Healthy Menu Tips for 2022

January 6, 2022

Capped off by the Christmas and New Year holidays, the month of December always proves to be a festive time filled with parties, get-togethers, and plenty of delicious food and drink. And after a year as rough as 2021, your customers have likely indulged a bit more than usual this holiday season.

But now the calendar has flipped to 2022. January is upon us once again, and with it that sobering moment when the aftermath of an over-indulgence in comfort food, drinks, and Christmas cookies sparks resolutions for healthier eating in the new year.

Below are some post-holiday tips to help your establishment mindfully incorporate the healthy food items and ingredients that will help your customers recover from the holidays and start the new year out right:

Begin with the Beverages: Highlight Tea-based Products and Serve Healthy Cocktails

Tips for Incorporating Healthy Food into Your Menu

Help your customers get their diets back on track by increasing the selection of tea and tea-based products into your menu. Green tea is a good choice, as the brew contains a type of antioxidant called catechins that triggers the release of fat from fat cells and helps increase the liver's capacity for turning fat into energy.

Rooibos tea is another great option, made from the leaves of the "red bush" plant grown exclusively in South Africa. What makes rooibos tea particularly beneficial for the belly is a unique and powerful flavonoid called Aspalathin. According to research, polyphenols, and flavonoids found in the plant inhibit the formation of new fat cells and aid in the metabolism of fat. Plus, rooibos is naturally sweet, which means that no additional sugars are needed.

The holiday season brings more than laughter, cheer, and good tidings to all — it also brings unwanted weight gain in the form of too many rich, decadent cocktails. Instead of continuing to serve traditional holiday drinks like eggnog or sugar-laden spiced cider, opt for a Hot Toddy made with ginger, tea, and whiskey. Creating lighter versions of traditional holiday cocktail favorites is another option, as it provides an opportunity for guiltless indulgence and nostalgia.

Add Fruits, Legumes, and Veggies to Help Fight the Bloat

Tips for Incorporating Healthy Food into Your Menu
Tips for Incorporating Healthy Food into Your Menu
Tips for Incorporating Healthy Food into Your Menu

Rich, salty holiday meals and sugary wines could be causing water retention and constipation for your customers, and adding more bloat-fighting foods into your menu can be just what the doctor ordered. Fruits like kiwi, honeydew melon, and papaya all contain compounds that kick the digestive system into gear and fight water retention. In general, the versatility of most fruits enables you to creatively incorporate them throughout your menu in salads, main dishes, and desserts.

A rich source of vegetarian protein, legumes have been shown to reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, promote fat metabolism, and even boost satiety. They're also a great source of resistant starch, a slow-digesting fiber that triggers the release of acetate, a molecule in the gut that tells the brain when to stop eating. Beans and legumes contain antioxidants that help prevent cell damage and fight disease and aging, while their fiber and other nutrients benefit the digestive system and may even help to prevent digestive cancers. Legumes are very versatile and can easily be added to any breakfast, lunch, or dinner menu.

For example, hearty, healthy soups are the perfect way to offset a rich holiday meal. A well-crafted soup can provide three to four servings of vegetables, legumes, and fruit, while the added fiber will leave customers feeling more satisfied and less bloated.

Feel the Burn…of Peppers

Tips for Incorporating Healthy Food into Your Menu

It's well-documented that fiery capsaicin (the compound that gives peppers their kick) can rev up the metabolism, but milder peppers have fat-burning potential too. Some recent trendy peppers like the ghost pepper – one of the hottest chili peppers in the world – are really just for serious spice seekers, but there are plenty of other enticing options out there.

Sambal is a great addition to an appetizer menu as a dipping sauce for meat or seafood items. Gochujang, frequently seen in Korean dishes, is more of a salty paste made from hot red chilis. And lastly, harissa, an African hot sauce made from chilis, garlic, cumin, coriander, caraway, and olive oil, is a great addition to soups or stews in need of an extra kick.

After All the Roasted Meats, Switch to Salmon

Salmon may be the very best protein for metabolism. That's because most cases of underactive thyroid are due to inflammation of the gland, and salmon boasts significant anti-inflammatory properties thanks to its richness in omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, salmon is among the most effective seafood options for reducing inflammation – even better than cod and fish oil. Below are some interesting (and delicious!) flavor combinations that can keep this versatile fish novel and excite throughout the year:

  • Salty: soy sauce, capers, miso, olives
  • Sweet: honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, orange juice, or zest
  • Sour: fresh lemon, fresh lime, vinegar
  • Pungent: onion, shallot, garlic, ginger, wasabi, sesame
  • Creamy: cream cheese, yogurt, sour cream, butter
  • Smoky: chipotle chilis, smoked paprika, cumin
  • Green: fresh herbs (especially dill, chives, and mint), cucumber, asparagus

Finally, it is important to increase the combination of fiber and protein components in your menu. Utilize ingredients from less processed sources that are still rich in fiber, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Ensuring that each of your dishes contains the daily recommended intake of fiber and protein will help your customers break out of any post-holiday dietary funks. For a recipe that takes all of these Healthy Tips to heart, keep reading to discover our delectable Salmon and Brown Rice Bibimbap:

Salmon and Brown Rice Bibimbap

Salmon and Brown Rice Bibimbap

With marinated salmon, a healthy mix of veggies, and a delicious blend of seasonings, this recipe for Salmon and Brown Rice Bibimbap is the ultimate solution for any post-holiday culinary blues.

View Recipe  

Chef Jomi Gaston
Custom Culinary, Inc.