How do you do healthy?

FoodService Director - K-12 Spotlight - healthy - Oklahoma City Schools We asked eight child nutrition directors how they promote and teach healthy dining behaviors and what easy tweaks they’ve made to menu items to make them better for students. Here’s what they said:

How have you taken a menu item and tweaked it to be healthier?

Peter Esposito, school nutrition director, Cape Elizabeth School Department, Cape Elizabeth, Maine

We are making a lot of roasted mixed vegetables instead of having french fries. Even though we would bake the french fries, they still contained more fat than our own roasted vegetables. The biggest change I think is our salad bar. We have lots of fresh vegetables and greens, and we have about thirty items, so there is something for everybody. It is amazing to see all the kids come through our line and see them trying something for the first time or the veteran students making a great-looking salad with things they may not have at home. It’s very rewarding.

Dawn Houser, director of nutrition services, Collier County School District, Naples, Fla.

We switched to a whole-grain pizza crust this year. Pizza is our most popular menu selection. The switch has been an overwhelming success. I visited a school that did 13 whole pizzas a year last year on a daily basis. This year they are doing over 40 pizzas a day with the same enrollment. Who says healthier doesn’t taste as good?

Donna Becker, nutrition services director, Perry Community Schools, Woodward, Iowa

We are working to make a ranch dressing recipe lower in fat by making our own using a seasoning packet, yogurt and reduced-fat salad dressing. We are also making all of our own breakfast muffins and dinner rolls, which are 51% whole wheat. This month we will also begin working with a local chef to help us develop a couple of entrée recipes that will conform to the proposed new meal pattern regulations. Our challenge is to develop a recipe that uses whole grain, including a serving of vegetables, that is low in sodium and acceptable by our students.

Angela Calamia, area supervisor, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Charlotte, N.C.

We make our own rolls. The rolls used to be made with white flour. We gradually increased the amount of whole-wheat flour used in making these rolls. Now they are 60% whole-wheat flour and 40% white flour, making them a whole-grain product. We have changed all our pasta to whole wheat and use brown rice instead of white rice. The gradual change has made it very easy for kids to transition to the healthier products.

Steve Gallagher, director of child nutrition services for Chartwells, Oklahoma City Public Schools

This has become a cornerstone of my role as a school food service director. Of course my No. 1 goal is to serve the students the healthiest foods possible. After a crash course in reality, I learned that it was equally as important to serve them foods they will eat. If a student doesn’t eat it and goes to class hungry and not prepared to learn, we have failed. This has led to a two-faceted approach. First is to educate the students and staff on nutrition and the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. Along with this education, healthier foods can be introduced and students can be converted over to healthier options. During this transition, we took interim steps of being one of the first districts to remove all of the fryers from the schools. We followed that up by switching to whole-grain bakery products and fresh fruits and vegetables daily. It will be a lifelong battle to change the eating habits of the youth today and the stereotype of school foodservice, but I plan to do what I can.

 

Do you use “stealth health?”

Angela Calamia, area supervisor, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Charlotte, N.C.

We do not use stealth health. We like to think it is better to teach kids how to eat right rather than disguise good foods.

FoodService Director - K-12 Spotlight - healthy - Oklahoma City Schools Donna Becker, nutrition services director, Perry Community Schools, Woodward, Iowa

I am not a big believer in stealth heath. I think that students need to see the foods so they can learn to include them in their meal away from school. In fact, after years of requesting whole-wheat hamburger buns in our bread bids, this year our vendor is providing a 100% whole-wheat hamburger bun. We had a little grumbling at first but participation has not dropped.

Andrew Viveiros, director of child nutrition services for Aramark, Lincoln School District, Lincoln, R.I.

There is a place for stealth health with some entrées like the Power Mac’n’ Cheese, where we use whole-grain pasta and cheese sauce infused with butternut squash. But I also believe that we should be upfront and transparent with our students about what they are eating. We are attempting to teach life lessons about healthy eating habits that go beyond just today’s meal.

Melissa Parmer, nutrition & wellness budget coordinator, Paradise Valley Unified School District, Phoenix

We have used stealth health with our beefy nachos. We incorporated beans to increase the fiber.

FoodService Director - K-12 Spotlight - healthy - Oklahoma City Schools Debb Ross, food service director, Shakopee Public Schools, Shakopee, Minn.

We sneak some healthy, unpopular, foods into foods the students like. For example, one of our schools makes blueberry smoothies with spinach in it but because of the purple color the kids have no idea and they love the smoothies. We have also added canned pumpkin to our chili to enhance the nutritional value. The students don’t notice this either.

 

How do you promote healthy eating for your students?

Andrew Viveiros, director of child nutrition services for Aramark, Lincoln School District, Lincoln, R.I.

For National Nutrition Month we are kicking off a Wellness Week that will highlight six new entrées that emphasize whole grains, local produce, lower sodium and increased use of nutrient-dense veggies. The goal is to jump-start the transition to entrées featuring tasty, lower-fat ingredients, legumes, vegetables and non-processed protein. For example one of our new entrées on the Thank a Farmer Thursday is pasta with a red sauce that has been enriched with pureed vegetables, served with whole-grain garlic bread made with locally grown garlic.

Donna Becker, nutrition services director, Perry Community Schools, Woodward, Iowa

In February our high school did a Veggies Against Cancer week highlighting veggies that fight cancer. Our elementary school did a Heart-Healthy Foods Week, featuring entrées that are heart healthy.

Angela Calamia, area supervisor, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Charlotte, N.C.

We realize that we only have a few short minutes to reach out to students as they come through the cafeteria line and sit in the dining room. We have large vinyl posters with quick nutrition messages in all our school to catch students’ attention. In some newer schools we have installed digital signage boards that display all kinds of nutrition messages through meal service times. These include the menu, nutrient information and nutrition facts.

Melissa Parmer, nutrition & wellness budget coordinator, Paradise Valley Unified School District, Phoenix

Classroom education is conducted by our dietetic interns. This year they have met with several third-grade classrooms to discuss the Food Guide Pyramid. They have also met with many physical education classrooms to discuss healthy meal and snack options.

Debb Ross, food service director, Shakopee Public Schools, Shakopee, Minn.

We promote healthy dining through posters. We also do taste testing with new or unusual products, and I try to promote healthy eating and meal ideas on the back of my menus with recipes and games for the kids.