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Chef Juriaan Snellen likes the taste of healthy menus

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Chef-Juriaan-SnellenAs corporate chef at Heinz Canada for the past decade, as well as a member of several customer chefs councils, Juriaan Snellen gets to travel to interesting food(ie) cities. On his most recent tour, he took the pulse of the latest trends, among which is a growing interest in healthier eating options.

By Juriaan Snellen C.C.C.

People are more concerned about what they eat these days; they have a better understanding of nutrition, and they read labels. It seems like every year there is a new buzz word that becomes a focal point. Sodium, high fructose corn syrup, gluten-free are “hot” right now.

The whole emphasis on nutrition today has increased greatly compared to even 15 years ago. Printing nutritionals on packaging and other consumer-facing materials will create more awareness.

One of the key groups to pay attention to with changing trends is the Millennials. I believe more and more operators are going to focus on the Millennials as that is the single largest source of traffic growth. With the popularity of social media as well as the Internet and travel culture, there is a definite trend towards globalization. Here in Canada, we will see a stronger Hispanic influence with dishes like empanadas, tacos, uniquely flavoured salsas and ceviche gaining a loyal following.

Chefs and operators who want to “healthy-up” their menus should consider natural, locally sourced ingredients and smaller portion sizes. Going with seasonally influenced menus allows operators to use ingredients that are at the peak of flavour and therefore deliver the most nutritional value and best taste! Focusing on quality ingredients is a great start to “healthy-ing up” your menu.

When working with operators or fellow chefs on developing new menu items, you have to keep the following criteria in mind: who is the core customer, does the menu incorporate current trends and reflect the operator’s strategy, is it operationally feasible, and are the new menu items unique and craveable?  It’s all about striking the right balance; there definitely is a trend towards healthier items, but they still need to deliver on taste!

To become more health-aware, operators and chefs should conduct their own research on the web and stay on top of current development as it relates to health innovation. Wherever possible use the health-smart logos on menu items that meet the heart-healthy criteria and identify other menu items that are considered low sodium or gluten-free.

I think it’s a fair statement that healthy menus mean healthy profits, but people who go out for dinner still want to indulge. They are trying to balance it out. They might have a yogurt for breakfast so they can have something a little more indulgent for lunch and a salad [topped with a protein] for dinner.