Who isn’t looking to squeeze a few more fruits and vegetables into their diets these days? In fact, the National Restaurant Association featured several health-related topics in its 2016 roundup of the top 20 food trends, including everything from locally grown produce to healthful kids’ meals.
What better time to make sure your restaurant is serving up what customers want than during June’s National Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month? Let’s count down some simple yet significant ways to showcase healthy foods on your restaurant menu.
1. Tuck-Ins and Toppings
From grilled cheese and apple sandwiches to wild mushroom-topped gourmet pizza, there are endless ways to add fruits and veggies to your menu in interesting ways.
Review your menu items for places where produce can be integrated for fresh and easy updates.
2. Signature Salads
More and more people are opting for salads as entrees — particularly when the weather turns warm and appetites lighten up.
Fruits, nuts, mixed greens, and flavor-packed dressings all add punch to salads while keeping diners feeling great about coming back for more.
3. Seasonal Specials
A roasted root vegetable medley in the dark, depths of November. Roasted asparagus with a bright lemon vinaigrette in early spring.
These are just two examples of seasonal items which are both budget friendly and a simple way to update your menu through the seasons. Consider your produce vendor your new best friend and check in regularly about what fruits and veggies are hot during any given season.
4. Herbs and Spices
While they might not technically fall into the fruits and vegetable category, fresh-from-the-garden herbs and spices are guaranteed to enhance any meal. Feeling particularly ambitious?
Leverage the contemporary diner’s love of hyper-local sourcing and environmental sustainability and plant your own mint, basil, dill, chives, coriander and other easy-to-grow herbs.
5. Ethnic Options
Many ethnic cuisines heartily rely upon fruits and vegetables. Think outside the border to bring in ethnic flavors, such as eggplant, bok choy and okra.
6. Just Desserts
Dessert doesn’t have to be dense and chocolaty — although all menus should include at least one option which fulfills that requirement.
Fruit-forward desserts are also popular picks. Think pies, crumbles, tarts and other simple-yet-satisfying options, such as fresh berries with mascarpone and roasted stone fruits, including cherries, nectarines and peaches.
7. Sauces and Sides
From mango salsa with salmon to the classic combination of pork chops and apple chutney, fruits and veggies alike also work well as accompaniment to a variety of dishes.
Depending on the season, these can easily be swapped out to keep dishes fresh but familiar — a successful formula with many diners who may object to favorite items completely disappearing from the menu.
8. Soups and Stews
While we often think of soup for winter — and really, what’s better than a bowl of rich butternut soup in the fall? — it’s also a delicious option in warmer weather. Chilled soups, including gazpacho, cucumber, spring pea, avocado, and watermelon, are a refreshing summertime treat.
9. Sips and Slurps
While the smoothie trend presents perhaps the most obvious way to offer your diners the fruits and veggies they crave, fresh-squeezed lemonade and limeade are also delightful drinks in summer, while flavor combinations like pomegranate, cinnamon and ginger are soul-soothing in chillier weather.
10. Pure Perfection
While there’s always room for experimenting with new flavor profiles, there’s also no substitute for unadulterated classics. You can’t go wrong with a perfectly salted and buttered piece of corn on the cob or a simple Caprese-style salad featuring just three amazing ingredients: ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil.
It’s all about fresh and seasonal in 2016 — with fruits and vegetables leading the way.
And while June is the perfect time to start, why not keep the flavors flowing throughout the seasons? Help your diners stay happy and healthy by incorporating these 10 tips into your year-round menu planning efforts.