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Plant-based proteins are prescriptions for good health

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Shifts in consumer dietary habits are causing changes to the center of the plate at home, in foodservice establishments, healthcare facilities and more. Efforts to follow a healthier and more sustainable diet are leading some consumers to switch to vegetarian or vegan diets. But more frequently, these trends are causing consumers who are neither vegetarian nor vegan to integrate more plant-based foods into their diets, according Technomic’s April 2019 Food Trends report. To cater to these shifting behaviors, healthcare operators may want to add a layer of customization to their menus. Offering protein substitutes for certain dishes or adding create-your-own options gives consumers an even greater level of control.

Inspired by the concept of ‘food as medicine,’ a number of innovative healthcare operators have launched meal programs that offer plant-based foods and other nutritious fare to both patients and staff.

Given the increasing demand for healthful and delicious plant-based alternatives, the opportunity for sales growth in noncommercial foodservice, and specifically healthcare facilities, is significant. According to Technomic’s Food Trends report, the healthcare segment of the noncommercial foodservice retail sales equivalent (RSE) was $30.4 billion for 2018, or 25.3% of the total noncommercial foodservice RSE (including hospitals, long-term care and senior living) of $120.2 billion.

Plant-based health in every hospital

Health care providers from coast to coast are increasingly incorporating plant-based options in their foodservice operations. Indeed, in California, it’s the law. Last year, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a landmark bill that guarantees patients a healthful plant-based option at every meal.

Meanwhile, NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue recently piloted a program to help patients transition to a healthy lifestyle. The program includes educating patients on the health benefits of a whole-food, plant-based diet.

Soy-based plant proteins that are gluten- and cholesterol-free, like those from Kerry Foodservice’s Plantfare, can be used in a wide array of nutritious and delicious foodservice applications from wraps and salads to tacos and lasagna to soups and stews.

Health care foodservice providers can easily use these plant-based proteins in shredded and ground formats as they would pulled pork or ground beef. Serving patients a variety of plant-based dishes also shows them how to implement these healthy eating habits at home.

Healthy hospital takeout

As consumers in general continually seek more healthful options for on-the-go consumption, healthcare providers are also catering to this growing demographic with innovative and nutritious menus and takeout that increasingly includes plant-based options.

Technomic’s 2019 Healthcare Insights report, which examined Innovative Takeout at various hospitals around the country, points to Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis as a trendsetter. The hospital system’s foodservice department features an extensive salad bar, fresh vegetables, whole grains, vegetarian pizzas and pastas, cholesterol-free entrees and soymilk. It also sells nutritious premade family meals, including plant-based fare for healthcare staff, enabling workers to take home five-person meals for less than $20.

Florida-based Lee Health has debuted a new menu of vegan meals, which customers can take on the go that include quinoa breakfast bowls.

And the senior living community, Menno Haven Retirement Community in Chambersburg, Pa., launched About Thyme, a bistro where staff and residents can grab plant-based smoothies, salads and sandwiches to go.

Food as medicine isn’t a new concept. But the way it’s being implemented in healthcare foodservice is, and should be noted. By offering vegetarian options including Kerry Foodservice’s Plantfare, a plant-based shred, which has six simple natural ingredients that people understand, as well as other health-halo options, patients, visitors and employees alike can thrive.

This post is sponsored by Kerry Foodservice

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