Benefits of plant-forward eating in healthcare foodservice

Photograph courtesy of Mars Foodservice

Plant-forward eating, which focuses on but isn’t strictly limited to plant-based foods such as ancient grains and vegetables, is garnering a lot of attention these days—largely because of the broad-scale shift in eating. According to Ignite menu trends data, mentions of plant-based proteins appearing on the Top 500 foodservice chains’ menus have increased 30% over the past year. It’s a trend crossing into noncommercial foodservice as well—for good reason.

“Food as medicine”

Because plant-based foods and beverages tend to be rich in nutrients and deemed healthier (in terms of freshness and “realness”), they’re a natural fit for hospitals, nursing homes, care centers and other facilities dedicated to health and wellness. Given society’s increased focus on the “food as medicine” concept—wherein food is used to help prevent health issues—it makes sense for foodservice facilities in healthcare establishments to increase both the number and variety of plant-forward menu items, moving beyond vegetable sides and offering more appetizers and entrees in which plant-based ingredients play a starring role.

Menu items featuring whole grains and ancient grains are an easy way to increase the number of plant-forward meals that diners will enjoy. For instance, instead of a standard chicken and white rice soup, substitute hearty brown rice and quinoa to boost the protein and fiber quotient. Or consider replacing greasy cheeseburgers with lighter turkey and quinoa sliders.

Restricted or specialized diets

Plant-forward offerings are especially well-suited to healthcare settings because they can be modified to accommodate restricted or specialized (e.g. low-sodium diets). In addition to reducing risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, plant-based diets are often recommended for patients under care for various conditions. In fact, research presented to the American Heart Association showed that eating a primarily plant-based diet could reduce the risk of heart failure by 42 percent among those with no history of heart disease. Plant-based foods rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals have been shown to boost immunity, too, which is pivotal for patients with weakened or susceptible immune systems.

Whole and ancient grains, for instance, can be incorporated into a variety of flavorful dishes across all dayparts. To satisfy a diabetic patient’s sweet tooth for example, offer a banana pudding blended with brown rice and quinoa. The fiber-rich addition will not only aid digestion but also prevent blood sugar spikes. For patients needing more protein and healthy fats, such as those who need to maintain healthy insulin levels, create a power bowl featuring brown rice, eggs, avocados and other plant-based ingredients.

Offering healthful food without sacrificing taste

Serving healthy food is an essential component of providing great care. Healthcare facilities can elevate both the nutritional value and taste appeal of their offerings by pairing ancient grains with flavorful, colorful fruits, vegetables, nuts and other plant-based ingredients. A diverse menu with interesting (and trending) foods will also entice visitors and staff whose diets aren’t restricted because of medical issues. As consumer studies show, plant-based foods appeal to consumers and healthcare providers for a lot of reasons—from health to taste and more.

By offering updated favorites, as well as plant-based comfort foods with innovative flavor profiles, healthcare facilities can feel confident that the foods they offer can enhance health and wellness, reduce health risks, satisfy a range of palates and, ultimately, foster a positive environment for all who dine there.

To learn more about plant-forward recipes and solutions, including concepts for healthcare settings, visit

This post is sponsored by Mars Foodservices

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