Not your mom’s food scene

Growing numbers of young people are driving big shifts in the food scene. Last year, millennials with children made up nearly half of all U.S. households. These households want convenience, but reject fast, mass-produced foods, instead looking for high-quality, natural, fresh foods that are free of artificial ingredients. While the next generation of shoppers seeks out and thrives on new and diverse experiences, it isn’t necessarily affluent. Still, we see them reaching for fresh and healthy foods that nourish busy lives. From restaurants inside grocery stores to in-home meal kits and even cooking at home with a little help from the deli, we now have more options for convenient, fresh and healthy foods than ever.

Eating without the kitchen mess

No matter our age, it seems that we love having someone cook for us. Prepared grocery store food sales (including take-out and in-store dining) have increased nearly 30 percent since 2008. Expanded restaurant-like options inside the grocery store have generated a new word: “grocerant,” combining access to food staples with dine-in choices. Grocery stores with eat-in cafés often offer more options for fresher, healthier fare than the drive-through lanes of fast food outlets.

Grocery shoppers can see and select chef-made or deli items to suit their particular taste and dietary preferences, then enjoy them with friends or family in a casual setting, usually at less-than-restaurant prices.

Other options for fresh, fast foods have multiplied as well. While restaurant deliveries are more popular than ever, aspiring cooks (those who want to experience new flavors without all the shopping) can order dinners in a box. Delivered to your kitchen, the meals contain pre-measured ingredients, ready to assemble and cook according to detailed instructions, but are cooked by you, with loving care. Voila! There is even a meal kit provider that is working with the American Diabetes Association to meet specific nutritional needs. The good smells of home cooking are only a few clicks away.

“Cooking” at home with a little help from the deli

Take-out chicken is a great example for converting prepared foods into personal dishes. Red meat is popular, but the versatility of chicken and sheer number of chicken dishes around the world are proof of the protein’s popularity. For quick meals prepped at home, mimic your favorite restaurant or chef by adding prepared grilled or rotisserie chicken from the deli counter to upgrade basic dishes:

  • Home version of roasted chicken: If you love Just BARE culinary enthusiast Lisa Golden Schroeder’s Roasted Citrus Chicken with Olives, be creative. Recreate the classic flavor combination of sour, sweet and salty with a little help from the grocery store deli. Stop at the olive bar on your way to the deli for rotisserie chicken. At home, squeeze lemon juice and crush black pepper on top for a quicker version of sweet, sour and salty.
  • Home version of chicken quesadilla: add rotisserie chicken, preferably natural, no-antibiotics-ever chicken like Just BARE, to the fry pan atop a whole wheat tortilla with bagged spinach, canned black beans and a dollop of salsa
  • Home version of chicken salad: grab a pre-made salad and add leftover grilled chicken breast with a drizzle of bottled salad dressing
  • Home version of chicken pasta: add pre-cooked veggies and rotisserie chicken to restaurant leftovers or a frozen entrée

Three tips for combining convenience and health

  1. Controlling portions is critical to healthy food habits. Being aware of the calories in foods helps to know how to manage portions. You make take-out foods healthier (and fit your personal tastes) by buying only what you will eat and by controlling the amounts of sauce, dressing and type of fat added.
  2. Enjoy indulgences occasionally or as in small amounts. We no longer have to wait for a fair or holiday to indulge in special treats because there isn’t much we can’t find within easy reach. Appetizing foods are all around us. Calorie counts can guide us in how many people need to share that lovely portion of coconut panna cotta or the bag of chocolate chip cookie bites. Making plans to manage the temptations around us is a useful life skill!
  3. Slow down when you eat. Talk, put down your fork, or drink sips of water to make time to let your brain register that you’ve eaten. From the time food is in your mouth, it takes about 20 minutes to signal that your hunger is being satisfied. High speed is great for internet access, but satiety signals need more time. Healthy meals in a flash are healthier when savored.