Posted: 01/04/2020

Heart and soul food

As more consumers make better food choices, adding healthy items to your menu could produce healthier returns. But what good-for-you dishes should you offer?

Low in fat. Protein rich. Carb light. Calorie deficit. Carnivorous. Veggie. Vegan. There are so many different definitions of what it means to be healthy.

One thing’s for certain, more consumers are connecting what they eat with their health, and indie retailers offering healthier items on their café or restaurant menu could see better margins.

For Liverpool-based food hall and restaurant Delifonseca, it’s about giving customers a choice. Full English breakfasts sit alongside bircher muesli with fresh fruit and Greek yoghurt on the breakfast menu, while at lunch customers can opt for a classic deli sandwich with chunky chips or a Thai-style salad.

Generally, customers order healthier items during the week and indulge at the weekend, owner Candice Fonseca tells FFD. The restaurant sees higher
sales of granola early on weekday mornings, bolstered by travelling businesspeople staying at a neighbouring Travelodge. “It’s very easy to overeat on the road,” says Fonseca. “They’re trying to do the right thing and have some fruit and a slow-releasing breakfast.”

Cowdray Farm Shop in West Sussex tries to create a menu which reflects its cosmopolitan customer base, offering items like vegan mezze or curried roasted cauliflower salad alongside heartier dishes. On the drinks menu, lattes and cappuccinos – now with a choice of non-dairy milks – are joined by turmeric lattes, smoothies, juices and a timely immune-boosting ginger shot.

“We cater for everyone because you might get a couple come in and they have entirely different ideas of what represents a healthy meal,” says manager Rupert Titchmarsh.

Avocado on toast is still an unbudgeable menu item, though. “The avocado on toast is enduringly popular,” he says. “It will never go away. We took it off the menu once and there was a rebellion.”

This popular brunch item excepted, serving healthier dishes that are interesting and different to those already on the market will help stand your foodservice operation out from others. As with any dish, putting together a plate of food

that is also good for you is about getting the balance of flavours and textures right and using wholesome, unprocessed ingredients.

This also applies to plant-based and vegan foods, which are part of
a huge dietary lifestyle change in the last decade. But kitchens need to think beyond removing animal protein or trying to replicate a meat- based dish, says Julie Cleijne from consultancy Sustainable Kitchen.

“A good, structured and great- tasting plant-based recipe will have a balance of fat, acid, sweet and salt,” she says, adding that as a general rule of thumb, start with having a good protein source as the main veg, then add other complementary accompaniments and a sauce or dressing. “Also consider that in plant-based cooking, vegetables, legumes and fruits are used as much for their texture, nutritional content and flavour as well as for their ability to absorb other flavours.”

Plant-based ‘cheese’ or hummus can add another dimension, but Cleijne warns of the potential allergens in cheese and meat substitutes. “Some extras that you add to a dish may have some of the 14 regulated allergens (e.g. soy, sesame, nuts, wheat or gluten).”

Delifonseca takes inspiration from Indian and Asian cuisines that are naturally vegan, dairy-free, and avoid processed meat alternatives.

“They get their strength of flavour not from dairy products, but mushrooms for that umami flavour,” says Fonseca. “It’s about shifting the dish into a new area of flavour.” Now there’s a healthy idea.


  •  Make produce grown on site or in a local farm the focal point.
  •  Pearl barley, buckwheat and quinoa are gluten-free grains and can be used in the same way as rice in a risotto.
  •  Imported jackfruit and banana blossom are popular, but fruit and veg grown in the UK also make great dishes and have a lower carbon footprint. Think artichokes or aubergines.
  •  Not only are ferments like kimchi or pickled radishes on trend, but their sourness and bitterness can really take a flavour profile to another level.

This story appeared in the April issue of Fine Food Digest. You can read more on the digital edition here.

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