Packing a Punch

Nearly all foods are good for you in moderation, but do some pack extra punch?

A recent survey by the International Food and Information Council (IFIC) states that 55% of Americans believe there’s so much available diet information that it’s impossible to know how to eat “healthy.” There’s no common definition for “healthy food.” Fresh fruits and vegetables are nutrition powerhouses, but don’t have food labels to tout their benefits.

Here are 10 “power” foods that pack a punch when it comes to nutrients and/or phytochemicals (plant substances) and can fit into your operation’s healthy menus. These foods and others (see chart below) may help prevent chronic diseases (like cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension and osteoporosis), promote a better quality of life with aging, boost mood and preserve memory.

1. Broccoli—A cruciferous vegetable, broccoli contains many anti-cancer compounds (e.g., sulforaphane, indole-3-carbinol) and antioxidants like Vitamin C, beta carotene and selenium. Broccoli also provides fiber, calcium, potassium and folate.

Add broccoli to salads, soups, pizza, stews, sauces (puree broccoli first), casseroles or pasta. For flavor and crunch, add broccoli sprouts to sandwiches and salads.

2. Berries—All berries are rich in Vitamin C (strawberries have the most), fiber (e.g., pectin) and phytochemicals (e.g., anthocyanins, ellagic acid) which account for their bright colors. Cranberries and blueberries help prevent urinary tract infections.

Add a variety of berries to cereals, pancakes, low-fat yogurt, smoothies (use unsweetened cranberry juice concentrate), fruit soups, relishes, sauces and desserts like baked goods.

3. Squash—Summer squash (e.g., zucchini or yellow) is over 95% water, so it has fewer calories and nutrients than winter squash (e.g., acorn, butternut, pumpkin). All squash contain Vitamin C, potassium, magnesium and fiber. Zucchini also provides lutein and zeaxanthin which may protect against macular degeneration (leads to blindness) and cataracts. Winter squash also contains B-vitamins like folate, iron and beta-carotene.

Add squash to soups, stews or chili. Shred zucchini or yellow squash for a slaw. Incorporate mashed winter squash into pies, muffins or quick breads.

4. Oranges—Citrus fruits (e.g., oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes) provide Vitamin C (there’s almost a full day’s recommended allowance in one cup of orange juice or one medium orange), carotenoids, folate, potassium, calcium and fiber (none in juices). Tangerines contain more beta carotene but less Vitamin C than oranges.

Use orange slices as garnishes or add mandarin oranges to salads like spinach. Add orange juice to smoothies, tomato sauce, salsa, salad dressings and marinades.

5. Fish—Fish provides high-quality protein, B-vitamins, Vitamin D (fatty fish) and minerals (e.g., iron, iodine, phosphorus). Salmon and sardines with bones also contain calcium. Fatty, cold-water fish (e.g., salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, trout) are the richest in omega-3 fats. They may protect against heart disease, stroke, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease and help treat rheumatoid arthritis, too.

Serve baked, broiled or grilled fish fillets at least twice a week. Use fish for soups, stews and pasta salads.

6. Spinach—Spinach provides fiber, lutein, zeaxanthin, many vitamins like folate, Vitamins C, E and K and beta-carotene, and minerals like potassium, calcium and iron. But, oxalic acid in spinach limits absorption of calcium and iron.

Add raw spinach to salads. Incorporate cooked spinach into vegetable soups, stews, quiche, pizza and casseroles like lasagna.

7. Tomatoes—Rich in the antioxidant lycopene, tomatoes may reduce risk of cancer (e.g., prostate). Cooking tomatoes (e.g., sauce, pizza, soup) releases more lycopene. Lycopene is fat-soluble, so it is better absorbed when vegetable oil is added (e.g., tomato sauce). Tomatoes also contain Vitamin C, beta carotene, potassium, B-vitamins and fiber.

Add tomatoes to salads, soups, stews, casseroles, sauces, pasta, beans and rice.

8. Beans—Rich in fiber, beans provide protein, B-vitamins like folate and minerals (e.g., iron, potassium, phosphorus, calcium). Isoflavones may reduce risk of cancer (e.g., breast) and osteoporosis. Only soybeans contain omega-3 fats and complete protein.

Offer soy foods like milk, yogurt, nuts, burgers, tofu, miso soup or edamame (green soybean pods) as a snack. Combine beans (or nuts) with grains like rice to increase protein quality. Add beans to soups, salads, stews, casseroles, chili, sauces, dips (e.g., hummus), pasta and grain dishes.

9. Nuts—Nuts are high in calories (about 160 calories per ounce) and fat, but the fat is mostly heart-healthy unsaturated fat. Walnuts contain omega-3 fats. Almonds are rich in calcium and Vitamin E, while Brazil nuts contain selenium. All nuts provide phytochemicals, fiber, folate, Vitamin E, calcium, potassium and magnesium.

Use nut butters for sandwiches, smoothies, stews or soups. Add some nuts to salads, baked goods, cereals, pancakes, yogurt, casseroles, soups, stuffing, rice and vegetables.

10. Whole grains—Rich in phytochemicals and fiber, whole grains (e.g., oats, bulgur, buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice) also provide B-vitamins, Vitamin E, iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium, potassium and other minerals.

Offer whole-grain breads, cereals like oatmeal or bran, whole-wheat pasta and brown rice. Add whole grains to soups, stuffing, casseroles, salads, cereals or yogurt.

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

The new unpaid-balance policy at Canon-McMillan School District in Pittsburgh is making waves after a former cafeteria worker sounded off about the practice on social media.

Stacy Koltiska said she quit her job with the district after being forced to take hot meals away from students who owed lunch money, CBS News reports .

Under a new policy that was implemented at Canon-McMillan this year, students whose lunch debt exceeds $25 are not allowed to receive a hot lunch. Children in grades K-6 are given a sandwich in its place, and older students receive no lunch. A recent...

Industry News & Opinion

Due to low participation in its lunch program, Talawanda School District in Oxford, Ohio, is raising the price of school meals this year, Patch.com reports .

The cost of school lunches will see a 30-cent increase, half of which is being enacted to cover the district’s budget. The other half is being required by the government to cover the cost of free and reduced-price lunches provided to low-income families. Prior to this year, the district had not raised prices since 2009.

The district’s cafeterias have experienced a decline in student participation since implementing the...

Industry News & Opinion

Six Philadelphia hospitals were honored by the city’s department of public health for healthy food initiatives introduced as part of the local Good Food, Healthy Hospitals program, bizjournals.com reports .

The hospitals each debuted healthy measures to their dining services, such as lowering the cost of water bottles and seltzers, and offering dishes that incorporate local produce. One hospital was also honored for operating its own organic farm.

The facilities that were honored were:

Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Eastern...
Sponsored Content
chili flakes and peppers spicy hot

From Catallia.

When planning your menus, take note: college and university students think spicy is hot.

Fifty-seven percent of consumers age 18-34 find spicy flavors, “extremely appealing,” according to Technomic. And almost 50% of college students surveyed said they would like their schools to offer more ethnic foods and beverages, states a recent Technomic College & University Consumer Trend Report. Translation: they like their food kicked up a notch!

More Options than Ever

“Students of today are all about flavor,” says Steve Mangan, director of dining for...

FSD Resources