matters into their own hands,” he says. “They can keep all the options on their menus, but they need to add healthier options – more than just salads – for people that are watching what they eat.”

House recommends that restaurants add grilled chicken, turkey and fish dishes paired with steamed veggies for weight watchers and the health-conscious.

Under 500-Calorie Menus Work
House made his way to the top of the Losers’ bracket by minimizing the calories in his meals by trading in the potatoes for veggies and holding on the butter and oil.

“This is a lifestyle change, not a diet,” he says. “Now, when my family and I go out for dinner, I like restaurants with menu options under 500 calories.”

Menu Labels Appeal to This Loser
Putting the calories, sodium and fat up front gives customers inside information, says House.

“I like the idea of having nutrition info right on the menu. It allows people to see just how unhealthy [even] their favorite dishes are. He says this helps him make more informed decisions.

Give the Kids Healthier, Happier Meals
When we quizzed House on his view of the Happy Meal ban, he doesn’t think “banning” these kids meals is the answer.

“You can’t take everything away from them,” he says. “Families will just go somewhere else.”

He recommends putting more emphasis on raising awareness about health and nutrition, and he credits restaurants with expanding beyond fries to apples and yogurt for sides.

Parents Are the Key to Healthier Kid Choices
Throughout the tenth season of the Biggest Loser series, House said he was doing this for his kids. He says that it’s up to the parents to make the example in what they order at restaurants.

“Being a parent is a 24/7 job,” he says. “Even when you think those little ears and eyes are not listening or watching, they are. By ordering more healthy options at restaurants, and ordering your kids healthier options, you can set examples for them that will lead them towards a healthier lifestyle.”

Restaurants Need to Promote Their Healthy Options
House says that as consumers are becoming more conscious of what they eat, restaurants need to take advantage of this new awareness. They can do this in two ways, he says.

“Designate a certain day each week to serve low-sodium, low-fat and low-calorie meal options and advertise the fact that your restaurant offers healthy options.”

Article first published as Biggest Loser Tells Restaurants to Shape Up Their Menus on Technorati.