Wellness expert Nora Day shares tips on how to work with
hotel chefs for healthy F&B.
Healthy food and beverage is an important part of the overall wellness trend at meetings and events. But, there are misperceptions about what constitutes healthy dining. What do planners need to know when planning menus with hotel chefs? We recently caught up with four-time author, frequent industry speaker and wellness expert Nora Day to get the skinny on do’s and don’ts.
First and foremost, she said, planners should ask chefs to get creative with vegetarian recipes that will appeal to everyone. For example, she recommends offering classic favorites as vegan options, such as a vegan beet burger made with oats, white beans, and walnuts; vegan avocado/cucumber sushi with pink rice, colored with beet powder; or vegan lasagna made with marinated carrots and cashew cream. Other tips:
•Don’t assume food is healthy just because it is plant based. Fried food, for instance, tends to be high in calories and trans fats.
•Do ask the chef for recipe ingredients. Look for dishes that are raw, like salads, boiled like quinoa or brown rice, baked like sweet potatoes, or a variety of steamed vegetables.
•Don’t offer drinks high in refined sugar. This includes soft drinks, sports drinks, specialty coffee drinks and most energy drinks.
•Do request freshly made drinks. Freshly made vegetable or green juices with no added sugars or food dyes taste delicious and will energize attendees during breaks.
•Avoid high-gluten menu items. Gluten-free diets are popular even among people who haven’t been diagnosed with a gluten-related medical condition, because the benefits of improved health, weight loss and increased energy are enticing wellness choices.
•Do ask the chef to use beans, seeds, nuts, fruits and vegetables as a substitute for wheat and other high-gluten grains.
•Don’t offer fake meats or fake fish as healthy vegetarian options. GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) from the soy used in many name brand fake meats are cause for concern. There are also corn-derived ingredients in many fake meat alternatives; the percentage of U.S. grown corn that is genetically modified is greater than 90 percent.
• Do ask the chef to create exciting and healthy plant-based hors d’oeuvres using fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs. Some fun options are chickpea “nuts” with cinnamon and sesame seeds, roasted cauliflower tacos with jalapeño’s and red cabbage, garlicky roasted-radish bruschetta on gluten free bread, or zucchanoush: a take on the classic baba ganoush that swaps zucchini for eggplant for a creamy, colorful dip.