The University of Montana, Missoula, Mont.
Tilapia Printemps tops the list of healthy foods at this Missoula school, which serves 15,000 students. Adapted from a previous menu item, Tilapia Primavera, the newer version replaces the original cream sauce with zucchini, carrots, red bell peppers, fresh parsley and a little unsalted butter. The dish has only 131calories per serving.
“It’s very colorful and inviting to the eye to eat,” says Mark LoParco, director of dining services. “A lot of our students don’t have access to varieties of fish and we are very conscious of that. We want healthy items that look good and taste great.”
LoParco relies on data from the computer system to rank the dish’s popularity. “It’s been on the menu for a year and a half. Things like carne asada or roasted turkey still outsell a fish item, but in terms of items that are healthier, this one does very well,” he adds.
Before adding the dish to the menu, LoParco’s staff tested it in the dining room and asked students to fill out evaluations. In addition, the management team personally looks to see who’s eating the dish and asks for direct feedback during mealtime. “Part of our goal is to educate students about food,” says LoParco. “We have kids who come as carnivores and now they’re vegetarians.”