As diners become more deliberate about their menu choices, it may be time to look more closely at center-of-the-plate options
Is the centre of the plate starting to transform? There’s evidence to suggest that’s the case. With long-standing initiatives like “Meatless Mondays” and research demonstrating that plant-based proteins may help reduce the risk of heart disease or obesity, the Vegetarian Sources of Protein report by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics says plant-based proteins are starting to compete for a spot at the centre of the plate.
This move to share the traditional spot animal proteins inhabit is also driven by consumers who are carefully considering their food choices and want to know more about what they are eating. Although the traditional centre the of plate meals are not going anywhere, it is important to acknowledge the way the centre of the plate is evolving, as this transformation could present some unique opportunities for your restaurant.
The benefits of change
As consumers look for healthier options and look at the source of their food, many are turning to plant-based proteins because they are usually lower in saturated fat and often provide more fiber and are more nutrient dense than meat. When enjoyed with dark green vegetables, such as kale or broccoli, both good sources of calcium and vitamin D, a plant-based meal also can support bone health.
One important thing to note, however, is that many plant-based meals include soybeans. This needs to be flagged on the menu because many people are allergic. In fact, soy is among the top 10 allergens, according to Health Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the medical community. Other top allergens include eggs, milk, mustard, peanuts, seafood, sesame, sulphites, tree nuts and wheat. Another consideration is portion sizes. It’s important to make sure the protein amount in a plant-based meal is sufficient. Health Canada recommends these serving sizes for meat alternatives:
- Beans, hummus and lentils, 175 mL. (¾ cup)
- Nuts and seeds (shelled), 60 mL. (¼ cup)
- Peanut butter or nut butters, 30 mL. (2 Tbsp.)
Plant-based menu matters
To meet this burgeoning customer need, there are small, simple menu additions you can consider.
- Vegetable burger: Add your own, exclusive blend of spices, a custom sauce and/or unique veggie-based toppings to create a stand-out offering.
- Legume delight: Create a colourful dish chock full of lentils and in-season produce.
- Custom combo: Encourage customers to create their own plant-based platter by selecting from protein-providing sides you already feature, such as black beans, beans paired with rice, seasonal roasted vegetables, steamed edamame, etc.
As plant-based proteins appear in more and more dishes, it’s important to recognize another benefit they offer: supporting a sustainably focused or socially responsible dining experience. These concepts are becoming more important to customers. They want to know where their food came from, how it got there and whether it’s helping or hurting the environment. Dining out, for them, is more enjoyable when they know the full story about what they are eating.
Need some additional inspiration? Gordon Food Service has you covered! Our corporate chefs have featured many veg-centric ideas, just ask your District Sales Representative for recipes and details.
The top contenders for your menu
These plant-based proteins are easy to incorporate into your menu. If you do so, don’t hesitate to highlight their health benefits, which are noted below.
Lentils, dried peas, dried beans and chickpeas
Provides: fibre, iron, potassium, and folate
Tempeh, tofu, edamame, texture vegetable protein (soy-based proteins)
Provides: calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc
Provides: healthy fats which include omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E