Quick Service's Push for Healthier Cooking Oils (QSR Magazine)
The restaurant industry uses a wide range of oils created from canola, soybeans, and other vegetables, as well as nuts and seeds. In limited service, much of the oil is employed in frying, something not popular among nutritionists and dieticians, even when using healthier oils.
“It’s not great to fry anything,” says Jessica Crandall, a registered dietician and general manager of Denver Wellness and Nutrition for foodservice giant Sodexo. “Fried foods aren’t beneficial when it comes to a nutritional point of view.”
Oils are absorbed into food when it is fried, and a teaspoon of oil has about 120 calories. Eating large amounts of fried foods has been linked to a range of health problems, Crandall says.
Still, it’s not likely Americans are going to stop eating fried foods. As such, operators need to consider “how we handle the oil process and imparting the oil to food to make sure it can be the healthiest it possibly can be,” says Tina Swanson, vice president of customer experience for oil management company Restaurant Technologies. That includes not only using healthful oils, but also keeping controls over oils’ usage.
When diners visit a restaurant, they want to indulge in whatever that restaurant specializes in, whether it’s burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, or french fries, Riggs says. And taste continues to be paramount in the decision-making process, even if consumers want healthier food.
“Operators can still satisfy the need in the marketplace for better-for-you menu items by having healthier options like better-quality oils, less fat, and less salt,” she adds.
In all cooking, operators should focus on using “good, healthy oils” low in saturated fats, says Crandall, who is also a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
One of the most popular oils is canola, which has just 7 percent saturated fats, the same as low-fat nut oils. Sunflower, corn, soybean, and peanut oils are also under 20 percent in saturated fats.
For operators, balancing health with durability and cost is key. According to Restaurant Technologies, healthful, low-priced commodity canola oil has low endurance, while pricier high-oleic canola oil—high in good monounsaturated fats for longer shelf life—is more durable.
Choosing proper equipment also plays a role, Swanson says, by maintaining a constant temperature, making sure the oil doesn’t exceed its smoke point—the heat when the molecular structure of oil breaks down—and filtering.
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