For many, a plant-based diet is an easy way to live a healthier lifestyle. Those who follow plant-based diets often choose their lifestyle to support animal rights, limit their environmental impact, or for the health benefits that can come from incorporating the right foods and following proper nutritional guidelines.
As a restauranteur, it’s important to understand the different plant-based lifestyles your customers may be following and craft menu items that suit a growing range of dietary needs. With a growing demand for plant-based alternatives, the food industry has adjusted to create products — such as plant-based cheese and yogurt — that all of your customers can enjoy, regardless of dietary restrictions.
Below are four examples of plant-based diets and how to incorporate appropriate dishes into your business’s culinary repertoire.
A vegan diet consists of only plant-based foods. It does not allow for any kind of animal products, such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, or dairy products. Animal by-products are also restricted in this diet, meaning vegans can’t eat foods such as honey, gelatin, and certain food colorings.
Vegan diets consist instead of products such as soy, legumes, nuts, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based alternatives. Because of veganism’s restrictions, people who follow this diet often seek out well-balanced meals to ensure they are not deficient in any nutrients.
Offering fully plant-based dishes on your menu and marking them as “vegan” can help attract this consumer group to your restaurant. You may even wish to share a list of specific products and ingredients used in the preparation of your dish so your vegan customers can have peace of mind knowing they can confidently order certain menu items.
Another common plant-based diet your customers may follow is vegetarianism. While both vegan and vegetarian diets restrict all meat, poultry, and fish, vegetarians often opt to consume dairy and/or eggs and other animal by-products.
Vegetarians who focus on eating fresh foods, whole grains, and plant-based products will find many health benefits, such as lower risks for heart disease and some cancers, and they are often leaner and more active.
In the United States, 7% of people identify as a pescatarian — which means you’ll likely run into customers who follow this lifestyle.
Pescatarians are similar to vegetarians, except they also incorporate seafood, fish, and shellfish into their diet. Depending on the person's preference, they may also eat other animal products such as dairy and eggs.
Many choose to be pescatarian — as opposed to vegetarianism or veganism — because it’s easier to get protein through this diet. Restaurants can cater to pescatarian consumers by highlighting fresh seafood dishes on their menu and crafting delicious plant-based appetizers and sides to accompany them, like fig and arugula flatbread and scalloped potatoes with a cheddar-style cheese alternative.
A flexitarian diet is a combination of “flexible” and “vegetarian.” People who follow this lifestyle may have a lot of overlap with vegan and vegetarian diets but may incorporate some animal products and by-products based on nutritional needs.
Listed as No. 2 on the U.S. News Best Diet Rankings, a flexitarian diet is primarily focused on consuming healthy and fresh foods. Currently, 29% of Americans identify as flexitarian, which means over a quarter of Americans — and likely, your customers — are actively looking for ways to lead a healthier lifestyle with the foods they consume.
Restaurants catering to flexitarians should avoid foods with added sugars and refined carbs, and instead focus on whole foods that are well-sourced. Specifically, your menu can highlight ingredients that are organic, wild-caught, free-range, sustainably sourced, or pasture-raised.
**Want to start introducing more plant-based options to your restaurant menu? Check out Oddlygood’s line of dairy product alternatives designed to meet the needs of foodservice businesses. **