Vegetarian meals adapted to meet the needs and tastes of children and adolescents in school canteens
Since November 1, 2019, in accordance with the Egalim law, all school catering - from kindergarten to high school - must propose at least one vegetarian menu per week. That is to say one menu (or an alternative menu if several menus are offered) comprising dishes based on vegetable proteins, eggs or dairy products. This measure, initially carried out on a trial basis for a period of two years, is one of the 5 main provisions of the Egalim law regarding contract catering. Accounting for 3.5 billion meals per year, this sector represents a major lever for changing dietary practices.
As such, Elior’s teams have adapted to these changes and are developing recipes so that they can offer at least one vegetarian menu per week, or more depending on customer demand, in the school canteens that the Group manages. Elior's expertise from a nutritional and culinary viewpoint makes it possible to respond to this new challenge.
Ensure a balanced diet for children and adolescents
From a nutritional point of view, children and adolescents have four main needs that are necessary for their development: a supply of calcium, iron, essential fatty acids (omega 3), and phytonutrients (fruits and vegetables).
In vegetarian meals meat or fish is replaced by eggs, dairy products or ingredients containing vegetable proteins. The frequency of vegetarian meals in school menus is regulated by a ministerial decree and is limited because these dishes do not provide as much iron as meat or fish recipes.
To ensure that vegetarian meals are balanced, Elior takes the following elements into account when developing recipes:
- Quality proteins thanks to a good balance between cereals (rice, wheat, corn, etc.) and pulses (lentils, chickpeas, red beans, etc.). From a nutritional point of view, the basis of a complete meal is the combination of 2/3 cereals and 1/3 pulses. The complementarity of the two enables children’s bodies to produce good proteins that are equivalent to proteins of animal origin.
- Sufficient quantities of proteins: at least 10g of protein per serving.
- A limited amount of fat
Create recipes adapted to children's tastes
Elior’s chefs develop new vegetarian recipes every year, according to specifications drawn up in advance by the nutritionist. Beyond the nutritional aspect, the recipes are designed to be enjoyed by children. For this reason, all recipes are tested with a panel of children, before being served in the Group’s canteens Only recipes that receive a satisfactory rating exceeding 70% are retained and included in the Group’s menus. Those that obtain a lower rating are either reworked and tested again, or abandoned.
Vegetarian recipes are therefore adapted to children's tastes and validated during these culinary tests. Since 2012, more than 200 vegetarian recipes have been developed by Elior’s chefs: tandoori wheat, penne and vegetable pickle, chili-style rice, pesto snack with fresh sauce, Basque pancake, etc. The Group’s chefs are constantly looking for new culinary tips to improve their recipes, such as coconut milk to make a creamier sauce.
At the Elior Observatoire du goût taste observatory it is also possible to find out which meals have had the most success with children. For vegetarians, the most popular recipes are often the dishes that children already know: vegetarian couscous, chili con carne-type rice and red beans, etc. Over time, children also get accustomed to trying new recipes without meat and appreciate them more and more.