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In western countries, food habits typically consist of pairing meat or fish with vegetables. Though animal proteins provide a large share of the proteins our bodies need, people have begun to challenge their pervasiveness amidst growing concerns for issues related to health and ecology. The sector of institutional catering is on the front lines of endeavours to meet rising consumer expectations. Of course, alternatives to animal proteins do exist. It’s just a matter of adopting new habits to offer more variety to diners.
Proteins, vital nutrients for our health
Why are proteins such an important nutrient? Because they are vital to the proper functioning of the human body. They are a major structural component of cells and play a key role in many physiological processes, such as the production of antibodies, haemoglobins, hormones, enzymes, etc. The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) recommends a daily intake of 0.83 g/kg/day. Individual requirements vary according to age, physical activity levels and situation (i.e., breastfeeding women should consume a bit more). Dietary protein should be a source of the 9 essential amino acids that cannot be made by the body.
We are most familiar with animal proteins derived from the consumption of meat and fish, but also milk and eggs. With the rising popularity of vegetarian and flexitarian diets, the latter focusing on reduced meat consumption, eggs and egg-based products have become particularly attractive. On the other hand, plant-based proteins have increasingly made their way into our cuisine. Grains, cereals, legumes … Each one provides an added benefit for institutional catering chefs looking to enrich and diversify their menus all while making sure meals are nutritionally balanced.
Plant-based and egg proteins: A happy pairing
Rich in fibres, vitamins and minerals, plant-based proteins have less of an environmental impact because they require less water, improve soil fertility and foster biodiversity. They also emit much less greenhouse gases than meat-producing livestock farms. From a dietary standpoint, some of these proteins are slightly deficient in certain essential amino acids. This imbalance can be resolved by pairing foods that complement each other, such as cereals and legumes for example. World cuisine is brimming with these types of associations: rice and soya in Asia, corn and red kidney beans in Latin America, wheat and chickpeas in North Africa, etc.
Meals can also be rebalanced by adding eggs. In fact, they complement intakes that may be slightly deficient if there is only one source of plant-based protein in the meal. Eggs also provide highly valuable vitamins and minerals to make sure all nutritional requirements are met. Moreover, pairing eggs with plant-based proteins make for scrumptious dishes!
- Green lentils salad with an “Oeuf Parfait”
A simple, yet delicious salad to be served warm. Green lentils pair perfectly with an “Oeuf parfait”, garnished with shallots and Sherry vinaigrette or sesame oil.
- Chickpea Shakshuka
Made with a blend of spices, notably cumin and paprika, Maghrebi Shakshuka is prepared with chickpeas, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and eggs. Garlic and harissa are added for punch, though in moderation for sensitive palates. An exotic culinary voyage!
Plant-based proteins complement those traditionally derived from meat and fish. They’ve become key as the institutional catering sector aims to offer balanced menus that meet societal demands. Of course, including them means adopting new habits, but vegetarian dishes, especially those with eggs, offer something new to the menu and will delight the taste buds of diners without disorienting them.