Creative ways to use Superfoods during National Nutrition Month

Sysco Shape March 2013

March is National Nutrition Month, and some people are participating by eating more. It’s not a diet but a new way to eat healthfully. Superfoods, or foods that are nutrient-dense, are one of the hottest trends right now. For many consumers, eating well once meant counting calories or avoiding entire food groups. Now people can add superfoods to their diet, instead of subtracting something.
Superfoods contain vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in large amounts relative to their calorie content. (Phytochemicals are plant compounds that have the potential to lower the risk of cancer or heart disease.) For restaurant operators and for noncommercial foodservice, now is a great time to add or highlight menu items that feature superfoods.

Here is a quick rundown of Sysco’s Top 15 Superfoods:

1. Avocados contain the antioxidants Vitamin C and E, omega 3, 6, and 9 fatty acids that protect the heart and brain, and fiber. Avocados also contain monounsaturated fat, the good fat that contributes to healthy blood flow.

2. Beans, especially kidney beans and pinto beans, are rich in antioxidants, protein and fiber.

3. Blueberries contain antioxidants and can help prevent cell damage and even cancer. They also may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as dementia.

4. Broccoli and other cruciferous (cabbage family) vegetables are high in Vitamin C and soluble fiber and contain phytochemicals.

5. Dark Chocolate contains flavonoids, which are good for heart health..

6. Eggs are a good source of protein and they contain little saturated fat that contributes to high blood cholesterol.

7. Nuts, especially almonds, contain Vitamin C and E, all three omega fatty acids, and fiber. Walnuts are high in omega-3s. Both nuts also contain phytochemicals.

8. Salmon and other omega-3 rich fish have less fat than the same size serving of other meats, more omega-3 fatty acids, and more Vitamin D.

9. Quinoa is a super seed that is packed with protein, calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus, as well as copper, zinc, and iron.

10. Spinach contains iron, which helps the body create red blood cells. Spinach and other dark leafy greens such as kale contain Vitamin C and calcium.

11. Sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene, the plant source of Vitamin A, and other carotenoids, which can help maintain a healthy immune system. They also contain calcium, Vitamin C, and the B vitamin folate.

12. Tea, especially green tea, contains polyphenols, which may play a role in reducing cardiovascular disease. They also contain flavonoids.

13. Tomatoes contain carotenoids, especially lycopene, which can help prevent prostate cancer.

14. Oats are a whole grain that contains fiber, minerals, protein, and antioxidants. Oats can also help reduce LDL, or bad cholesterol.

15. Yogurt contains probiotics, which help maintain balance in the gastrointestinal tract by staving off harmful bacteria.

Chefs incorporate these superfoods into menus in various ways. Some eateries add menu items featuring Superfoods as a limited time offer. Bradenton, Fla.-based First Watch added items such as the Quinoa Power Bowl, which featured kale, carrots and tomatoes, and a Broccoli and Turkey Frittata. Others, like Abby Park restaurant in Quincy, Ma., list a Superfoods section on the menu, with offerings such as guacamole and lavash chips, natural chicken with red coconut quinoa, brussels sprouts and hemp seed, and rice pudding with almonds, coconut, brown rice, dried banana, and dark chocolate.

Other restaurants have superfoods as their positioning. In New York City, Calista Superfoods features a harvest salad of roasted sweet potatoes, egg white, spinach, tomatoes, granny smith apples, dried cranberries, and sunflower seeds. In New Orleans, Superfood Bar offers avocado smoothies, and dark green leafy salads that change weekly.

The theme for this year’s National Nutrition Month, which is sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day.” That theme fits perfectly with another trend, customization. As more restaurant diners want to order foods that are made just for them, operators can offer the option of adding a superfood. Offer consumers the ability to order quinoa instead of white rice, spinach instead of lettuce, sweet potatoes instead of French fries, green tea instead of black tea.

The opportunity to make the meal their own might satisfy customers enough that they stay for dessert. Use dark chocolate in new desserts such as molten cakes, or in updated versions of classic desserts such as fondue. Add other superfoods such as berries and almonds for even morenutrition. Green tea is also more popular than ever in desserts, everything from frozen yogurt to cookies to tiramisu.

In noncommercial foodservice, adding superfoods can also be simple. Customization is at the heart of many cafeterias, where people get their meals from various food stations. At the Massachusetts School of Art and Design, the dining department offers a superfood special every month, and in March the superfood is legumes. Denver Public Schools did a superfoods project, in which kids were encouraged to eat foods such as Asian coleslaw (cabbage), black bean brownies, spicy corn salad (beans), apple oatmeal, and others.

Unlike “diet,” lite,” or “low-calorie,” the term “superfood” is a positive one for many consumers. This movement has even renewed interest in certain foods, that after years of not being so trendy, their popularity has returned. Oatmeal, for example, was once a dreaded breakfast item, and now it’s become a popular choice at McDonald’s, Starbucks, Panera, and other eateries. Avocados, eggs and nuts were once thought to be fatty, and now they are considered healthful. Don’t be afraid to promote these superfoods and be sure to highlight.




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