Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Confetti Quesadillas Illustrate Flexible Nutrition Philosophy

Yesterday I had a wonderful opportunity to be the guest blogger on the Fed Up With School Lunch blog. I received an almost universally positive response to my positive post about School Meals That Rock - using this beautiful lunch from Lolo, Montana, as an example.

For those of you who wondered about the recipe for the Confetti Quesadillas, I have some great news. You can download a family-size version of Confetti Quesadillas with Cilantro Yogurt Dip from the National Dairy Council website. I am sharing this recipe to illustrate two key features of my personal nutrition philosophy.

The first, of course, is that the food looks and sounds delicious. IMHO, this is the most important hurdle that any food must pass. It doesn't really matter how healthful something is. If it doesn't satisfy our taste buds, it won't become part of our regular eating style. The key - in both schools and homes - is that we learn how to combine great taste and good health on every plate.

The second pillar of my personal view of nutrition is that there are many different healthful eating styles. Some folks zealously promote a particular diet as the one and only truly nutritious way to eat. And, these "perfect diets" are all over the map - only low-fat, high-fiber foods ... only full-fat dairy foods with no grains ... only plant foods with no animals products at all ... only raw foods ... only foods grown organically within 100 miles of being consumed. In fact, any of these eating styles can be healthful - if you pay attention and get all the 70+ nutrients needed by the human body.

The problem, however, is that some of these paths to nutrition and health aren't practical for everyone - depending on our budget or where we live. And, some of them don't fit with our lifestyles, our cultural food preferences, or our religious beliefs.

So, there are lots of different ways to eat healthfully - and you can adapt any recipe or menu to fit your preferences, without trying to force your beliefs on everyone else. Take this recipe as an example. Here are six ways to adapt it to your personal eating style:
  • Prefer full-fat cheese? Substitute your favs ... I might use a sharp Cheddar plus a fresh mozzarella.
  • Not into corn? Use whole grain tortillas instead ... we have some great local multi-grain ones available now.
  • Don't like cilantro? How about some other seasonal green? Fresh baby spinach? A little arugula? Maybe basil from your window box of herbs?
  • Prefer local foods? Switch up the veggies ... use whatever is in season from your garden or farmer's market.
  • Not into spicy food? Skip the jalapeno pepper ... and use a variety of colorful sweet peppers instead.
  • Missing some meat in your quesadilla? Cut back a bit on the cheese ... and add smoked turkey, sauteed chicken, or some leftover grilled steak.
Hummmmmm ... might be time for my lunch! How do I want my Confetti Quesadilla today?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Local Goodness in Green Bay (WI) Summer Meal Packs

I am a long-time fan of Green Bay Area (WI) Public School District Food Service Department and Registered Dietitian Sara Schmitz, their Quality 
Assurance Specialist. Sara and the district first came to my attention when I was writing Making It Happen: Nutrition Success Stories in 2004. Green Bay Food Service Department takes nutrition seriously – as you see on their Nutrition Secrets page. They have become leaders in school gardening as well, by showcasing what can be done in a far northern climate with indoor growing stations, outdoor cold frames, and mini-hoop greenhouses.

This summer they are really rocking with new summer feeding lunch packs. Check out the Michigan apples, local zucchini slices (in season), and the lean beef stick made by a local meat market – all beef, very lean, made without nitrates or nitrites, and low in sodium! Most importantly, the Green Bay Public Schools Summer Feeding Program serves 2,000 to 2,400 children per day at 44 sites (27 parks, 8, schools, and 9 community locations). These are children who rely on school meals during the school year, so these nutrient-rich summer lunch packs are essential for their health and nutrition when school is out.

I believe that this Green Bay, Wisconsin, meal showcases what school nutrition programs are doing so well across the country. Producing nutrient-rich meals for kids in need - creatively using the limited funding available to gradually move toward the freshest, healthiest, and most local items possible.

Kudos to every lunch lady and gentleman working hard to make these meals happen!!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

RD Coaches Rock with POWER PICKS in Iowa

An exciting new model for Registered Dietitian (RD) involvement in schools has been underway since 2007. The Healthy Schools Partnership (HSP) is a collaboration of the ADA Foundation, the American Council for Fitness and Nutrition, and PE4life. In this innovative program, specially trained RD Coaches deliver nutrition education to students in groups and one-on-one in the classroom, PE class, and the cafeteria. Students in eleven Kansas City schools and four schools in the Greater Des Moines (Iowa) area have benefitted from the program that focuses on Energy Balance by improving eating and physical activity knowledge and behaviors. Reaching over 2,000 students during the 2009-10 school year, the HSP is showing impressive results in nutrition knowledge and school meals choices.

