Chef Nathan Lyon, the host of Veria Living's new show, Good Food America, talks about what restaurants can do to improve the healthfulness of their meals.
FE&S:What are the easiest things restaurants can do to start offering healthier meals and dishes?
NL: Support local farmers and buy produce that is in season. Local, seasonal food has the most nutritional value and tastes the best since it's freshest. Not only that, but it's usually the least expensive.
FE&S: What equipment is important for creating healthy meals? Do you need certain prep tables and sharp knives for chopping vegetables or extra-cold storage for local and fresh produce?
NL: The good news is you don't need anything fancy to eat healthy. Home cooks and restaurateurs alike need only to have the basic items to create delicious, healthy meals. In my cookbook, I give a list of the basics (from pantry to cupboard to refrigerator) needed to create amazing culinary delights. The idea is for cooking to be accessible and, in essence, mimic how our grandparents and great-grandparents ate and cooked — simple, fresh, local.
FE&S:What are some tricks to entice restaurant patrons to eat more healthily? Plate presentation? Menu description?
NL: No tricks necessary. I have found that once patrons taste food that is seasonal, healthy and delicious — and I mean really taste the food — the flavors speak for themselves. A fresh tomato doesn't have to be made delicious; it already is.
FE&S:What types of menu descriptions, marketing or presentation techniques resonate with guests the most when it comes to healthy eating?
NL: First and foremost, because you first eat with your eyes, presentation is important and, before that, people want to eat delicious, satiating food, so menu descriptions can inform and entice the customer. Of course, at the end of the day, the food must taste great to keep people coming back.
FE&S:How important is it to have vegan and/or vegetarian options on the menus these days?
NL: Very important. More and more information is pointing towards the keys to a healthy diet: eating more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and less meat. With this in mind, restaurants must meet the demand of the public and offer healthier dining options, all the while cooking responsibly with the health of their community and clientele in mind.
FE&S: Do you believe there is a strong demand among the public to have more healthy options when they dine out no matter where that might be?
NL: Definitely. Let's put it this way, when you see fast food restaurants selling fresh salads and fresh fruit, that is a direct result of a growing demand for healthy eating options all across America — and this is a great thing.