Menus of Change & Menus of Change University Research Collaborative
Healthy, Sustainable, Delicious Food Choices
Menus of Change® is a ground-breaking leadership initiative launched in 2012 by The Culinary Institute of America and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that works to realize a long-term, practical vision integrating optimal nutrition and public health, environmental stewardship and restoration, and social responsibility concerns within the foodservice industry and the culinary profession.
Cultivating the long-term wellbeing of people and planet one student, one meal at a time
The Menus of Change University Research Collaborative is a working group of scholars and campus dining leaders from invited colleges and universities interested in accelerating efforts to move American consumers—and college/university students, scholars, and staff in particular—toward menus that integrate both health and sustainability imperatives.
The collaboration recognizes that a significant amount of energy for food systems transformation today is being driven by concerned university students and forward-looking faculty and administration, and understands that university food systems hold considerable untapped potential to further catalyze existing efforts. MCURC is a network of 57 colleges and universities, and several other organizations, which together serve more than 750,000 meals each day, representing 15 billion meals over the course of their students’ lifetimes.
Research Study: DISH (Delicious Impressions Support Healthy eating)
The University of North Texas was among 5 universities that participated in DISH, a groundbreaking, collaborative research study that measured diners’ vegetable intake for several months. Researchers found that emphasizing the tasty and enjoyable attributes of vegetables, rather than their health attributes, increased the number of people choosing to eat them. The DISH study is the first behavioral intervention of its kind to be replicated across multiple university dining halls across the country and the first peer-reviewed publication from the Menus of Change University Research Collaborative (MCURC). Results of the DISH study were published by the journal Psychological Science. Learn more.
Principles of our healthy, sustainable menus
Foods and ingredients
1. Think produce first.
2. Make whole, intact grains the new norm.
3. Limit potatoes.
4. Move nuts and legumes to the center of the plate.
5. Choose healthier oils.
6. Go “good fat,” not “low fat.”
7. Serve more kinds of seafood, more often.
8. Reimagine dairy in a supporting role.
9. Use poultry and eggs in moderation.
10. Serve less red meat, less often.
11. Reduce added sugar.
12. Cut the salt; rethink flavor development from the ground up.
13. Substantially reduce sugary beverages; innovate replacements.
14. Drink healthy: from water, coffee, and tea to, with caveats, beverage alcohol.
Menu concepts and general operations
1. Be transparent about sourcing and preparation.
2. Buy fresh and seasonal, local and global.
3. Reward better agricultural practices.
4. Leverage globally inspired, plant-forward culinary strategies.
5. Focus on whole, minimally processed foods.
6. Grow everyday options, while honoring special occasion traditions.
7. Lead with menu messaging around flavor.
8. Reduce portions, emphasizing calorie quality over quantity.
9. Celebrate cultural diversity and discovery.
10. Design health and sustainability into operations and dining spaces.
Healthy, sustainable, plant-forward food choices:
- Feature minimally processed, slow-metabolizing plant-based foods: fruits and vegetables (produce); whole grains; beans, other legumes (pulses,) and soy foods; nuts and seeds; healthy plant oils; and herbs and spices.
- Place animal-based foods in a reduced or optional role, with a special emphasis on decreasing purchases of red meat and minimizing foods sourced from animals raised with the routine, non-therapeutic use of antibiotics. These choices prioritize fish and poultry among animal-based proteins, with dairy options and eggs playing a supporting role (if desired).
- Might include vegetarian and vegan choices.
- Highlight the value of fresh, seasonal, locally produced foods; minimize sugary beverages and added sugars and sweeteners; and reduce sodium and unhealthy additives.
- Emphasize healthy dietary patterns and a rich diversity of whole foods versus an undue focus on specific nutrients and percentages; avoid excess quantities of calories but first ensure calorie quality.
- Celebrate cultural diversity, personal needs and preferences, and the unapologetic elevation of deliciousness, including room in our diets for foods of special occasions
- Begin with transparent ingredient sourcing that supports sustainable farming methods and fisheries.
- Through food purchasing patterns, encourage innovation and sustainable practices in retail food and restaurant concepts and business models to advance public health, social wellbeing, and our food system.
Plant-forward is a style of cooking and eating that emphasizes and celebrates, but is not limited to, plant-based foods—including fruits and vegetables (produce); whole grains; beans, other legumes (pulses), and soy foods; nuts and seeds; plant oils; and herbs and spices—and that reflects evidence-based principles of health and sustainability. “Plant-forward” is a big-tent concept for dietary and food system transformation that includes a whole range of healthier, more sustainable culinary approaches—from those that contain poultry, fish, dairy, and/or small amounts of meat to vegetarian and vegan offerings.
Plant-based: refers to ingredients and foods themselves, i.e., fruits and vegetables (produce); whole grains; beans, other legumes (pulses), and soy foods; nuts and seeds; plant oils; and herbs and spices.
Vegetarian: Dishes or dietary patterns that do not contain meat, poultry, or fish but may, or may not, contain dairy, eggs, and/or honey, and individuals who do not eat meat, poultry, or fish but may, or may not, eat dairy, eggs, and/or honey.
Vegan: Dishes or dietary patterns that do not contain any ingredients that came from animals, and individuals who do not eat any ingredients that came from animals.
Flexitarian: Dietary patterns that are more focused on plant-sourced foods and much less reliant on meat—often following, for some or many meals, a vegetarian model—but that may occasionally include meat, as well as some poultry, fish, or dairy foods.