What’s a healthy menu to you?

Remember when restaurant menus listed lower calorie dishes in the “light” section or marked healthy choices with a tiny heart-shaped icon?

Today, nutrition labeling on menus is the law. Some states and cities require restaurants to provide nutrition information. It will be a nationwide law regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for chain restaurants starting in May 2017.

Popular menu terms such as “natural,” “fresh” and “local” are not regulated, by the way. The all-natural macaroni and cheese or locally produced bacon isn’t magically lower in calories or higher in nutrients — but it sounds healthier, doesn’t it?

What’s healthy?

Increasingly, healthy means a focus on special diets, such as vegan, vegetarian, lactose-free and, of course, gluten-free. That’s more difficult, because it often requires specialized food-service training.

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“There are still restaurants advertising gluten-free pizza made with shared ingredients and cooked on the same surface with wheat,” said Jennifer Harris of Atlanta, founder of the Gluten Free Go To Guide. “Some places still don’t understand that cross contact applies to fryers. If I hear one more time that the high temperatures ‘burn off’ gluten, I think I might scream. Gluten isn’t a bacteria.”

Food allergies are taken seriously at most restaurants. But, what about personal food beliefs?

College food service providers are dealing with increasing demand for the so-called FLOSN (fresh, local, organic, seasonal and non-genetically modified organism) diet. “The challenge is beginning to become extreme,” said registered dietitian Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis.

Good for people, the planet

Others say eateries should be making an effort to follow earth-friendly practices.

The renovated InterContinental Barclay Hotel in New York City, built in 1926, is moving into the future of environmentally conscious food offerings. The kitchen’s food waste management program includes one of the city’s few EnviroPure food digester machines.

“It takes everything from vegetable peels to bones,” Executive Chef Willis Loughhead said.

The hotel’s breakfast buffet includes a toaster dedicated to only gluten-free breads.

Cheers to a healthy attitude on the menu.

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