Trend Watch: Non-traditional pizza, seeds and tofu

By Sophie Mir

Healthy food need not be light, leafy and unsatisfying, and restaurant operators are driving that fact home. Pizza chains, which are rarely spoken about in the same breath as health food, are taking steps to change that (although they’re not leaving the classic cheese-laden slice behind, either). Protein-packed seeds are popping up with more frequency, and chefs are getting more creative with tofu, adapting the East Asian staple to hearty Italian and Mexican preparations. Below, we highlight the hearty, healthy options that are appearing with more frequency on restaurant menus, with a couple less-than-healthy dishes to round things out.

Non-traditional Pizza

Looking to infuse new excitement on their pizza menus, several chains are introducing innovative twists on classic pizza offerings or debuting creative, limited-time selections. This includes featuring veggie-based ingredients in the crust to boost the health perception or adding exotic ingredients as toppings. Pizza is a great vehicle for this kind of experimentation: it’s familiar but adaptable, and as gluten-free options continue to get better, it’s more accessible as well.

  • Pizza Pizza recently debuted Cauliflower Pizza Crust, made with two servings of vegetables in every crust. It’s also celiac and keto-friendly.
  • Little Caesars Canada’s new Pretzel Crust Pizza skews indulgent, featuring pepperoni and four kinds of cheese atop sea salt-covered pretzel crust.
  • Gino’s Pizza went really indulgent on its recent mashup, a Bacon Cheeseburger Pizza with bacon crumble and cheddar cheese.

Seeds

Touted for low calorie counts, numerous nutrients and generous antioxidant content, seeds are popping up across a variety of appetizers, entrees and desserts. Operators are especially spotlighting pumpkin, chia, sesame, sunflower and hemp seeds. These better-for-you add-ons are versatile and enhance fare with extra flavour and texture complexities, while adding a healthy halo to whatever they’re featured on.

  • Earls Kitchen + Bar‘s new plant-based menu features toasted pumpkin seeds on two dishes, in both cases lending crunch and robust, nutty flavour.
  • Hemp seeds on Freshii‘s new Kale Caesar and Umamii wraps assert a mellow, earthy flavour while amping up the protein and healthy fat content of both dishes.
  • Similar to common sesame seeds, black sesame seeds easily lend nuttiness and texture to dishes. At Turtle Jack’s Muskoka Grill, they feature on the Yellow Coconut Curry Bowl.

Tofu

With vegetarian and vegan diets gaining popularity, operators are adding tofu to their menus to help avoid gain traction in the growing market segment. Low in calories, high in protein and free from cholesterol, tofu also appeals to health-conscious consumers.

  • Il Fornello recently offered agnolotti stuffed with tofu and a cashew-based ricotta, served in a vegan butter sauce with spring vegetables.
  • While Bean Around the World focuses on coffee, the indie coffee house is also keeping its menu options up to date with its tofu fajita wrap.

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