The latest on health & wellness trends

Meeting the demand for heathier options on the menu and also selling them is a challenge as old as the industry itself. Guests say they want to make healthier choices, but rarely make them. And we’re not talking about a few health-conscious diners, a majority of consumers (57%) say they need to eat healthier, and 89% say what they eat and drink is a top driver of their well-being, according to Datassential.

According to Maeve Webster of Menu Matters, health-driven behaviors are strongest when there’s a “have it all” mentality. Hot tip: focus on the functional nutrients they want – like protein – and use descriptive words that play up the taste factor.  We found this tool from the researchers at Stanford to be both helpful and thought-provoking!  

“Younger consumers especially don’t want to sacrifice or give anything up in order to eat healthy. They’re telling us to make it easy for them to feel good about their choices; menu items they will enjoy, do right by the planet, and carry those cues that it’s good for them.” – Maeve Webster, Menu Matters 

This is backed up in other data sources as well, especially when it comes to plant-based offerings. According to Datassential’s 2023 “Plant-Forward Opportunity Report,” consumers are most likely to order more dishes that are inherently plant-forward or contain blended / hybrid protein options, rather than choosing highly processed meat analogs.

Overwhelmingly, the flavor of “eating right” consumers are striving for includes more fruits and veggies, less sugar and sodium. Interestingly, while protein is a top nutrient consumers are trying to get more of, 25% have cut back on red meat, according to a 2024 Datassential study. The market for plant-forward menu options is sizable, over a third of consumers overall are looking to eat less meat in general and live a more flexitarian lifestyle.

Our take: Pasta can be an ideal vehicle for better-for-you options that retain the familiarity and appeal of a most-loved food. Use a foundation of better-for-you pasta like whole grain, lentil or chickpea, or another nutritionally enhanced pasta. Barilla Protein+(R) for instance, brings 17.5g of protein to every restaurant-size 3.5oz serving. Load up on veggies and use smaller amounts of thoughtfully chosen animal proteins, if at all.

For more culinary tips and strategies, we asked some of our Chef friends to weigh in, and shared a few of our fave recipes that are both healthy and delicious. There’s also more insights and recipe inspiration at