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January 2007

How To Make A Healthy Restaurant Menu

The old saying to eat your fruits and veggies is still valid, but it takes a little bit more than that to make a healthy restaurant menu. For most chefs "healthy" is just an afterthought, and even for those that try, their knowledge rarely goes beyond adding more salmon and some over-hyped grain, such as quinoa, to their menu.

As a restaurant owner or chef, you are probably well aware that, although customers demand more healthy menu options, they don't necessarily end up buying them. It is ultimately up to the chefs to learn how to make everything healthy and tasty, instead focusing on creating "healthy menu options". Here are some ideas how it can be done:

Healthy restaurant

Healthy restaurant

1. Eliminate all margarine from your kitchen and use real butter instead.
Many restaurants use margarine for cooking, for making garlic butter, or for sandwiches and sauces because it is cheaper.

2. Use sunflower oil for your deep-fryer. While sunflower oil is more expensive than canola oil, it lasts a little longer and food fried in it tastes better. If you take good care of it and use a smaller fryer, you may even save money from the switch. I know it may sound impossible, but if you turn down the fryer temperature during down times, and shake properly all the excess breading and flour from the items that are to be fried, this will help keep your oil clean for much longer. It goes without saying that you should not use shortening (beef lard) for your deep-fryer, if you were trying to make a healthy restaurant menu.

3. Check the ingredients on you box of chicken breasts. You may be surprised that it lists 4-5 different ingredients, when there should be only one ingredient. One of the ingredients you may find listed on a box of frozen chicken breasts is "hydrolyzed vegetable protein", which is basically a substitute for MSG. Always order the "no pump" chicken breasts.

4. Don't use sauces or bases that contain MSG or its counterparts. Some examples of ingredients similar to msg are: hydrolyzed vegetable protein, autolyzed soy protein, yeast extract, disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate.

5. Adjust you menu seasonally, to include local products that are in season. This is called locavorism. Even something as simple as offering fresh local vegetables crudites for appetizer, with some healthy house-made dipping sauce, can make people appreciate your efforts.

6. Install a reverse osmosis water filtering system. A lot of people have a RO system at home these days, and they will appreciate if the water served to them doesn't smell and taste like chlorine. Use the RO water for cooking pastas, rice and soups as well. I was able to buy and install one for about 200 dollars.

7. Salt is delicious. It makes food taste better. Your body needs it. So use it. However, not all salt is equal. Table salt is essentially pure sodium. Use sea salt, rock salt or other unprocessed salt instead. The good salt is more expensive, but you can make a point in your menu that you care about people's health and use a healthy salt. Read my article on salts here.

There must be many other ideas on how to make your menu healthy, but ultimately it all comes to the skills and the level of awareness of the Chef and the restaurant owner.

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Chef George Krumov
About the author: George Krumov is a Red Seal certified chef with many years of culinary experience working around the world in Europe, the Middle East, the cruise line industry and North America. In the last two decades he has headed the kitchens of several restaurants in Canada, and ran his own restaurant.

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