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    Make Room for Veggies

    Americans increasingly want their vegetables easy and delicious.

    After a solid decade of hearing about the benefits of eating a mostly plant-based diet, consumers are finally starting to listen. National Public Radio, for example, recently reported that more forces have come together to make vegetables an even bigger star in the food world.

    One simple shift that’s helping to put veggies in the forefront has been changing the ingredient ratios in bowl meals and salad bars.

    “Bowl meals like Chinese rice bowls or Indian dal have helped people think differently about the composition of a meal, so that grains and beans are the base, not a sprinkling on top. And, greens and grains are finally trendy, and this goes beyond kale and quinoa,” notes Michael Holleman, director of culinary development at Minnesota-based InHarvest, which produces specialty grains, beans, legumes and blends for foodservice, and chairman of the advisory board of the Whole Grains Council.

    Raley’s Supermarkets chef Evelyn Miliate sees prepared foods as a way to show consumers the possibilities of vegetable-centric dining and to encourage trial. “People do want to eat more meat-free dishes, but they need more ideas for doing so,” she says. “We source all our vegetables from our fresh produce sections, and our side dish offerings go far beyond mashed potatoes to include things like lentil and chickpea curry or Brussels sprouts with bacon and shallot. People use these dishes as salad add-ons or buy a few for a meal.”

    In-store chefs can also show shoppers how techniques like roasting and braising bring a heartiness to root vegetables and ancient grains, so that plant-based foods can take center plate. “Vegetables are not just an afterthought or an add-on anymore,” Miliate adds.

    Grocerant-Ready Ideas:

    • Salad bars piled high with hearty grains and legumes
    • Bundled prepared meal deals made up of three or four meatless sides
    • Smaller protein portions and more than one size of meat dishes

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