On November 17, 2016 Toronto Public Health (TPH) hosted the first Savvy Diner Culinary Challenge with students from Humber and Centennial colleges. The objective of the challenge was to increase knowledge about nutrition among prospective chefs, with the goal that they will incorporate healthier options in their menus.
A big congratulations to the winners Amber Bell and Emma Marple from Humber College’s Food and Nutrition program and their instructors Tina Horsley and Shonah Chalmers. Their winning recipe (PDF) was Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms with Dill Roasted Vegetables. All teams did a fantastic job of showcasing their skills and talents and we thank them for their enthusiasm and participation in the event
Local celebrity judges Rose Reisman, a leading health expert, author and media personality, Ted Reader, a celebrity chef and author of several cookbooks, and John Cirillo, an award-winning, world-class chef and culinary academy operator, were on hand to assess the students’ dishes. The dishes were judged based on nutrition criteria, taste, food temperature, team work, cooking technique, safe food handling and ease of replication in a restaurant setting. Chef Mark Wilson and Chef Tony Fernandes were also there to advise and monitor the food preparation.
We commend the students and their instructors for taking on the task of creating nutritious menu entrees and learning how to prepare a meal that inspires healthier eating choices for consumers when dining out. Well done students!!
Menu labelling is coming soon to restaurant chains in Ontario
Beginning January 1st, 2017 Ontario will be the first province in Canada to mandate calorie postings on menus. This is great news as many of us want to make healthier food choices when dining out!
Bill 45 requires that all restaurants and food service establishments in Ontario with 20 locations or more post the number of calories for each food and beverage item on their menu or menu board. They will also be required to display the recommended daily calorie requirements to help consumers make informed choices. This applies to all large food chain restaurants including locations such as fast food restaurants, movie theatres, supermarkets and convenience stores.
Helping Ontario residents make healthier choices is a big investment toward improving the overall health of our population. The implementation of Bill 45, Healthy Menu Choices Act is a big step and we commend the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care for making this happen.
Learn more about the implementation and requirements for Bill 45.
You may have noticed lately that there has not been a lot of new activity on the Savvy Diner blog. We’ve been busy around here focusing our attentions on refreshing the Savvy Diner website to reflect our new direction!
A brief recap, Toronto Public Health’s Savvy Diner campaign began in 2013 to raise awareness about the calorie and sodium content of restaurant meals and to advocate for menu labelling. To date, TPH’s Savvy Diner project has focussed on the following activities:
- Advocating for provincial legislation that requires calorie and sodium values on menus.
- Educating the public on how to eat healthy when eating out and the value of menu labelling.
- Encouraging the public to demonstrate their support for menu labelling.
- Conducting a pilot test with small independent restaurants to determine if menu labelling is feasible
We are now onto Phase 2 of the campaign which will aim to continue to support menu labelling and educate the public about eating healthily while dining out, but expand to provide tools, resources and support to restaurant operators.
Our vision is to encourage a Toronto restaurant environment where all patrons are able to select and consume food that is transparent in its nutritional value. Our goal is to educate and provide support to both restaurant operators and “Savvy Diners” to help them navigate their way through restaurants and other “away from home” eating environments.
Stay tuned for the new, revitalized Savvy Diner website in early 2016. Follow us on Facebook for updates!
After months of reviewing the recipes and speaking with the owners and chefs at C’est What?, the menu analysis is finally complete! After all that work, we gained a lot of insight into what goes into making the menu and the sources of the calories and sodium in each dish. So, what would be some Savvier choices?
Let’s start with the salads. The Mediterranean Salad looks like an amazing choice at 350 calories. Want to make that a meal? Adding 4oz of grilled chicken only adds 90 calories and 105 mg of sodium!
Bacon Wrapped shrimp comes in at only 200 calories! The bacon adds quite a lot of sodium, so we recommend getting something less salty for your entrée. The tzatziki and hummus along with the rest of the appetizers can be a big source of calories and sodium in your meal. So, we think they could be shared with a friend, or two.
The sandwiches are higher in calories, but don’t forget that they all come with fries, which are 600 calories. So, if you want to indulge in that Pulled Pork Tortilla, maybe think about whether you want to have the fries or enjoy a side salad instead – that will cut 430 calories. Another great option – enjoy the Tandoori Chicken Sandwich which comes with delicious coleslaw and mint peas for only 650 calories.
The nutritional profiles of restaurant entrees can vary quite a bit. There are lots of delicious choices that can be healthier. The Goat Roti is a hefty portion, so Savvier diners could take some of that home, or order it without the wrap and have it with rice. That little trick brings the calories down to just 600 while still getting a whopping 36g of protein, 7g of fibre, and 100% Daily Value of Vitamin A and C. Savvy diners can find all the nutrition information by request, so feel free to ask the server!
Don’t forget to look and ask for all the nutrition information next time you dine out. A few small changes in your selections can make a big difference, if you have the facts!
A big, heart-felt congratulations to the following Toronto restaurants: Bi Bim Bap, Taste of Beirut, Hearty Catering and C’est What. They all now have nutritional information available at the point of purchase for their customers!
Toronto Public Health commends them for responding to consumer desire for key nutrition information to be on menus. This evidence has most recently been supported in the September/October 2014 Canadian Public Health Association journal article titled “Restaurant menu labelling: Is it worth adding sodium to the label?”
We encourage our Savvy Diner supporters to go and check them out and share this news with your friends and families!
Over the past year, Toronto Public Health has been working with small, independent restaurants, such as these, to test the feasibility of posting calorie and sodium information on their menus.
The pilot project is winding down, and we’ve learned a lot about the challenges small restaurant operators in Toronto face to complete such an initiative. It takes tremendous effort and dedication to pursue menu labelling in this type of establishment.
It is great to see several Toronto restaurant operators who are champions for menu labelling in Toronto and are leading the way by providing nutritional information to their patrons. We hope many more will follow their example in 2015.
Today in Toronto, there’s no easy and fast way to know what you’re consuming when it comes to calories and sodium in restaurant food (except in the above restaurants!). With Canadians getting more of their daily meals at restaurants, Toronto Public Health believes that there has never been a more important time for menu labelling. Menu labelling ensures that all diners have easy access to key nutrition information to help them make the right food choice for themselves.
We will keep you posted on provincial menu labelling legislation that is currently being debated in the Ontario Parliament.