Stealth health is so 1998. When author Evelyn Tribole’s original book on sneaking healthy add-ons into meals was published nearly 20 years ago, there may have been a genuine nutrition need to fill. But as today’s diners are increasingly requesting more produce at the center of the plate, another need has taken the lead: a desire for creativity. Here’s how operators are openly blending meat with other ingredients—or eliminating animal products entirely—to take protein to another level.
In April, dining halls at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., began offering the Beyond Burger, a vegan pea protein patty blended with beets, spinach and shiitake mushrooms. “I can’t say it tastes like anything I’ve had before,” says Adam Millman, senior director of Yale Hospitality. “It has the grittiness and fattiness one would expect with a ground beef burger, but it’s definitely not meant to taste like beef.”
The burgers are a labor saver for the dining department, since they arrive as frozen patties. They’re also a natural fit in Yale’s dining halls, which already offer 80% plant-based menus, Millman says.
Rutland Northeast Supervisory Union, a pre-K through eighth-grade school in Brandon, Vt., found a winning blend with the help of its students. Inspired by a project where students produced mushroom recipes, an eighth-grader’s portobello mushroom nachos—taco-seasoned meat and mushrooms, taco sauce, and mozzarella and cheddar cheeses on tortilla chips—were added to the lunch menu, Kitchen Supervisor Sandy Gardyne says.
Gardyne incorporates as many vegetables and herbs from the school’s student-grown garden into meals as possible. “It’s really nice to be able to go outside and say, ‘OK, what am I going to be able to put in the soup today?’” she says. “Fortunately, here, the kids are really great about trying new things. I have kids coming asking for seconds, which is amazing.”