It’s no secret that people are becoming more health-conscious. And with many businesses now recognising the positive impact that a healthy team can have on the business, on-site exercise facilities are becoming a common feature in the modern workplace. This positive shift toward healthier choices presents an opportunity for caterers to flex their creativity and enhance their offering for those who lead active lifestyles and need the right sustenance during their day.

A one-size-fits-all-approach isn’t practical, particularly in the field of nutrition. Contract caterers should focus their efforts to understand the differing needs of their customers and ensure they’re providing meals that support healthy choices and active lifestyles. The workplace has never been more demographically diverse than it is today, and that level of diversity is paired with different tastes and behaviours.

The tech-savvy generations Y and Z are more connected to trends, willing to try new things and respond better to packaging and presentation that conveys a bespoke appeal. Healthy, balanced and colourful meals that incorporate locally-sourced and seasonal ingredients are popular. The younger generations are particularly showing a heightened awareness for sustainability and healthy choices that also benefit the environment. For the Gen-X demographic, simple tweaks to classic dishes can easily be made to maintain flavour and improve nutritional levels. Substituting with plant-based milks and using allergen-free, reduced-calorie ingredients with increased fibre options, that also contribute to your five-a-day, can be used to create healthier meal options that don’t sacrifice quality and taste.

In the build-up to Vacherin’s recent charity cycle challenge, Tour de Vacherin, participants were provided with a detailed nutrition plan designed to keep them at peak performance throughout the 700 mile journey. Catering for the ‘keep fit’ demographic means understanding the likelihood that customers may be following a stringent meal plan with pre and post work-out meal requirements. What and when we eat before exercise can make a big difference to performance and recovery.

Prior to exercise, we need foods that keep us hydrated, sustain energy and boost performance. Working on a carefully considered ratio of carbohydrates to protein to fats, we’re able to create meals that complement higher activity lifestyles. Preparing foods like a pre-workout salad of spiced chicken, brown rice and kale will provide the necessary boost before a workout.

Nutrition after exercise is equally important for recovery, rehydration and tissue repair. It’s important to provide post-workout meals with sufficient protein levels to aid in protein synthesis after exercise which leads to increased muscle tissue and quicker recovery – vegetarian-based bowl-foods such as black beans, tofu and avocado with rice is one example.

Customers need to be careful that they are not consuming products laden with sugar, fats or cheap ingredients. With smoothies, it’s a better idea to keep them vegetable-based. In many cases, the amount of sugar contained in fruit-based smoothies is often well above the healthy allowance. Nutritional smoothies containing kale and coconut, for example, are a great choice for customers wanting to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.

As contract caterers, we can provide a person’s entire daily food intake, so we have to concentrate efforts on every area of their nutrition to offer healthier meals throughout the day. Breakfasts such as Bircher muesli, poached eggs with avocado and tomato, seeds and fruits with live yoghurt provide options that can still keep you going throughout the morning. It is important to provide impulse snacks that are low in sugar, or completely savoury in nature throughout the day and salads and sandwiches that are familiar to most palettes, but with health-benefitting ingredient substitutions wherever possible.

As health and fitness continue to move further up the agenda and onto our plates, its essential to anticipate the growing demand for a range of healthy fitness foods for our customers – that reflects the workplace demographics. Caterers should strive to keep a steady flow of healthy, freshly made meals to help people fulfil their pre and post work out requirements on the journey to a happy, healthy lifestyle.

Gary Baverstock, Lead | Nurtrition and Wellbeing

Catering Today