3 new takes on better-for-you options

In the past, dining out meant that diners would treat themselves to an indulgent meal they couldn’t easily replicate at home. But today, consumers eat away from home frequently—and the food they’re looking for is different, too. When it comes to what people are after at fast-casual restaurants, 58% of consumers say that healthy options are important or extremely important, according to Technomic’s 2016 Future of LSR: Fast-Food & Fast-Casual report, making healthier options a must for most operators today.

Better-for-you foods are not a new trend, of course, but the way they’re being menued is definitely changing. New products, innovative ideas and repurposed ingredients are all part of the changing landscape of healthier foods. Take a look at these healthier items making waves.

“Meatier” vegetarian/vegan burgers

Eating vegetarian—even just occasionally—is becoming more common among consumers, with diners looking for more plant-based menu items. Veggie burgers have been a long-standing favorite among the vegetarian population, but new iterations of them are meatier than ever. Blends of black beans and mushrooms provide a toothsome, savory bite, while premade patties made from pea protein, beets and other ingredients create a burger patty that’s a near-replica for meat.

Two restaurants that are currently menuing veggie-based burger patties include Houston’s Aquarium and Bareburger, a chain with locations in seven states. Aquarium serves the Natural Burger, a blend of mushrooms, water chestnuts, onions, carrots, brown rice, oats, red peppers, black olives and spices, while Bareburger’s new Prairie Burger features a quinoa patty topped with vegan American cheese, balsamic roasted mushrooms and garlic, caramelized onions, baby spinach and alfafa.

Unexpected ingredients at breakfast

Often featured in dishes such as chili and the aforementioned veggie burgers, beans are becoming more ubiquitous at breakfast. This ingredient is common in Mexican dishes, but is making the shift to other cuisines as well. For instance, at Chicago breakfast-and-brunch favorite Hash, guests can dine on the Chick Pea Hash, which features spicy chick peas, yogurt, crispy kale and paneer.

Diners might look for other dishes such as white bean shakshuka, or even avocado toast made with a mix of avocado and beans. The possibilities are nearly endless—beans up the protein and fiber content of a meal, so they’re great for health-minded eaters.

Bowled over by bowl meals

Finally, more and more meals are being offered in bowl form. These items are ideal for diners who adhere to special diets or who have dietary restrictions, as they’re often customizable. They’re also perfect for adding a multitude of flavors—global-inspired bowls are a hit—and can accommodate plenty of preferences, whether a diner wants beans instead of meat, doesn’t like bell peppers or is dying to try out a smoothie bowl.

BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse recently introduced its Peruvian Quinoa bowl, which features a Peruvian quinoa and brown rice blend and is topped with sauteed red onions, sliced mushrooms, sauteed spinach, seasoned tomatoes, olive oil and lemon juice, and a choice of an herb-roasted protein such as chicken, salmon or shrimp.

And at b.good, a fast-casual chain based in Boston with locations in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine, the Spicy Avocado and Lime Kale Grain Bowl is offered and includes kale, sauteed veggies, avocado, black beans, corn, grape tomatoes, queso fresco, lime, cilantro, chipotle puree and red pepper vinaigrette.

Eating healthfully to many diners means checking out alternative proteins, such as beans, and with these innovative menu ideas, consumers have the opportunity to dig in to delicious eats without sacrificing health.

This post is sponsored by Bush’s Best®