By Carissa Chesanek, Contributing Editor
These days many customers want healthier options on the menu. Diners seek delicious flavors and hearty plates that will fill them up without bringing on the guilt. Many fine dining establishments offer healthier options (especially with the rise of the veggie entree) along with fast casual concepts, giving hungry guests plenty of options.
If you’re looking to change things up in the kitchen by adding some healthier options for your customers, you’re in luck. We chatted with a few food brands that are known to provide their guests with healthy and hearty options, and they gave some delicious tips.
The team behind brands, such as Ponderosa Steakhouse and Bonanza Steakhouse told us salt is a big factor when trying to make dishes on the healthier side. Homestyle Dining’s CEO Tom Sacco suggests other seasonings (such as Harissa paste or lavender) are better options because there is less sodium while still providing just as much flavor as salt.
Sacco also talks about how important portion size plays into healthier eating. “Portion size is always the first line to reducing calories, fats, and carbs. While diners require a value to their dollar when dining out, the days of huge portions still exist and are expected. Restaurant brands can still created the 'wow' in portion size by filling up the plate with freshly prepared vegetables, fruits, salsas, or greens. The end result will be fresh exciting flavors and textures but without the fat and carb loaded side items.”
And as for sugar, that’s also an ingredient to be careful with when adding it to your dishes. “Sugar is king when it comes to cravings, but many items contain enough natural sugars to be naturally sweet,” says Sacco. “Experiment with cooking without adding sugar, and when possible, pass on additional sweeteners. When you must, try using honey or agave or natural fruit juices.”
The Veggie Grill is known for offering fresh vegetable options to its health-conscious guests, and the team has plenty of tips to provide others looking to do the same. They say to stay away from the extra carbs when possible. A lettuce wrap is a nice option instead of a typical bun, which Veggie Grill offers for all of their sandwiches.
The team also states that you can’t go wrong with adding more vegetables on the plate. Replacing those standard sides of fries or chips with a fresh veggie option will help cut the calories and have eaters feeling better about what they are consuming. Currently, Veggie Grill has new tasty veggies sides that have been a real crowd pleaser: Brussels sprouts and tumeric cauliflower.
The mission at Nekter Juice Bar is clear: providing good, clean food so customers will not only come back but stick to a healthier lifestyle. Co-founder and chief visionary officer, Alexis Schulze told us a great way to provide deliciously healthy options is by adding fruits to veggies.
“Our Toxin Flush and Sublime freshly-made juices are perfect examples of this trick. Both are made with nutrient-dense greens, but we add fruits like apples and oranges to hide the taste. This is what makes juicing such a great way to get your veggies in. By balancing a blend with fruit, you can make your juice taste so good that you actually enjoy getting your daily dose.”
Schulze also talks about dairy and how customers can get the same enjoyment without actually consuming it. “A lot of people try to avoid dairy because it can cause inflammation. An easy replacement for dairy is nut milk. For example at Nekter, we make fresh, raw cashew milk every single day at each of our stores to use in our smoothies and acai bowls. Our house-made cashew milk provide that smooth and creamy touch, without the refined sugars that frozen yogurts or processed fillers often contain.”
And for those who love piling on the mayo and cream? Schulze states avocados can be a solid replacement for these ingredients. And an easy way to incorporate avocado into the menu? Put it in a salad. “Mix avocado with a little lemon, salt and pepper for a delicious, creamy and good-for-you salad dressing.”
The fast casual franchise, Freshii is all about providing good for you options to it customers, and has plenty of stellar ways to go about it. One bonafide option is by adding in more plant-based proteins, such as falafel and tofu. At Freshii, guests have many plant proteins to choose from when looking for an extra boost, including anything from beans to quinoa.
Another way Freshii keeps the menu on the healthier side is by making their own salad dressings. And no, these dressings aren’t boring or flavorless, they are actually stemmed by traditional dressings that many of us love (think: super creamy ranch dressing). Their rendition is made with Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise which still gives that creamy texture without all the guilt.
Lastly, the team at Freshii says a healthy menu is nothing without customization. It’s important for guess to be able to personalize what they eat to fit individual dietary needs. At Freshii, guests are able to swap anything from brown rice to quinoa, to adding half greens or grains.