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8 Ways to Incorporate More Plant-Based Items in Your Event Menus

Plant-based eating is one of the biggest nutrition trends of 2020, with nearly 40 percent of Americans striving to eat more plant-based foods this year, according to a Nielsen poll. It makes sense that this consumer demand will drive a movement toward more plant-based menu options at events, too.

But before you go crazy with a massive salad bar (although, that’s a clever idea!), know that there are many ways to incorporate plant-based foods and cut back on meat without compromising on flavor. (As a bonus, it may even boost your bottom line too, as plant-based items tend to be less expensive than meat.) You can please even meat eaters with these menu options, provided you take care to craft meals with your catering team that are filled with protein, fiber and healthy nutrients. Take a look.

Mushrooms

These can be a bit polarizing, but when prepared the right way, can have broad appeal. Umami-rich mushrooms are strangely neither a fruit, nor a vegetable—and technically, aren’t even a plant. They’re really a fungus, and are a good source of vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants. Try serving a large Portobello mushroom that has been marinated and roasted or grilled as a replacement for a steak or burger patty.

Italian pasta ingredients

Pasta

This carb-heavy dish has long been a go-to for vegetarian meals, but it doesn’t have to be filled with rich sauces and loads of cheese that can lead to that afternoon slump. Have your catering team prepare a sauce with heart-healthy olive oil and a bright flavor, such as lemon, and use equal parts pasta and fresh vegetables in the mix for a more nutritious plate.

Plant-Based Meats

While not exactly a health food, the processed plant-based meats having a major moment right now—such as Impossible Burger or Beyond Meat—can be used to replace things like burgers and sausage without compromising flavor. In fact, in a blind taste test, many meat-lovers can’t tell the difference between plant-based meats and the real thing.

Selection of whole grains in white bowls - rice, oats, buckwheat, bulgur, porridge, barley, quinoa, amaranth, on white wood background

Legumes

One of the easiest vegetarian substitutes, beans are rich in protein, B vitamins and fiber. They’re also extremely versatile and easy to add to all kinds of dishes—even desserts, such as chickpea blondies or black bean brownies (trust us, they’re delicious, and don’t taste like beans!). Many pastas now are also made with chickpea flour. In addition, lentils are another excellent choice for adding heartiness to a main dish, with 18 grams of protein per cup. Try them in soups or as a main dish combined with flavorful herbs and vegetables.

Tempeh

Some people may turn their nose up at tofu, but there are other soy products out there that can stand in as an excellent substitute for meat. Take tempeh, a cake-like substance made from cooked and slightly fermented soybeans, for instance. It has a slightly nutty flavor and can easily be formed into a patty, similar to a veggie burger, or crumbled like ground beef for dishes like chili or tacos. Like tofu, it absorbs the flavor of sauces and condiments—so you can even make it taste like bacon or sausage.

Different types of legumes and cereals on white background, top view. Organic grains

Grain Bowls

DIY stations tend to be a huge hit at events, where attendees can build their own meal from a series of options. Grain bowls are a perfect choice for lunch, where you can offer up a variety of grains (think bulgur, wheat, quinoa) and many different topping options, ranging from roasted or fermented veggies to beans, greens, cheese, sauces and more—and even serve some protein options, like grilled salmon, for those wanting a more filling bowl.

Cauliflower

This humble cruciferous vegetable has made it way into everything from risotto to pizza crust the last few years, and its versatility makes it an excellent base for many main courses. For something unique, talk with your catering team about preparing cauliflower “steaks”—when cooked properly, they mimic the taste and texture of meat but are much lighter.

Ripe Jackfruit pieces with jackfruit pods isolated on white top view

Jackfruit

You may have spotted these giant, poky exotic fruits in the supermarket and wondered what to do with them. The answer? Make pulled “pork” or jackfruit tacos, as the fruit of this plant—once you cut through the thick outer skin—makes a perfect stand-in for pork or beef. The key to making jackfruit a hit as a main course is sauces and flavorings, so be sure to do a test run with your catering team before adding it to the menu.

Do you need assistance planning amazing, memorable menus for your meetings and events? VIBE can help! Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help you curate unforgettable events, building upon the latest trends to create experiences that truly resonate with your audience.

About us: VIBE is a Miami-based award-winning full-service production agency that specializes in strategic content creation, corporate events planning and destination management services. We are strategic doers and creative thinkers and were recognized as one of the 50 top event companies by Special Events magazine in 2019.

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