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

Industry News & Opinion

Sodexo aims to reduce carbon emissions by 34% at its foodservice and facilities management sites by 2025, a goal it says it will reach through such changes as converting cooking oil into biodiesel fuel and using energy-efficient HVAC systems.

In announcing this endeavor toward sustainability, Sodexo—which manages more than 32,000 sites globally—noted that over 7,200 of its sites in North America recycle aluminum and paper, and 8,640 recycle cardboard.

Managing Your Business
alumni worker

It’s a sure sign that a school is doing something right when its students want to come back and work as adults. From the standpoint of the foodservice director, though, there is plenty to gain from retaining homegrown talent—call it the ultimate return on investment. In the wake of back-to-school season, two dining programs with a robust alumni contingent share their thoughts on hiring former customers.

Local expertise

At Georgia Southern University, about one-third of Eagle Dining Services’ 107 full-time employees are alumni. “They way we do things on our campus may be very...

Managing Your Business
business ladder climbing illustration

Recruiting talent is only half the battle for Mike Folino, associate director of nutrition services at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio. Once he’s attracted good employees, providing clear opportunities for advancement can help retain them—but knowing when to bring up the topic in conversation can be tricky.

Prior to hiring

Folino likes to touch on advancement during the initial interview process, but the extent to which he does so changes case by case. “I have had interviews where we knew right away that we needed to discuss our structure and...

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...

FSD Resources