Editor's note:The following column is from Healthy Dining, a company that has been at the forefront of restaurant nutrition since 1990. This series provides restaurant operators with information on industry-related nutrition topics. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Nation's Restaurant News.
In today’s nutrition-focused environment, many chefs are leading the way by applying their culinary artistry to the creation of healthful menu choices that guests crave. Here are tips from chefs who are passionate about health and flavor:
Cliff Pleau, executive, Seasons 52
"Seasons 52 is all about celebrating living well. Our secret is to begin with an inspiration or theme for the dish — maybe ethnic or seasonal. Then, starting with a blank plate, we add only the best nutritionally sound fresh ingredients. The next step is flavor layering — balancing sweet with sour ingredients, layering aromatic with spicy ingredients — then adding a crunch element.
"A favorite example of this is our Asian-inspired Curry Soup. We start with lean chicken breast. We roast sweet apples to thicken the soup and fuse lime to balance the sweet. We blend aromatic ginger, lemongrass and cilantro with curry and spicy chilies. The crunch and texture are provided through the apples and rice. It's a great soup and only 290 calories and 3 grams of fat for a 10-ounce bowl."
Tessa Stamper, registered dietitian and executive chef, Noodles & Company
"Add lots of brightly colored fruits and vegetables —they’re packed with more nutrients when compared to their lighter colored compatriots. Spinach, deeply rich in color, is a perfect example. It’s packed with B vitamins and carotenoids, (just a fancy word for natural chemicals in vegetables that help keep your body strong) and iron — it wins hands down when compared to iceberg lettuce. Broccoli, red bell peppers and tomatoes would be other examples of brightly colored vegetables that are good for you.
"Have you tried our Bangkok Curry? Full, full, full of vegetables."
Marley Hodgson, CEO and co-founder, Mad Greens
“At Mad Greens, creating a healthy meal it is all about choice. Choosing to add ingredients to your favorite salad while subtracting other ingredients can make any of our tasty salads healthier and even better for you. You can also choose to switch out any of our handcrafted dressings as well. One of my personal favorites is adding a portion our signature Quinoa Superfood salad featuring Kale, Quinoa, Farro, Dried Cranberries, Edamame, Feta Cheese and Oranges to any of our Mad Salads.
"In addition, we have some great online tools like our Nutritional Calculator or our Interactive Allergy/Diet Identification Menu to help our guests make informed and healthy choices.”
Jesse Gideon, COO and executive chef, Fresh To Order
“At Fresh To Order, we use a lot of fresh juices in everything from our sauces, sides, dressings, marinades, soups, desserts, and, of course, beverages. Fresh juices give food a natural spark from the acid and eliminate a sometimes “flat,” flavor. This helps us keep salt use to a minimum while still having food bright and flavorful. Juices also make people feel good by providing natural vitamins; so you see guests get that refreshed look after eating and not feeling bogged down like after Thanksgiving. “
Carla Ellek, executive chef, Pasha’s
“Pasha’s Restaurants prides itself in providing our guests with healthful menu items that are not only delicious but that also follow Mediterranean diet guidelines. Our tip to those looking to live a healthier lifestyle: Eat foods that are freshly prepared, have no trans fats, preservatives or additives. Also incorporate the use of olive oil to your diet. Olive oil boosts your immune system and helps protect you against viruses. It has also been found to be effective in fighting against diseases. We recommend having at least two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil each day so that you may benefit from its health advantages.”
Contact Anita Jones-Mueller, M.P.H., at email@example.com.