More than half of consumers want immune-boosting foods on menus according to a recent Dataessential report. Restaurants can inject a healthy dose into their business and draw in wellness-minded diners by tapping into the trend.

The pandemic led many consumers to seek out healthier food choices. Beyond cutting desserts, booze, and opting for plant-based foods, many looked to immune-boosting food, drinks, and ingredients as an extra layer of protection for their immune systems. Consider these menu tips for immune-boosting food and drink ideas to ward off the competition and attract a bigger demographic.

Beverages with Benefits

Raw juices, plant-based drinks, and smoothies are a given, but diners are seeking much more than that. Diners are swapping sugary sodas for pop with natural sweeteners like cane sugar, stevia, coconut sugar, or agave, so consider offering a few healthy drink alternatives on your menu. Green tea should definitely be on breakfast, brunch, and after-dinner menus as it is full of antioxidants that can help fight off viral infections. Matcha, which is derived from the same plant as green tea, is another great option to make tea, or for use in smoothies and lattes.

Florals like elderflower and hibiscus, herbs, and other botanical-infused drinks with chamomile, yerba mate powder, yuzu, bitter orange, and passionflower are all the rage right now and do very well in alcohol-free drinks. It’s a great way to get creative with your beverage program and increase bar sales. Aperitifs have also been on the rise lately since they are lower in sugar and alcohol and serve as a great before-dinner drink.

Spice It Up

Margins are slim and chefs need to do more with less to make their ingredients go further. Adding certain spices to dishes that offer immune-boosting properties is an easy way to jump on the trend without hurting your bottom line. Ginger is an excellent and versatile spice to use, as many consumers use it to help ward off colds and help fight sore throats. Add it to teas, soups, fish, or to punch up winter desserts.

Cinnamon is another common pantry staple known for its digestive benefits and is a great antioxidant. Use it to add depth of flavor to pumpkin or butternut squash soups, add a little sweetness to baked apples, or to granola or oatmeal as a healthy breakfast-time snack. Miso is a rich source of probiotic bacteria, and is perfect as a classic soup, a glaze for veggies or fish, or mixed with rice vinegar and sesame oil for a light salad dressing. And turmeric is another spice sought out for its anti-inflammatory properties. Use it to make a healthy golden milk latte, spice up chickpeas for a salad, or add it to a smoothie or raw juice. Ginseng, garlic, sage, and cayenne pepper are all excellent options with immune-boosting benefits as well that should make their way into your recipes this season.

Bowl Boosters

Functional superfood bowls have grown in popularity over the last several years and not only do customers love the build-your-own-bowl concept, it’s an efficient and labor-saving way to use up ingredients you already have. Adding a smoothie bowl packed with acai berries, dragon fruit, goji berry, elderberry, kiwi, and mandarin oranges with toppers like seeds, nuts, and more can entice your health-conscious diners. Not to mention their vibrant, bright colors make for an endorphin popping Instagrammable photo, so make sure you’re putting these on your social channels to drum up interest! Boost your lunch and grab-and-go business with a nutrient-packed grain bowl featuring quinoa, roasted sweet potato, corn, fresh tomatoes, avocado, and a light vinaigrette or tahini dressing. Build-your-own salad bowls are also an easy and fun way to add some immune-boosting dishes to menus, so consider those on lunch menus as well.

You Can Pickle That

U.S. sales of fermented foods also soared during the pandemic. With their benefits to gut health and the overall digestive system, adding probiotics like kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and yogurt can be a creative way to tap into the immunity trend and add a little something extra to recipes. Top tacos with a spicy kimchi or pickled onions for a pop of flavor or serve up pickled fruits and veggies as a fun appetizer or happy hour LTO.

If you’re looking to add a fermented beverage to menus, consider kefir, a fermented milk that is high in nutrients and probiotics. It can be added to smoothies, to make a rice pudding, or made dairy-free with coconut water to be consumed on its own. The fermented tea kombucha has been on-trend for the last few years but can be a great healthy alternative to add to menus for something fun and different. It’s tart, fizzy, and the flavor combos are endless.

Highlighting foods and beverages that help with immune support could be just the bump in sales you need to start the new year off right.

Need plant-based menu inspiration? Read more here.

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