Seductive Nutrition is all about healthier – and still delicious – options in the foodservice industry. It’s an initiative from Unilever Food Solutions following a study in 10 countries where 5000 respondents were presented with the same healthy dish described on 2 menus, one neutrally and the other seductively. The overwhelming preference was for the seductive description.
The ‘Seductive Nutrition’ Service was introduced by Unilever Food Solutions for restaurateurs around the world in 2012 to give practical advice and guidance on developing menus to entice old and new customers with healthier dishes, equal in taste, value for money and as filling as more indulgent menu options.
South African chefs to drive the Seductive Nutrition programme
The launch saw Unilever Food Solutions showcasing 3 top South African chefs as ambassadors to drive the Seductive Nutrition programme to chefs and operators around the country. The chefs – Shaun Munro (Executive Chef - Southern Sun Elangeni & Maharani), James Khoza (Executive Chef - Sandton Convention Centre) and Dion Vengatass (Sous Chef - Mount Nelson Hotel) – all responded with enthusiasm to the concept and, two years later, are firm proponents of Seductive Nutrition in their respective workplaces.
"I think the whole world is becoming more health conscious about what they eat."
All 3 chefs believe that there is a need to offer healthier options to guests. Says Vengatass, “I think the whole world is becoming more health conscious about what they eat. If I look at the difference between the food choices people who ate with us made five years ago and now, I see dramatic changes. More guests request food without any fats and more choose grilled items. They also go for well-balanced meals that contain all seven daily essentials. They also actually ask more questions about the nutritional value of the dishes I present.”
Adds Munro, “We as chefs almost owe it to our guests to engineer healthy yet tasty meal experiences. Through our suppliers we need to source quality fresh organic ‘safe’ ingredients and through our skill and experience, create flavoursome dishes.” He says guests and diners are becoming increasingly educated in and excited about food – where it comes from, how it is grown, cooking techniques, and so on, and are expecting chefs to up their game to meet their new demands."
Khoza says the Seductive Nutrition initiative has impacted on his operation, specifically in their healthier offering to clients and guests at Sandton Convention Centre. “We have made changes to our menus; adding sections of healthy offerings, altering recipes of traditionally heavy dishes, and using, for instance, natural oils for cooking. We are also training our chefs to embrace rather than oppose this new way of cooking for our customers. This is a concept that is catching on fast and we now have event organisers asking for menus of items that cater for healthy eaters.”
Offering vegetarian and vegan options
Vengatass says the Mount Nelson now offers more vegetarian options on the menu and also has a vegan set menu called ‘From the earth’. “Our thinking process has changed immensely; we now ask more questions and look for new and innovative ways of cooking healthier, while still keeping our dishes adventurous and mind-blowing.”
Using seasonings that unlock flavour profiles
Changes that have been implemented to offer healthier alternatives to guests include losing the French butter and cream options and selecting instead 4 seasonings that Vengatass maintains need more appreciation – salt, acid, spicy and sweet. “By using these seasonings we can unlock flavour profiles of certain ingredients that have never been tapped before; it’s all about questioning what we know and how do we make it better but still healthy.”
To communicate these changes to guests, words have been abbreviated on the menus that clearly point out which are dairy-, gluten-, or meat-free dishes, and staff are given extensive training on the healthier dishes.
For Munro, the changes include reducing the number of deep fried options. “We’re opting for baking, slow cooking, and grilling of certain items. We’re also producing vinaigrette-based dressings instead of the creamier mayo bases and we’re cooking with less cream and using coconut and palm oils instead. We’re using more fresh vegetables, herbs, and exotic aromatic spices, and fewer items from tins and packets!”
Tips for making small changes to dishes for a healthier result
Khoza highlights his top tips for making small changes to dishes to make them healthier. “Look at adjusting the cooking method from, say, deep frying to roasting; use the freshest ingredients and natural seasonings; limit the amount of fat used and focus on different oils; keep sauces light and stock-based; and avoid using too many off-the-shelf products that are not labelled with proper nutritional content and that have not taken cognisance of the need for lower salt, fat, additives and preservatives.”
Lifestyle diseases are a frightening reality in South Africa, and change – big and small – is needed to help people live healthier lives. Michel Mellis, MD of Unilever Food Solutions says, “The Seductive Nutrition campaign by Unilever Food Solutions is a reflection of how seriously we take our responsibility to contribute to a changing health profile in this country. We look forward to seeing this initiative take off among all our food service operators in South Africa.”
For more information on Seductive Nutrition, visit the Unilever Food Solutions website.