3 healthy seafood preps to maximize flavor

3 healthy seafood preps to maximize flavor

It’s been a while since “healthy food” was code for diet and deprivation.

Many restaurant patrons are looking for healthy choices, though the definition of what’s healthy is changing. In fact, the No. 1 reason that consumers order food that they consider to be healthy is not to diet, but to feel good—46% of respondents surveyed in Technomic’s 2016 Healthy Eating report say they eat healthfully to feel better physically after they eat.

However, healthier items still must be craveable—otherwise, they won’t sell. Today’s better-for-you approach to eating allows for plenty of flavor and satisfaction, with lean, nutrient-rich proteins such as fish and chicken, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and nuts and seeds.

In fact, many diners are choosing to swap in fish where they’d ordinarily have meat—39% of consumers say they do so because they think fish is healthier than meat options, according to Technomic’s Healthy Eating report. Beyond the standard grilled or baked fish options that have long proliferated on “guilt-free” menus, there are several ways to incorporate healthier seafood options on menus without sacrificing taste or appeal.

Fire up the grill
Grilling isn’t new, but wood-grilled seafood offers a deeper flavor—and one that’s on-trend, too. According to Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian report, blackened, smoked and charred preps are proliferating among fish dishes on chain menus, and 45% of consumers say they would order dishes with the smoky flavor profile these techniques bring to the menu.

At Red Lobster, the Yucatan Tilapia and Shrimp entree features wood-grilled tilapia and tender jumbo shrimp roasted with chili-lime butter and caramelized pineapple. It’s topped with fresh jalapenos and served over rice for a spicy twist on a familiar favorite.

Similarly, searing in a cast-iron pan is not only a great way to cook seafood, but it’s also said that cast iron infuses the foods it cooks with iron (without altering the taste, of course), making the dish slightly more nutritious. At Red Robin, diners can order the Sear-ious Salmon, a lightly blackened salmon fillet served with coleslaw and—instead of the chain’s signature bottomless fries—bottomless broccoli.

Give it a global twist
According to Technomic’s 2017 Seafood & Vegetarian report, 34% of consumers say they would be likely to order ethnic-flavored fish or seafood dishes at a restaurant, so operators should look to countries around the world for inspiration. At Applebee’s, diners who want to try something new without venturing too far outside their comfort zone can check out the Thai Shrimp Salad—it’s seasoned, grilled shrimp atop fresh Asian greens and edamame. The salad is topped with almonds, crispy wonton strips and a drizzle of Thai peanut sauce with chile-lime vinaigrette.

Sushi is also a popular choice for serving global-inspired renditions of seafood, as are Hawaiian poke, Latin American ceviche, Asian noodle soups, fish tacos, Portuguese peri peri fish (made with spicy bird’s eye chilis) and Middle Eastern fish kebabs.

Experiment with seafood specials
As consumer interest in exciting flavors continues to rise, seafood LTOs are one way to offer unique, craveable options and test consumer appetite for certain seafood dishes at the same time.

According to Technomic’s MenuMonitor, seafood sandwich LTOs are trending on menus, making this an area of opportunity for operators, especially during Lent. Seasons 52 recently offered a Lump Crab Cake Sandwich special, topped with tomato and mustard sauce on a brioche bun.

Creating healthy, tasty seafood dishes customers will love
Paying attention to consumer preferences as well as overall menu trends will help operators stay on the cutting edge when it comes to seafood dishes. No matter what route operators decide to take when crafting new, healthier seafood and fish dishes for their menus, the overall goal is still the same—create great-tasting food to keep diners coming back.

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