Eating a healthier diet is one of the top resolutions consumers make every January, and operators are wasting little time helping them achieve those results. As soon as the last drop of New Year's Eve bubbly was sipped, restaurants began announcing new menu items that boast some sort of health halo. Although not all these foods and drinks are known for their health benefits—and some are technically not new to the menu—operators are marketing and packaging them as better-for-you options to jumpstart a healthy new year. Read on for a few.
1. Pushing plants
TGI Fridays, a popular destination for calorie-laden endless appetizers, is going the healthier route with its Better For You menu launched on Jan. 2. Leading the lineup is a plant-based burger topped with white cheddar, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles and Fridays sauce. There’s also a Super Veggies side, a vitamin-packed mix of steamed bok choy, broccoli, red bell peppers and sugar snap peas. Aside from plants, Fridays is focusing on Asian flavors in its Dragon Glaze Chicken or Salmon drizzled with a spicy Korean barbecue sauce and served with mango pico de gallo. These ingredients keep a lid on fat and calories—and Fridays markets these benefits.
2. Cleanse and boost
Nekter Juice Bar introduced two new limited-time drinks—Grapefruit Reboot Juice and Skinny Skoop—promoting both as immunity- and metabolism-boosters with high vitamin content and lower calories. In addition, Nekter is bringing back its annual 3-Day Cleanse Sale, available through Jan. 14. The $99 package includes six detoxifying juice blends that provide 15 pounds of cold-pressed fruits and vegetables each day.
3. A crust cuts carbs in half
Cauliflower subs in for wheat flour in Pie Five’s new scratch-made pizza crust. Targeted at health-conscious guests, according to VP of Marketing Christina Coy, Pie Five is the first fast-casual pizza player to try a cauliflower crust. The lower-carb option is not only gluten-free, but it’s also rich in vitamins. Like Nekter, Pie Five is touting the item’s detox power; cauliflower evidently aids detoxification and digestion. Customers can spec their choice of toppings on the new veggie crust, available as an option until Feb. 11.
4. Bento boxes with a health message
Detox seems to be the healthy buzzword for the new year, with Blue Ribbon Sushi jumping in on the trend with its Detox Bento Box. All five locations are serving up these healthier versions, composed of ingredients such as salmon shioyaki, a quinoa, kale and orange salad and roasted kabocha squash with steamed bok choy.
5. Catching a new shrimp species
Rubio’s Coastal Grill is menuing a premium shrimp option in two new items launched Jan. 3. The wild-caught Argentinian Red Shrimp are grilled and drizzled with a blend of smoked paprika, sun-dried tomatoes, oregano, salt and garlic before going into the Two Taco Plate and Bowl. Rubio’s has menued shrimp for a while, and its lower calorie count and rich mineral content have made it a top choice among health seekers, according to the chain. Rubio’s is also promoting its new MyMenu page, a partnership with Healthy Dining, to make it easy for consumers to find nutrition and allergen info.
6. For waist watchers
The Under 500 Calories menu has long been a trademark of El Pollo Loco. For the new year, the chain is adding four new light options for dieters, complete with calorie counts. The Double Chicken Fit Plate, Shrimp Avocado Plate, Pollo Fit Burrito and Power Bowl (chicken, avocado, brown rice, sour cream and black beans) range from 380 to 470 calories per item. El Pollo Loco is also promoting the superfood qualities of avocado and spinach, the nutrient content of brown rice and other health attributes in the menu descriptions.
7. A cocktail with benefits
At Chicago’s Rebar, head bartender Joshua Williams is crafting vegetable-based cocktails that offer a kick of health. The Ground Up combines carrot juice, mezcal, two herbal liqueurs and a custom spherical ice cube frozen with a baby carrot. “The inspiration for this cocktail comes from the ground upon which we walk,” says Williams. “Traditionally, the pinas of agave [used to make mezcal] are cooked in pit ovens—earthen mounds over a pit of hot rocks, coals or wood. With that in mind, carrots, being a root vegetable, seemed the logical choice to pair with mezcal.” Imbibers can feel virtuous about keeping their resolutions as they drink their veggies.