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Expand beyond plant-forward with “plantdulgent” eating

Photograph: Shutterstock

In fall 2018, California passed a law that requires state-licensed healthcare facilities to provide a healthful plant-based option at every meal. But even before that law was passed, plant-based menu options were trending across the country. They’ve proliferated especially at healthcare facilities, where a patient’s nutrition is now considered central to offering the best wellness care.

For example, foodservice company Sodexo’s new menus at facilities across the United States now include more plant-forward entrees, such as black bean tamales, carrot osso buco and kung pao cauliflower. Meanwhile, Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, a non-profit, acute care teaching hospital in Portland, Oregon, is one of many healthcare institutions to adopt Meatless Mondays, serving hoisin-glazed tofu with string beans, vegetable lasagna and stir-fry veggie dishes.

University of Florida Health Shands Hospital recently ramped up its plant-based menu, particularly for cardiology patients, with the addition of entrees such as Lentil Bolognese with Pasta and Chickpea Potato Coconut Curry. Montefiore, in New York City, has also created plant-based vegan meals for in-patients meals.

Consumer demand drives change

It makes sense that operations focused on health have adopted plant-forward diets, which have been found to result in improved health, such as a lower risk of death from heart disease, lower overall cancer rates, lower rates of Type 2 diabetes and a lower body mass index. But beyond hospitals, the trend is resonating with the general consumer as well. According to Technomic’s 2018Healthy Eating Consumer TrendReport, 67% of consumers believe plant-based food and beverages to be healthy, and half of consumers eat vegetarian or vegan meals at least once a month, according to Technomic’s 2019 Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report.

Along with growing demand, there is also plenty of space in the market to better satisfy customers. Technomic’s Seafood & Vegetarian report found that only 27% of consumers who eat vegan or vegetarian meals think that restaurants do a good job of providing options that taste good, while 37% of those who eat vegetarian or vegan say they would like to see a wider variety of options. Enter “plantdulgent” options.

What is “plantdulgent”?

Typically, the plant-forward trend has focused on savory sections of the menu. But there are ways to use plants’ functional nutrition in more indulgent ways. Just consider the rise of dessert hummus on retailers’ shelves that combine the decadence of brownie batter flavors with a healthful chickpea base.

Other ways to incorporate “plantdulgent” offerings on foodservice menus include using black beans in brownies, which keeps them rich and moist while adding protein and fiber. Likewise, black beans can also contribute depth to chocolate mousse, all while adding a nutritional boost. Navy beans can be used for Navy Bean Pie, where their protein and fiber blends with comforting spices of cinnamon and nutmeg to create a unique, tasty treat. And cannellini beans can serve as the base for waffles while adding extra nutritional benefits to the morning treat.

Consumers are catching up to what healthcare leaders have known for some time: Eating more plants supports the prevention of disease. With plant-forward savory dishes tried and tested, foodservice programs can chart new waters by experimenting with “plantdulgent” items on dessert and breakfast menus.

This post is sponsored by Furmano’s

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