In the last few years, healthy eating has evolved into a more holistic concept. People not only pay attention to the quality or source of their food, but they are also more aware of how their preparation and consumption behaviors affect their physical and mental health.
In this article, we are going to look at the most common mindful eating practices and how to adapt your restaurant menu, service, and communication accordingly.
What is mindful eating?
The idea of mindful eating connects the one of mindfulness from the ancient Zen Buddhist culture to our eating behaviors. Like in meditation, the main purpose of changing our food habits by embracing mindfulness is carrying out a healthier, less stressful lifestyle.
By definition, mindful eating involves "eating when we are hungry and stopping when we are full", as well as other practices to "feel more present during meals" and "gain control over what we eat". Although mindful eating can be functional to body health and weight loss, it has little to do with breaking down food into calories, carbs, fats, or proteins. The intention of practicing is rather fulfilling people’s individual dietary needs by focusing on the eating process, rather than on products.
However, this does not exclude that different behavioural or even ingredient trends started taking place as sort of rules that shape this approach to food. Here are the mindful eating practices that are relevant to your restaurant.
As people are looking for more dietary options beyond the old idea of "one size fits all", personalized nutrition is becoming more popular. This means that our individual information and characteristics can be used for targeted nutritional advice to achieve a more lasting healthy eating behavior.
Restaurants can embrace this trend by offering customizable meals - we already mentioned this concept with our tips to reduce food waste in restaurants. According to Chef Max Snyder from Rogue Radish in Austin, Texas, keeping your menu small and building it around fewer key ingredients can help you be more flexible with order customization.
When considering the growing awareness towards avoiding overeating, portion control is another common practice that falls under the umbrella of mindful eating. This primarily refers to reducing the amount of food on the plate, but it can also involve limiting the number of certain ingredients in a dish.
Including the option of smaller portions or light versions of your menu dishes can help your restaurant respond to this demand. Reducing quantities can also go hand in hand with improving the quality of your ingredients and allow you to include more organic or exotic products in your recipes.
To serve smaller portions, you might need to adjust the plating and presentation of your food by using smaller plates and avoiding making the dish look empty.
Incorporating menu psychology and using descriptors such as "light" and "healthy" can be a good strategy to attract your health-conscious customers.
Although the idea of mindful eating mainly regards our behavior towards food, more and more people also search for ingredients with enhanced health properties beyond their nutritional value - known as functional foods - to be included in a healthy and varied diet.
The term functional foods first appeared in the 1980s when the Japanese government approved a process for the so-called FOSHU, meaning Foods for Specific Health Use.
Creating recipes with functional foods and organizing your menu into categories divided by function can help your customers find exactly what they are looking for. While using health claims as a selling point must be supported by accurate research, calling out the functional ingredients or using the right buzzwords can be a great way to make your options more attractive.