Using Nutritional Analysis to Build Your Menu

Many dine-in customers have budgets, food allergens, strict diets to follow and even prefer a certain serving size. Consumers not only appreciate knowing the nutritional facts of their food but demand it.

Furthermore, the FDA sets out food safety guidelines that require some chains to list the nutritional content of their menu items.

Both small and large diners often perform an analysis to accommodate their customers and comply with FDA regulations. Here's everything to know about building a menu by employing a software system to conduct a nutritional analysis.

What is Nutritional Analysis?

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A nutritional analysis is a complex process that calculates the nutritional content of food products. Restaurants utilize nutrition fact labels to inform customers of the calories and nutrients contained in each dish.

Customers prefer knowing the nutritional value of food for medical or dietary concerns. By utilizing a nutritional facts label, restaurants of all sizes accommodate consumers by demonstrating their transparency and authenticity.

Restaurants can curate their menus based on the nutritional needs of their customers. For example, a health-based diner may conduct a nutritional analysis to ensure that all of its menu items only contain a minimal amount of saturated fats or carbohydrates.

A nutritional analysis is a meticulous and tedious process because it requires one to figure out the number of calories per gram, number of proteins, the primary nutrients, amount of fats, and the number of carbohydrates. None of this can be accomplished until the ingredients in each menu item are compiled.

Usually, a nutrition analysis is presented in tabular form to make it easier to read. In the United States, the nutritional label displays 11 main elements that are separated into 4 categories- Serving Information, Calories, Nutrients, and Percent of Daily Value.

Here's a summary of the four categories included in nutritional fact labels-

1. Serving Information
The serving information refers to the amount that consumers usually eat or drink. Serving information is provided in familiar units such as cups or pieces along with the metric equivalent, such as grams.

2. Calories
Calories are the amount of energy a person gets per serving. One single calorie is determined by the amount of energy required to heat one kilogram of water at sea level at one-degree Celsius. The FDA recommends the average person consume 2,000 calories per day.

3. Nutrients
Nutrients are divided into macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients provide energy to the body and include protein, fat, and carbs. The body also needs micronutrients, or vitamins and minerals.

4. Percent of Daily Value
The percent of the daily value (%DV) is the number of nutrients a person should eat or not eat in one day. This informs consumers whether a food item is high or low in nutrients and how much more to eat to reach the optimal daily level.

Here is the essential information to know about each of the elements included within the four categories-

  • Nutritional labels show the total amount of fat, broken down into saturated and trans-fat.
  • Cholesterol is listed underneath the total fat amount.
  • Sodium is listed underneath the total cholesterol amount.
  • Dietary fibers, sugars, and added sugars are a subsection of the total carbohydrates. These are listed underneath sodium.
  • Proteins are also included underneath the total carbohydrates.
  • In the United States, minerals contained in a nutritional label are typically vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium.

How to Conduct a Nutritional Analysis

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1. Know the Laws

Before purchasing software to calculate nutrition facts, it's essential to know the different FDA nutritional guidelines. Please read the FDA website for a detailed summary of these regulations. Key takeaways include-

  • Retail food establishments with a chain of 20 or more locations under the same name are required to include nutritional information on their menu items.
  • These larger chains must post calorie data on nutrition labels for their menu items.
  • Large food establishments must present calorie information on signs next to display food if it is a regular menu item.
  • These large chains must include a statement about the suggested daily intake of calories.
  • If customers request nutritional information, large chains must be able to provide a nutrition fact label.
2. Utilize a Software System

Before software was widely-available, restaurants had to send their items to a laboratory for food testing services. Because of how expensive and timely this process was, only larger chains had the resources to carry it out.

Thankfully, intuitive and user-friendly software is an option for both small and large restaurants who want to perform a nutritional analysis. The majority of software databases already contain nutritional information from thousands of ingredients around the world.

Users can customize their software for food testing and upload the latest on food composition data according to geographic location.

A nutritional software program allows restaurants to easily stay compliant with FDA standards because the calculations performed are automatic and accurate. This saves restaurants time and prevents non-compliance that results in fines and other legal repercussions.

For most nutritional software systems, users only have to input their ingredients and portions. The system will automatically calculate and display an accurate assessment of the nutritional content in a readable manner.

Other database analysis capabilities include-

  • Ability to calculate the comprehensive nutritional quality of any recipe and determine caloric values.
  • Ability to automatically convert volume to weight, ounces to grams, or give allowance for a loss in nutrients.
  • Ability to analyze a menu and compare the options to standards set by the FDA to see how nutritious the food item is.
  • Can analyze the calorie intake of one or more people for one meal, one day, one week, etc.
  • Can utilize stored nutritional data to identify customers' eating habits. Restaurants can use this information to refine menus, increase sales, and build their brand.


Here are the critical takeaways to remember about performing a nutritional analysis-

  • A nutritional analysis calculates the nutritional value of food products. Larger chains are required to include nutrition facts labels on their menu items.
  • Both small and large restaurants prefer to conduct a nutritional analysis to be transparent and authentic with their customers.
  • A food label contains four main categories- serving information, calories, nutrients, and percent of the daily value.
  • Read up on the FDA laws to ensure compliance with nutritional labeling and standards.
  • Save time and money by employing an intuitive software system to automatically conduct an analysis.

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