In the past, dieting by the numbers was all the rage. Calorie counts, fat and cholesterol intake were pored over and scrutinized. Today, a growing number of consumers take a more personal approach to wellness—in fact, 40% say their definition of health has changed over the past two years (Technomic, 2018). And the desire to eat mindfully while still wanting to indulge in meals away from home is a constant struggle. For operators, it can be challenging to offer dishes that meet the changing dietary requests from patrons but still fit into a cohesive menu story.

One critical issue for operators to address is eliminating the possibility of a “veto vote.” When one person in a group has a dietary restriction, that person is likely to make the final decision as to where the group dines. By gaining an awareness of today’s top health trends and specialized diets, operators can create items that appeal to a large consumer base.

There’s a unique complexity to consumer purchasing decisions when it comes to wellness trends. For example, not all patrons who choose gluten-free foods are allergic or sensitive to gluten. Diners who are moving towards a plant-based diet don’t necessarily identify as vegetarian or vegan—they may simply be consuming less meat and more plant-forward food than they did in the past. In this issue, we’re going to take a closer look at plant-based dining, the ketogenic diet and gluten-free cuisine with insights as to how you can satisfy patrons with your menu offerings.

Though the exact details of these specialized diets can vary by individual, here is how we currently define them:

PLANT-BASED: Plant-based or plant-forward eating patterns focus on foods primarily from plants, including fruits and vegetables, nuts/seeds, whole grains, legumes/beans and oils. It doesn’t always mean a person is a vegetarian or vegan or never eats meat or dairy. It simply means that consumers proportionately consume more foods from plant sources—what we would consider a “flexitarian” diet.

KETO: The Ketogenic diet is characterized by a very low-carbohydrate, moderate protein and high-fat level. Reducing carbohydrates is said to put the body in a state of ketosis, a metabolic state where fat is burned for energy rather than typical carbohydrates.


GLUTEN-FREE: Gluten is a type of protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye, as well as foods made from these grains. Avoiding these grains is important to consumers with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities.

The Quick Dish

A visual overview of specialized diets

A visual overview of specialized diets

Product Focus

Product Focus


This plant-based powerhouse delivers real meat taste and texture with no cholesterol, thanks to a delicious blend of ancient grains, veggies and other Non-GMO Project Verified ingredients.


Our classic, versatile whipped topping is keto-friendly, containing 1 gram of net carbohydrates (1g total carbs – 0g dietary fiber = 1g net carbs).


Serve up gluten-free pizza without sacrificing taste, texture or quality, from the #1-selling dedicated gluten-free brand (2019 IRI Data).


We want to know—how do consumer dietary restrictions affect your menu offerings and recipe development? Take our two-minute survey!

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A New Approach

Products from Conagra Foodservice help you create new menu items that meet the demands of your patrons. These recipes fit the consumption patterns of today’s on-trend diets, but they’re focused on flavor for universal appeal.


Serve up plant-based perfection by topping a bed of dressed kale with cherry tomatoes, cucumber, kalamata olives, parsley and Gardein™ Chick’n Strips.

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This light and crispy baked meringue is filled with Reddi-wip® Real Cream Whipped Topping and finished with citrus and cardamom gremolata, for a treat that's keto-friendly per serving.

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Top an Udi’s® Pizza Crust with gorgonzola, mozzarella, roasted sweet potato, kale, bacon and an orange-balsamic drizzle. Your guests won’t believe this pizza is gluten free!

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Check out our Instagram for even more keto-friendly, gluten-free and plant-based recipes

By the Numbers

Growth of specialized diet menu mentions over the past four years:

By the Numbers

Datassential MenuTrends, U.S. menu penetration growth 2015-2019.

Chef Tips

Products from Conagra Foodservice help to fulfill a wide range of consumer dietary needs on the menu, without compromising flavor. Try these easy tips from our culinary team for inspiration.

  • Fill Bibb lettuce leaves with Gardein™ Chick’n Strips, napa cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts and a drizzle of teriyaki sauce for a plant-based Asian lettuce wrap.
  • Layer Gardein™ Chick’n Strips with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese, baked until bubbly and golden brown, for a plant-based “chicken” parmesan casserole.
  • Bake low-carb cookies without flour (hint: use coconut oil instead) and top with a swirl of Reddi-wip® Real Cream Whipped Topping and a sprinkle of nuts.
  • Top a zero net carb toast with mixed berries and Reddi-wip® Real Cream Whipped Topping for the ultimate keto berry toast.
  • Put a fun twist on an old favorite by cutting an Udi’s® Pizza Crust into triangles; fry then top with marinara sauce, shredded mozzarella, gluten-free salami, olives, mushrooms and diced green pepper for gluten-free pizza nachos.
  • Serve up an indulgent shareable appetizer with sliced Udi’s® Pizza Crusts smeared with garlic oil, sprinkled with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese, then baked until golden and bubbly. Serve with marinara sauce for gluten-free cheesy garlic breadsticks.

Segment Focus: Fast Casual

Fast casual chains are focused on providing on-trend, quality fare at a high perceived value. Many of these operators are taking the lead in delivering delicious menu items that cater to a wide range of consumer dietary restrictions. Here are a few recent examples:

Roti: Keto Salad, a 10 net carb, keto-friendly salad that includes mixed greens topped with char-grilled, grass-fed Steak Roti, tomato, cucumber, feta, olives, cilantro, tahini and spicy green s’hug sauce.

Noodles World Kitchen: Rosa with Grilled Chicken and Gluten-Friendly Pipette Shells, featuring spicy tomato cream sauce, gluten-friendly shell noodles, grilled chicken, mushrooms, tomato, spinach and choice of Parmesan or feta cheese.

Le Pain Quotidien: Portobello Shroom & Turmeric Hummus Tartine, a Belgian open-faced sandwich on organic whole wheat sourdough bread topped with turmeric ginger hummus, portobello mushroom, heirloom tomato, cucumber, parsley and cilantro.