For example, RD Coaches are making a big difference in Parkview Middle School in Ankeny, Iowa. The RDs teach energy balance lessons in a variety of ways, including in the cafeteria. Every week students who select and consume a fruit and vegetable at lunch get their picture taken, posted on the Power Pick banner, and enter into a weekly prize drawing. The results have really rocked: big increases in a la carte produce sales (ex. doubling of salad bowl sales), as well as substantially more produce chosen in the reimbursable lunch line.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Grab n' Go Goodness in Lewistown, Montana

Cindy Giese is one of those school nutrition directors who have been doing fun, healthy stuff for years. She proudly proclaims that the meals created by her staff at the Lewistown School Food Service are "the best buy in town." Based on these two Gran n' Go meals, I say that is truth in advertising!

The fruit/yogurt grab ‘n go is 12-ounces of fresh fruit mix (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, grapes, and strawberries), a

lowfat yogurt, a 1-ounce package of sunflower or pumpkin seeds, a homemade whole grain muffin, and a homemade whole grain cookie. The chicken/spinach grab ‘n go includes spinach, diced grilled chicken, dried cherries, apple wedges, celery sticks, raspberry viniagrette dressing, and a Bavarian pretzel stick.

Now, I'd love to have Grab n' Go options like this for $3.55 when I am traveling!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Latest Intelligence on Lactose Intolerance

Today I was fortunate enough to attend an Alexandria, Virginia, conference on New Directions in Lactose Intolerance. The expert presentations were based on guidelines released by a February 2010 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Development Conference: Lactose Intolerance and Health.
The speakers stressed three key facts

1. All that rumbles is not lactose intolerance. The number of people who think they have to give up dairy foods is much larger than people who actually have lactose intolerance. The US rates of adult lactose intolerance are about 7 percent for Caucasians, 9 percent for Hispanics, and 20 percent for African Americans.

2. Giving up dairy deliciousness can have unintended consequences. Low-fat dairy foods, an important investment in long-term health, promote strong bones, normal blood pressure, and a healthy weight.

3. There are dozens of simple, tasty ways for everyone, even those with lactose intolerance, to enjoy nutrient-rich dairy foods. For some easy-to swallow-tips, you can download the June Healthy Families newsletter from Eat Right Montana (which I write).

The critical issue in terms of kids and schools is that young people in the US simply are not consuming the enough of nutrients found in dairy products, especially calcium and potassium. To insure better nutrition and better health, school nutrition programs need to stay focused on helping kids enjoy more low-fat and fat-free milk, yogurt, and cheese.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Gooding (ID) Rocks a Gold Award WITH DISTINCTION

On June 15th, I had the honor doing a keynote presentation for over 250 members of the Idaho School Nutrition Association at their annual meeting in Worley, ID. I spoke about the importance of Nutrient-Rich Foods for Health and Academic Success. (For slides of this and other 2010 presentations, visit my website: Nutrition for the Future.)

During my visit, I had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful "lunch ladies." For the SNF Marketing 101 Course, I was also able to interview the Child Nutrition Director from Gooding, a farming community of 3,800 in southern Idaho. Few small town school nutrition directors have been included in a speech by the First Lady of the United States, but Anji Baumann has. That’s because Gooding Elementary was the first school in the nation to receive a Gold with Distinction Award from the HealthierUS School Challenge in April 2010. The honor was highlighted by First Lady Michelle Obama, who praised Gooding’s nutrition program and Director Baumann in a national speech.

A few minutes is all it takes to see why new students in Gooding schools are told “you are going to love lunch here.” Anji bubbles with excitement as she describes their farm to school program, the second chance breakfast for high school students who don’t like to eat first thing in the morning, and the healthy habit commitments that classes made as part of their Fuel Up To Play 60 pilot program. As she says, “I eat, breathe, and sleep school lunch. I just love to tell people what we are doing.” With an attitude like that, it’s no wonder that Gooding, Idaho, got a Gold with Distinction.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Speaking of ASPARAGUS ... Rockin' Fresh Veggies in MI!

Wisconsin high schools aren't the only ones serving asparagus this spring. In fact, at one elementary school in Byron Center, Michigan, they actually ran out of asparagus and had to put it on the menu again in the same week!

I am not making this up. You can read all about it about in the words of the Byron Center, Food Service Director Susan Meyer:
"The most exciting thing for me was to see the students eagerly trying some of the fresh, new products. For instance, we had never served fresh asparagus. The whole, washed asparagus spears were laid out on sheet pans, drizzled with a little bit of olive or vegetable oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper and roasted in the oven until it was 'al dente’. We told the younger children to pick it up with their fingers and eat it just like a French fry! Everyone who tried it loved it. We had staff members asking us for the recipe! In fact, in our elementary schools we sold out of the asparagus which was on the menu on Monday and had to promise the students we would have it again on Friday!!! When we served it again on Friday more students took and we almost ran out again. That’s a success story!"

