Foodservice forum: Healthy eating

We ask our experts: how do you promote healthy eating?

Andy Aston
Head of wellness and nutrition, BaxterStorey

We believe that promoting healthy eating through our teams will always have the biggest impact on engagement, understanding and uptake. Our team members are the best ambassadors for our business ethos, so any drive for change and evolution will always be better delivered through them.

By offering education and awareness, we can collectively have a bigger impact on the health and wellbeing of our own teams, our clients’ teams and on wider society. We invest a lot of time and resource on equipping our teams with the skills required to focus on creating innovate menus that offer exciting and varied choices for customers in our restaurants.

For example, this year, as we look to welcome the upcoming change in calorie legislation, our chefs have collaborated on a recipe e-book, contributing their own seasonal recipes worked on with our nutritionist. The e-book provides our teams with access to recipes and calorie calculations based on cooking methods and ingredients, giving chefs a base to adapt and bespoke for their locations.

Valuing health and nutrition has always been important for our business, and we have seen the demand for healthy, nutritionally balanced options increase in our restaurants. People are far more informed about what they consume, and understanding of how healthier foods can impact broader outcomes is more widely recognised and understood.

Our offers range from fresh juices, salad bars and seasonal soups to more plant-based options. Ensuring that our chefs are at the forefront of food innovation means that customers don’t need to compromise in order to make healthy decisions.

We have also recently welcomed a new chef partner to support chef training across our business. Plant-based expert Kirk Haworth has joined our company to focus on how we can continue to innovate our food concepts to promote wellbeing through cooking techniques and ingredients.

Working with our clients to provide resources for our customers to learn more, we have created a series of videos bespoke to the client location featuring our chefs talking about dishes that promote healthier or more sustainable food choices. These range from plant-based dishes to our help yourself juice bars.

We believe that fostering a collaborative approach with our teams and clients is important. As a business, we spend a lot of time helping to align our activities with our clients’ values and strategic objectives. This extends to health and wellbeing. We will continue to work with our clients to ensure that we are enhancing and delivering on their health goals for their employees.

Alistair Day
Executive chef, Bennett Hay 

A decade ago, it was recognised that healthy eating in the workplace helped to increase employee motivation, played its part in driving productivity and underlined a positive image around employee care. But then food took hold as a national obsession for the UK and provenance, protein and producers became daily speak and a conversation starter.

Post-pandemic, things have again stepped up a mark as employees return to a new office environment. While the office lights were dimmed, employees learned how to perfect their cooking-from-scratch skills and how to entertain, as well as the importance of supporting local and hyper local growers and makers. Caterers no longer have a battle to sway diners to go healthy; conversely, they need to keep up with consumer demand.

Employees have a newfound understanding of what and how they eat. They are far more aware of the impact and effect food and drink can have on their stamina, strength, and immunity to fight off viruses and other health deficiencies. This, together with the recent changes in law, means that foodservice providers now need to highlight more predominately what ingredients are in their dishes, where their foods come from and which foods may contain allergens. Eating healthily is an expectation; keeping up with trends and consumers understanding of daily dietetics is key. 

The growth in wearable technology tracking and monitoring physical activity means that workplace eateries need to be able to readily share information on each dish, and to offer menus and items that not only sustain your appetite but fulfil users’ needs for protein, vitamins, carbohydrates and micronutrients. And with new legislation incoming, caterers are readying to commit to calorie menu labelling.

The realisation that plant-based dishes are as delicious as their meat counterparts means that chefs are widening the scope of the former with a move to more grains and ancient grains.

It’s not just food items where offices are upping their game, hot and cold drinks are also taking on a healthier slant, again, driven by consumer demand. Healthy drinking gets unprecedented attention. Waters enhanced with L-theanine and magnesium are commonplace, along with a wide range of plant-based milk alternative for hot drinks.

The return to a centralised function is seeing a more nourishing lunchbreak. Employees are gathering to share food, their experiences and, no doubt, the latest trends in healthy and planet-conscious eating that they are replicating at home.

Rosemary Molinari
Head of health and wellbeing, schools and universities, Sodexo UK and Ireland

There are several fundamental drivers that really matter when it comes to health, nutrition and the provision of school meals. But underpinning them all is the importance of getting the basics right. So, what are those basics are and why are they so critical?

A nutritious diet is essential for the health and wellbeing of children and teens. They need the right fuel for their growth and development. Consuming the right food and drink at school has a positive impact on their bodies and brains, while also helping to establish their lifelong eating habits.

To promote healthy eating in schools, it’s vital to encourage children to eat a wide-ranging, nutrient-rich diet from an early age. School meals should be at the very heart of this process. They are often the only opportunity for a child to consume a variety of fresh ingredients and they are an important weapon in the fight against childhood obesity.

School meals are so important. As school meal providers, we are able to control the nutritional content and ensure healthy eating guidelines are adhered to.

Proven recommendations for a healthy, balanced diet are outlined in The Eatwell Guide, a government-backed model launched in 2016. It describes a diet that is rich in foods from plants, while also including some meat, dairy, fish and eggs in a visual and easy-to-understand format. 

Aside from providing nutritionally valuable menus, it is also important to engage children and teachers in educational activities that broaden their knowledge and understanding. The benefits of this stretch far beyond the school gates.

There are a multitude of ways that food education can be embedded across a school. These include posters in the dining hall to point-of-sale and leaflets, the school website, parent comms, cooking demonstrations, classes, assemblies, newsletters and so on. 

But whatever the methods used, remembering to tell a good story around food makes all the difference. The healthy eating message is more likely to result in change if children can get involved, so teaching materials and activities need to be fun, engaging and interesting.

By providing them with a varied diet, school meals help children to explore new types of food, including choices that benefit the world at large. It can open them up to more sustainable options that reduce carbon emissions in a long-lasting, meaningful way.

With many parents stating that they lack the knowledge and resources to feed their children optimum diets, we all must step up and accept the critical roles we play as stakeholders in this quest. School meals don’t just put fresh, healthy food on the plate – they can make a positive social impact on all members of both the school and local community. 

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