The revolution is here–the veg revolution, that is. Plant-forward eating styles are changing the way residents and communities think about food.
“Plant-forward is an eating style focused on plant-based dishes like produce, whole grains, and legumes, but it’s not limited to that,” said Dana Fillmore, registered dietitian and marketing manager at Gordon Food Service.
For instance, a salad with real bacon bits is not vegetarian or vegan, but it is plant-forward.
An important motivation to going plant-forward is the list of benefits: Diets composed mainly of plant-derived ingredients are proven to improve health by lowering cholesterol, reducing inflammation, boosting the immune system, and reducing the risk of heart disease.
Resident interest in plant-forward dining is growing as they learn more about nutrition from their adult children and the media. Communities are encouraging the trend by offering flavorful plant-based dishes and educating residents about their benefits.
“Not only is it health-promoting, but the key to its increasing popularity has been the ability of our executive chefs to come up with creative, interesting and delicious-tasting choices,” says Dr. Sarah Matyko, corporate director of life enrichment at Senior Resource Group. The provider’s FreshZEST plant-based food program is implemented in its 32 communities.
Popular options include Tangy Pad Thai Spaghetti Squash and the Grilled Black Bean and Sweet Potato Burger—a veggie burger, not an imitation meat one.
For senior living food service contractor Morrison Living, global grain bowls are successful. They’re offered in several flavor profiles, including Indian, Moroccan, and Japanese. “It’s really about being creative,” says Morrison vice president of culinary Adam Grafton.
For those looking to reduce their consumption of animal products without giving up the flavor and texture of meat, a growing number of manufacturers offer plant protein-based meat alternatives.
These products can provide a meat-like dining experience, right down to the beet-powder “blood” oozing from a burger. Plant-based alternatives to beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and seafood are available.
However, most commercially made meat alternatives are highly processed and contain more sodium, saturated fat, and calories than a meat-based burger. On the plus side, they can be more environmentally sustainable.
It’s important to note that plant protein-based meat alternatives are not the same thing as veggie burgers, which make no attempt to imitate meat.
Plant-based dairy substitutes, especially milks, have exploded in popularity for many of same reasons that people choose plant-based meat alternatives. They have an added benefit for people with lactose intolerance and dairy allergies.
Non-dairy milk, yogurt, ice cream, cheese, and other foods are made from plant-based ingredients such as nuts, grains, hemp, and soy.
It’s important to check labels when determining which products are best for an individual person. Highly processed dairy analogues such as cheese substitutes are not necessarily “healthier,” but can be viable choices for people who are unable to consume dairy products or who want to eat more sustainably.
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