Friday, June 11, 2010

Another Rockin' Breakfast in Montana!

And, why are these kids working so hard? Because they are enjoying breakfast in the classroom in a Missoula County Public School in beautiful western Montana.

I've recently been working on a Marketing 101 course for the School Nutrition Foundation (more on this soon) - and interviewing school nutrition directors who have done a marvelous job of marketing. Valerie Addis in Missoula is one of those directors - always looking for new and better ways to help children get the nutrition they need to succeed in school - and in life.

With lots of support from administration and her school nutrition team, Valerie has rolled out an impressive universal (free to all students) breakfast in the classroom program in four elementaries and 1 middle school. In those five schools, 95 percent of students eat breakfast at their desks - getting fuel to help them focus all morning long. You can read more about breakfast in classroom, other alternative types of breakfast service, and Valerie's impressive success on the Western Dairy Association's Breakfast page.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Breakfast Rocks for the whole community Hamilton, Montana!

Why are all these people smiling? Because they are eating breakfast at a Hamilton, Montana, event called “Coffee for Community” where parents bring their children to school and enjoy breakfast together. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase the nutritious food – to educate the parents about what we’ll be feeding their children,” said Sharon Demorest, the Food Services Manager. (That's Sharon with the beautiful yogurt parfaits.)

Sharon and her food services team are doing a fabulous job of feeding children and of marketing the importance of schools meals for kids. When parents come to one of these breakfasts, they get to meet teachers, administrators, and school board members. EVERYONE gets to see and taste the delicious, nutritious food that fuels the work Hamilton's students do in the classroom.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Leftovers ROCK in Wisconsin

OK, they are not technically leftovers ... but they are the items left in the Chilton (WI) High School kitchen on the last week of school. According to director Diane Chapeta "cooks are at liberty to use up anything that isn’t nailed down to help streamline costs."

WOW ... and kudos to those cooks!! Here's is what they were serving on during the last week of school in Chilton, Wisconsin, for $2.20 in the high school:

Garlic Crumb Chicken Breast on a wheat bun with farm asparagus, grapes, assorted oven roasted spuds, and a low-fat milk.

That is something that I would order for lunch in a restaurant ... AMAZING!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Exciting News for Billings Action for Healthy Kids

In late May, we got some great news in Billings ... Boys and Girls Club of Yellowstone County and Billings Action for Healthy Kids are one of 50 recipients of a $10,000 General Mills 2010 Champions for Healthy Kids grants. WAHOOO!!

The grants were especially competitive this year (over 1,200 applicants), so we were very honored to have been chosen as the only grant in Montana. Our concept is all about kids - by kids and for kids. It stems form an experience that I had last summer making videos about healthy snacks with some amazing kids at the Boys and Girls Club of Yellowstone County. After one session, they literally took over - planning, directing, filming, eating, education - it was incredible.

Here's the basic idea, we'll keep you posted on the progress:
You Food-n-Fitness will produce a series of five-minute videos for low-income, at-risk youth who may be living in difficult circumstances. The goal of this innovative project is to increase children’s knowledge of basic nutrition and physical fitness. Videos will be developed and filmed by Club members and will teach kids about the USDA’s MyPyramid food groups along with basic skills to safely prepare balanced meals for themselves when they have no other option. Kids will also learn about the importance of physical activity and safe ways to be active at home. The videos will integrate basic math skills into nutrition and activity education.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thomas County (Georgia) Schools Rock with Bright Colors

Karen Green and her team in the Nutrition Services of Thomas County (Georgia) Schools serve bright colors every day. These photos showcase one of the salad plates available in Thomas County Central High School along with the veggie cups served in the middle and high school. Fresh, canned, and frozen Thomas County serves as many fruits and vegetables as possible to their student customers.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rockin' Out with The Red Hen (and Dr. Seuss) in Thomasville, Georgia

Some folks go all out to help children learn about the great taste of eating well. Karen Green, School Nutrition Director, and her team in the Thomas County Schools, Thomasville, Georgia, are clearly some of those folks. You can see their well-received efforts in these photos.

Little Red Hen:

The manager made this costume out of paper mache and chicken wire. She then dresses as Little Red Hen while Karen reads the story of the little red hen and talks about grains, whole wheat, and the importance of eating more of them.

On Dr. Seuss Day:

Hand in Hand Primary uses Dr. Seuss to promote breakfast at lunch time. We actually serve green eggs and ham - and they are very popular!