Healthy flavors, healthy kids: "The Biggest Loser," updating kids' menus and LA's fight for healthy menus

Parents don't think restaurants are committed to making kids' menus healthier.

Earlier this month I spent three days in San Antonio attending the CIA’s Healthy Flavors, Healthy Kids conference. Now in its second year, the conference brings together leaders from all aspects of child nutrition to discuss the growing childhood obesity epidemic and ways to combat that trend.

It’s a pretty lofty goal, one that Amy Myrdal Miller, R.D., director of programs & culinary nutrition, strategic initiatives for the CIA, says makes this conference her toughest one to coordinate by far. There are just so many different players in the equation, she admits. Further complicating the issue are the USDA’s new meal regulations. Myrdal Miller says the conference took those rules into account by focusing on culinary sessions demonstrating ways to incorporate the new vegetable sub groups, particularly leafy green vegetables.  

New to this year’s conference were roundtable discussions focusing on topics such as using USDA Foods to create healthful, flavorful foods for school meals and participating in farm-to-school programs.

Here’s some highlights from the conference:

  • Cheryl Forberg, R.D., spoke about the 12 years she spent as the nutritionist with “The Biggest Loser.” Forberg said she saw similarities between the show’s overweight contestants, including not eating enough fruit and veggies, not drinking enough water and not eating the right types of fats. Forberg said she worked with the contestants to ensure they were eating their calories and not drinking them, a problem many were faced with.
  • Maeve Webster, director of research and consulting for Datassential, shared results from the company’s research on children’s menus. Overall, parents said it was more important to offer healthier items on kids’ menus than did restaurants. Seventy-four percent of parents said this was important, while 54% of full-service restaurants and 50% of limited-service restaurants said it was important. Parents also said they didn’t think restaurants were doing a good job menuing healthier items. Thirty-eight percent of parents said restaurants having done anything innovative when it came to healthy kids’ options and 42% believed restaurants weren’t serious about offering healthy items for kids. However, 44% of restaurants said they have made some kind of change to their kids’ menus in the last six months.
  • Another interesting revelation was that 40% of parents said they were more likely to order entrées off the main menu for their kids instead of ordering from the kids’ menu. Webster said this posed problems because children were being served larger portions, so it was imperative to teach those kids about proper portion sizes. The fastest growing items on kids’ menus aren’t surprising, with fries, chicken strips and macaroni and cheese as the top three. When restaurants add healthier kids’ options, all-natural items is growing by 77%, sweet potatoes by 67%, edamame by 49% and hummus by 41%.
  • David Binkle, deputy director for LAUSD, shared his work revamping the district’s menus to be healthier. People say kids don’t like math, but we still teach students math, Binkle said. We should do the same with healthy eating. Before a new item is placed on the menu it is tested more than 30,000 times, he added.

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
hands team

In November, students at University of Missouri in Columbia began leading protests against discrimination faced by people of color on campus—including some marches through the dining halls. Julaine Kiehn, director of the school’s campus dining services, said the 2015-16 school year was a tough one, but she was proud of MU’s students for being at the forefront of a national movement.

And not only did the protests launch important conversations with students, but also with staff. Kiehn heard the protests and thought that her student workers, at least, might not feel safe and welcome...

Ideas and Innovation
woman surprise

When I joined the staff at FoodService Director in the spring of 2015, I couldn’t believe how much there was to learn about the intricacies of the industry. My past experience, from kindergarten to my college days to on-the-job meals, would lead me to believe that noncommercial dining was a kind of automated process—an amenity that’s expected, and one you only become aware of if something goes wrong.

But as with my own household chores, there are no magical elves making sure the business of feeding students, seniors and hospital patients is done, and done well. Foodservice...

Ideas and Innovation
elderly old hands

A family’s request for at-home meal support for a patient at Lee Memorial in Fort Myers, Fla., led System Director of Food & Nutrition Services Larry Altier to uncover a gap in care. He saw that only 1% of patients had been coded (diagnosed and labeled for billing purposes) as malnourished, while more than 60% of all Lee Memorial patients are over 65 years or older, a population that experiences the issue at a higher rate.

His discovery helped more rigorously identify malnutrition, but it also strengthened Lee Memorial’s community connection. The hospital launched a delivery...

Ideas and Innovation

When it comes to sustainability, sometimes the smallest kitchen changes can make the biggest difference. When Chris Henning, senior assistant director of dining services for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, switched from standard latex gloves to nitrile gloves, he also set up a recycling program. Once recycled, the gloves are turned into playground equipment, bike racks and park benches.

Henning says the nitrile gloves have been a good fit for his department, both in terms of durability and cost. “Participating in the campus buying program reduces the cost, as [our]...

FSD Resources