Interested in enhancing your menu with vegetables that have a long growing season, are sustainably raised without fertilizers or herbicides, offer appealing flavor and nutritional benefits, and are also on trend? Sea vegetables are rapidly rising in popularity. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that the consumption of seaweed is growing 7 percent each year in the U.S., according to James Griffin of Johnson & Wales University. Some of the world’s top restaurants have incorporated the sea vegetable, in both fresh and dried forms, into their menus in surprising ways: Consider the sea lettuce cookie amuse bouche at Chicago’s Smyth.
As consumers look to eat healthier meals, snacks and appetizers in the New Year, many operators are accommodating those preferences in desserts as well. Is there room on your dessert menu to weave in more superfoods, gluten- and dairy-free options and other diet-conscious ingredients? Nation’s Restaurant News reports that New York City’s Hu Kitchen, for one, offers a Mashbar where guests can create their own healthier concoctions or order ones such as the Taro Trouble No-Yo, which includes grain-free granola, taro pudding, organic seasonal berries, mango and organic puffed quinoa. Alternatively, if you have a signature entrée or appetizer, try to reinvent it for your dessert menu and give it a healthier spin.
How well does your menu use vegetables as not just vegetables, but as ingredients that blend into the background — and in the process, make for a healthier dish? Cauliflower, for one, has surged in popularity in recent years, with sales of its products climbing 71 percent last year according to Nielsen data. (Having taken hold as a pizza crust ingredient and rice substitute, it is now moving into the snack category: Fast Company reports that a number of brands are releasing cauliflower-based snacks such as pickled cauliflower and cauliflower-powder based pretzels, crackers and chips.) But since cauliflower is expensive and difficult to mass-produce, there is room for other vegetables to take hold as undercover ingredients. This New Year, as people look to reset their health, where can you incorporate nutrient-dense vegetables in ways that allow them to disappear into the background?
As medical research continues to point to digestive health as the foundation for a person’s overall health, both nutrition consultancies and food distributors have identified “gut-healthy foods” as a top food trend for 2019. Food Business News reports that probiotics are finding their way into products such as granola, oatmeal, nut butters and soups. The good news is that it’s easy for restaurants to accommodate the trend. To give your menu a probiotic boost, incorporate cultured or fermented foods like buttermilk, kefir, tempeh, sauerkraut and yogurt. For prebiotic fiber, try bananas as well as asparagus, garlic, leeks and onions.
There is a new reason to source your protein from farmers that don’t feed their animals routine antibiotics. The bank HSBC recently issued a report predicting that the use of antibiotics in meat production could lead to 10 million deaths annually by 2050, making antibiotic resistance a more common cause of death than cancer. The report indicated that more than half of the world’s antibiotics are currently used in agriculture, with the U.S. using antibiotics in 70 percent of its agricultural products and China using them in 60 percent of its agricultural products.