What Are Plant-Based Protein Foods?

Posted by Bill Billenstein on 8/26/19
Bill Billenstein
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People are paying more attention to what they eat and making smarter food choices for themselves and their families. For some, that means reducing or eliminating animal protein from their diet.

It’s a conundrum that leaves corporate dining services that focus on providing healthy alternatives to companies with the need to shift their thinking. Learning to rethink their use of animal protein in favor of plant-based protein is the key. What are plant-based proteins?

Plant-Based vs. Plant-Forward

All corporate food service providers need to understand the difference between these two trendy phrases because the industry is shifting based on what people want to eat. They are similar but very different. A corporation looking to create an employee food program that is plant-based will also be expected to understand the meanings with the guidance of the provider.

Plant-based refers to proteins that come solely from plants, as opposed to an animal source like beef or chicken. Plant-forward, on the other hand, puts plants, legumes, nuts and seeds at the forefront of their menu but dishes and meals may also contain some animal protein.

In other words, it’s not just veggies on the side anymore. Plant-based and plant-forward both offering exciting options that make the veggies the hero of the menu.


What is Plant-Based Protein?

As the name suggests, these are proteins that come from plant sources. Of course, old-school thinking does not consider plants as a source of protein. As people become more health-conscious, though, the need for animal protein in the main dishes is decreasing.

A 2016 national poll conducted by Harris Poll found that approximately eight million adults in this country do not eat animal proteins of any kind. They thrive only on plant-based proteins such as:

  • Nuts
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Avocados
  • Soybean
  • Lentils
  • Quinoa
  • Wild rice
  • Chia seeds

What is Plant-Forward?

On the other hand, there are still plenty of people in the U.S. not willing to give up meat completely — that’s were plant-forward comes into play. A plant-forward diet, sometimes called flexitarian or flex, puts vegetables first. Vegetarians and vegans exist strictly on plant-based protein but those involved in the plant-forward movement simply cut way back on animal protein. They may still want the occasional fish, chicken or beef, etc.  in their meal, but they also want to look at reducing the portion size and frequency.

How the Top Foodservice Companies are Handling the Shift

It’s all about education. Industry thought leaders including Guckenheimer see the benefit in providing training that clarifies the difference between plant based and plant forward. It needs it to be clear for chefs, so if a company wants 12 plant-forward dishes and 4 plant-based, they know right away what that means.

Along with teaching their chefs the difference between plant-based and plant-forward, they need to learn how to develop flavor and satiety with more plant protein. It is not always easy to utilize plant-based proteins in main dishes and create something flavorful and exciting to the palette. It takes practice and a good understanding of seasoning as it relates to plant-based and plant-forward dishes.

The industry right now is leaning towards all companies offering plant-based options and chefs knowing how to cook those dishes well. Many will also want to know how to develop a plant-forward meal like a burger that has only 35 percent beef.

It’s interesting to see how people are looking at food choices in such a healthy way these days. A corporate food service provider should use this info and shift in thinking to promote not ol=nly plant-based and plant-forward menus but also how they are educating their teams and clients in this journey. 


Topics: Nutrition (Food), Employee Engagement, Corporate Cafe, Corporate Dining, food service provider, guckenheimer, Culinary, diet, plant based eating, plant forward

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