10 ways to balance health and indulgence

vegetables with dip foodservice healthy menu

From Mrs. Dash Foodservice.

There was a time when healthy food meant counting calories, omitting carbs, giving up sugar and going fat-free—in other words, it was all about deprivation.

But not anymore. Today’s definition of healthy means an overall focus on nutrition and wellness that doesn’t mean giving up enjoyment. It’s all about balance: good fats, healthy carbs, better sweeteners, wholesome ingredients and satisfying flavor enhancements. It means food that customers can feel good about, at the same time that they’re enjoying the dining experience.

According to Technomic’s 2014 Healthy Eating report, both health and indulgence are important to consumers when dining away from home. Moreover, definitions of what’s healthy vary by individual, and rather than follow rigid diets, consumers favor a balanced, nutritious approach that supports a personal, holistic path to health and makes them feel good both emotionally and physically.

Many college students arrive on campus with very clear ideas about what it takes to maintain a healthy lifestyle. “Students are now much more aware of what’s healthy, and they’re also more willing to try new foods,” says Martin Paine, corporate chef for Kent Precision Foods Group. “In today’s era of balance and moderation, low-calorie options should be determined by portion size rather than the elimination of great flavors and good fats that make the experience a positive one.”

In fact, it’s the elimination of healthy ingredients such as good fats that can lead to deprivation, and ultimately, consumers may try to fill that desire with empty calories. “That negates the idea of balance and moderation,” he says.

Chef Paine provides the following tips for helping students balance their need for healthy lifestyle habits with their desire for enjoyment and experimentation when dining:

  1. Provide a balance of both healthful and indulgent menu options, with an eye to quality ingredients, including good fats and high flavor, in appropriately sized portions.
  2. Add flavor with herbs, spices, rubs and marinades.
  3. Offer customization in the form of flavor boosts, topical add-ons and other “flavor station” enhancements.
  4. Cook vegetables in broth, rather than salted water, to cut sodium without sacrificing flavor.
  5. Reduce reliance on processed foods.
  6. Follow global food trends, using flavorful ingredients such as chipotle and other chiles, Sriracha, wasabi and other carriers of flavor-boosting heat.
  7. Explore local sourcing for vegetables, eggs and meat, which promotes enjoyment through a connection to the community of wholesome and healthy suppliers.
  8. Reduce portion sizes of meat and full-fat dairy, in favor of fruits and vegetables, and such better-for-you carbs as grains and legumes. This also helps to offset the higher cost of meat proteins while being versatile enough to incorporate into salads, soups, casseroles and bowl concepts.
  9. Look to global cultures such as South America, Africa and the Mediterranean for healthy yet flavorful recipes and eating models.
  10. Consider using food trucks as another means for tapping into fresh, authentic foods.

For more tips and menu ideas, visit Mrs. Dash Foodservice here.

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