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It’s 4pm and I’m still daydreaming about today’s lunch. In seconds, Sally, our robot, served up this Mediterranean-inspired meal: chef-prepared basmati rice, shredded carrots, grilled halloumi cheese and kalamata olives atop a bed of crunchy romaine finished with a citrus tahini dressing. Perfectly portioned and complete with incredible flavor, textures, color and… WOW, this was truly a power lunch that kept me energized and focused all afternoon long.  The Mediterranean menu is among one of Sally’s latest featuring international cuisines (others include Indian, Latin and Chinese-inspired menus). Just a few short months ago, our robot was limited to serving simple salads with ingredients you’d find at a typical salad bar. These expanded offerings are a huge step in delivering flavorful, nutritious, and fresh bowls to anyone, anytime.

According to Reports, 2018 Is (And Was) the Year of…  

Technomic recently released its Ethnic Food and Beverage Consumer Trend Report solidifying the food industry’s early projections that 2018 would be an important year for ethnic food concepts. Twenty-four percent of consumers are trying more unique-to-them types of ethnic foods as compared with 2 years ago, and this number increases to 35% for gen Z and millennials. Widespread adoption of social media by younger generations allows for the ability to share unique insights into the cultures of the world (and, food is a universal connector!). Another reason younger consumers seem to have more diversified tastes and preferences for less mainstream flavor profiles than older generations is because they themselves are more diverse, a trend that will continue. According to this census report review, “Latino and Asian populations are expected to nearly triple…Today in the United States, 25 percent of children under age 5 are Hispanic; by 2050, that percentage will be almost 40 percent.”

Globally-Inspired Menus as a Strategy for Health Improvements

Over the past 40 years, a variety of factors have influenced the American foodscape that have had repercussions on public health.  As a population, we are woefully deficient in fruits and vegetables (the CDC reports only 1/10 Americans meet the recommended intakes) and yet eating more sugar than ever (13% of total calories come on board with added sugars).  The change in our eating habits has sent rates of chronic disease like diabetes soaring.

When it comes to optimizing health and performance with good nutrition, the increased focus on global flavors may just be a dose (albeit a small one) of the medicine America needs to help manage its public health crisis.  The issues at the heart of the matter are complicated and will require change on multiple fronts, but the food industry is well-positioned for impact by making flavorful, globally-inspired foods more accessible and mainstream.  

So how can a shift towards dietary patterns that incorporate more diverse menus potentially impact health?  

Something many global cultures share in common is their heavy focus on plant-based ingredients with animal proteins typically used in much smaller portions, if featured at all.  The cuisines that define a culture are typically those where ingredients can be raised and produced locally based on factors such as soil, climate and water availability. And the evidence stacks so far in favor of plant-based eating for health (and the environment) it tough to argue.  Plant-forward menus where nutrient dense vegetables, fruits, hearty grains and tubers become the star of the show also means we feel much fuller on less!  The American food scene has become inherently super-sized in terms of the amount of animal proteins and sheer calories on our plates.

Incorporating Global Flavors and More Plants into Appealing Menus

Food service operators can respond to the consumer interest in a diverse range of foods while delivering healthier menus to their guests.  While indulgence can be found in any cuisine (think fried samosas, baklava and chimichangas!) there are ways to take the healthiest and most flavorful aspects of a cuisine and build a crowd-pleasing menu that incorporates global flavors.  

Indian: To start, the herbs and spices intrinsic to Indian fare such as ginger, turmeric cinnamon and coriander are antioxidant rich and full of anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial compounds that can support immune function.  Heart healthy and fiber-rich lentils and garbanzo beans promote lasting fullness and stable blood sugars helping to prevent weight gain and prevent diabetes. With the incredible flavors in these dishes, customers won’t even miss the meat.

Mediterranean: The Mediterranean Diet is the most well-researched diet in the world with strong evidence to support its benefits on disease reduction, cognitive health and longevity. This pattern is an amalgamation of influences from countries surrounding the coastline of this gorgeous Sea including Greece, Croatia, Italy and Spain.  The cuisine incorporates plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, fish, beans, olive oil and wine, the ingredients behind its heart healthy benefits. Grilling, broiling and other leaner cooking techniques are common.

Southeast Asian: Cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia incorporate plenty of fresh vegetables and fish with moderate use of meat, and often none at all.  Starchy dishes like fried rice and Pad Thai noodles can be balanced with more diced and sliced vegetables. Instead of large chunks of meats, many dishes are served with smaller amounts of animal proteins thinly sliced as in stir frys and curry dishes.

Chowbotics Focuses on Globally-Inspired Menus to Serve Delicious & Healthy Food, Anytime, Anywhere

At Chowbotics, we know how important flavor and quality are to keep our Sally customers satisfied and returning for an amazing culinary experience every time.  Here are just a few of the latest and greatest options created by our Chowbotics chefs and served up by Sally.

Curried Garbanzo Bean Spinach Salad
Baby spinach, fresh diced mango, spiced puffed rice, cucumber tomato mix and tamarind chutney
Fiber, protein and iron-rich garbanzos are the star of this show and what make this bowl so sustaining.  Acidic and sweet mangos bring some vibrance along with vitamin C and tamarind chutney incorporates flavor with no added oils.

Fire Roasted Corn and Spinach Salad
Bloomsdale spinach, cilantro roasted Radish, fire roasted corn, spiced pepitas, cotija cheese and tomatillo sauce
This salad boasts roasted ingredients that lend slightly sweet, slightly smokey depth of flavor and make a beautiful color contrast with the antioxidant rich spinach greens.  The spiced pepitas offer crunch along with a healthy dose of vitamin E, heart healthy oils and stress busting magnesium. Tomatillo sauce comes in as the finish – zesty and oil-free.

Consumers are increasingly interested in expanding their tastes to include international cuisines.  Food service operators can meet the growing demand for these flavors while also providing healthier menus.  We are fortunate at Chowbotics to have talented chefs and Sally to provide us with healthy and delicious food 24/7!