Right from the first meal of the day to the quick bites recommended for meetings and diet-based dinners, menus are becoming more about eating fresh.
Despite New-Year resolutions to eat healthily, for professionals and millennials who regularly depend on food from outside, all the nutrition talk might seem futile.
Not anymore, as savvy foodies show us the way. These extra-conscious food lovers are now reliant on knowledgeable chefs to serve them healthy options and portions. And guess what? Many chefs seem to be willingly turning into part-time nutritionists so they can consider the nutritional value of local ingredients, and recommend patrons healthy food-based trends including vegan, gluten-free and organic.
Fresh off the plate
This year, the focus of specialized menus at millennial eateries has shifted from focusing on picture-friendly items for Instagram to a healthy platter. What’s more, chefs are equally enthusiastic about adding to the process by doing their bit.
Right from the first meal of the day to the quick bites recommended for meetings and diet-based dinners, menus are becoming more about eating fresh. Chef Manisha Bhasin, corporate chef at ITC Hotels, highlights that the latest health trend stresses non-fussy and wholesome food options on the menu.
“For Gen Z, who believes in comfort food and demands flexibility, one of the key elements is a familiarity with the items so that they can optimize their time and health anytime, anywhere while adding to it an element of surprise,” says Chef Manisha. “Comfort, familiar food with artisan ingredients is all about taking pride in what our country has to offer—whether it is the fresh produce, forgotten grains, methods of cooking, utensils, ways to grow food (biodynamic farms), etc. In fact, new-age guests at restaurants believe that what’s good for the plate has to be good for the planet too.”
Chef Manisha then also talks about how in a city such as Delhi, community-farming initiatives and garden projects are getting popular thanks to climate change, focus on plant-based diets and overall wellbeing.
Getting nutrition on the menu
While flavour and presentation of a dish remain priority when designing a menu, chefs are now adding to the menu information on its nutritional intake.
To this end, chefs are reading up extensively on well-researched articles, doing short courses on nutritional values of different ingredients and are collaborating with health and nutrition professionals to enhance their awareness.
“Given our fast-paced lives and the rising number of fast-food trends and misleading advertising, we end up consuming high levels of sugar, salt, fat, starch, pesticide and preservative-laden foods. And all of those cause diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis, heart disease, stroke, obesity and dementia,” cautions chef consultant Bakshish Dean.
Bakshish then adds that to battle this problem and suggest healthy meals for patrons, chefs are now consciously incorporating healthy concepts into the menus and making it easy for guests to select from those.
“For instance, my latest project is a South-Indian vegetarian restaurant called ‘Padmanabham’ in Connaught Place. On the menu, we have marked out dishes that are high-protein, low-carb, high-fibre and vegan so that our guests can easily identify what they would like to order based on the diet they are following,” Bakshish adds.
The new-age platter
In 2020, the focus on vegan trends such as plant-based meats and macadamia butter are picking up among young eaters, as those are good sources of proteins and fibres without the added concern of saturated fats.
Even Arvind Kumar Bharti, Corporate Chef, Eastman Colour Restaurants Pvt Ltd, believes that climate change and eating patterns of customers are now pushing chefs towards learning nutritional aspects of food and alternatives to create better and healthy dishes.
In fact, according to the chef, some of the latest diets that Gen Z follows include the ‘pegan diet’—which is a combination of vegan and paleo diets; includes more of vegetables, high quality of fats and organic eating; and limits the intake of grains. “Use of millets, bulgur wheat and quinoa is popular among today’s customers. So chefs are seeking newer and more exciting ways to incorporate these superfoods in the meal. There’s clearly a lot of innovation on the plate,” says Chef Arvind.
Truth is that younger generations are getting increasingly aware and conscious of what they put inside their bodies. And a majority of them want to include superfoods in their diet, such as berries, avocado, broccoli, kale, spinach, Swiss chard, turnip greens, green tea, turmeric, ginger, garlic, sweet potato, mushrooms, seaweed, nuts, seeds and grains such as quinoa, chia seeds, basil seeds, amaranth, kombucha and kefir.
Restaurateur Neha Gupta at Beyond Designs Home and Bistro sums up the trend, saying, “Anyone eating outside wants to consume fresh food without worrying about calories. And owing to high concerns around carbon footprint, chefs now use home-grown greens, micro-greens and seasonal fruits and vegetables when creating their menus. It is not only about nutrition but also about creating awareness about the wellbeing of the planet.”