Isn’t it funny how “healthy” eating can mean different things to different people? For some, a healthy diet looks like a Paleo plate full of steak, while for others, plant-based is the way to go. Some folks swear by intermittent fasting, while others favor the six-small-meals-a-day approach.
Opinions will always vary on what makes the perfect diet, so when it comes to choosing healthy catering for a group, you may not be able to please everyone. Still, there are some basic principles of nutrition most of us can agree upon, like the fact that restaurant meals high in calories and laden with sodium aren’t exactly good for us. If you’re looking to nourish your staff or clients with a healthy catered spread, here are five ways to do so.
Choose your restaurant wisely
We all know the restaurants that have a reputation for their overly indulgent offerings. (We’re not naming names, but you could probably list a few!) Many, however, have built consumer confidence with menus full of light, fresh ingredients and healthier cooking techniques. A salad bar chain or Mediterranean grill, for example, is likely a better starting point for your healthy catered lunch than a burger joint.
When in doubt about the wholesomeness of a restaurant’s offerings, check their website. Many chains now provide nutrition information online. And remember, CaterSquad’s ordering team is always on hand to help you navigate the choice of a healthy restaurant.
Watch out for keywords
Reading a menu for healthy appetizers, entrees, sides, and desserts is a little bit like detective work—especially when ingredients and calorie counts aren’t listed. How do you sleuth out which options are actually healthy? Pay attention to menu vocabulary. The more you look, the more you’ll find that many words are actually “code” for lighter or heavier meals.
Obvious red flags, of course, include anything labeled as “rich” or “indulgent,” but words like “fried,” “crispy,” “smothered,” and “battered” can all indicate foods that likely won’t do your waistline any favors. On the other hand, hone in on keywords like “light,” “grilled,” and “fresh,” for healthier choices. (Check out this guide to restaurant vocab for a more in-depth look.)
Provide DIY options
Since healthy eating may look different to different people, you can often please a crowd by providing plenty of DIY in a catered meal. This may look like a buffet “bar” such as a salad bar, taco bar, or noodle bar–or anything that allows everyone to customize a plate to their own healthy specifications. Try building in plenty of protein, starch, and fruit or veggie selections.
Think whole foods
The jury may be out on keto versus Paleo, but time and again, research shows that whole foods are better for health than processed foods. When lunchtime rolls around, give some thought to how to incorporate minimally processed foods into a buffet or boxed lunch order.
Wondering what exactly a whole food looks like? Whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat pastas and breads make the cut, as do fruits, vegetables, and lean meats like fish and skinless chicken or turkey. Ask your catering contact which menu items incorporate these types of foods–or let our CaterSquad reps know you’re looking to place a whole foods-focused order.
Lighten up beverages
Don’t forget about drinks as a source of nutrition (or lack thereof). Sodas and cocktails, though a tasty catering go-to, are often packed with sugar, earning their reputation as bearers of empty calories. But that doesn’t mean the only beverage you should offer is plain old water! These days, the drink market is teeming with interesting, lower-calorie options.
Many caterers and restaurants now offer sparkling waters flavored with everything from apple to watermelon. Or, for a more budget-friendly option, create your own fruit-infused water by adding sliced limes, cucumbers, or berries to an office beverage dispenser. Iced tea is another low-calorie choice that packs not only taste, but health-boosting antioxidants, too.
Text CaterSquad at 858.999.5129 to get started on ordering a healthy catered meal!