Breathes there a foodservice director who hasn’t heard the corporate or administrative mandate to make cafeteria fare just as “healthy” as possible?
And whether you’re serving from a steam table or a chef’s table, offering grab-and-go sandwiches and wraps or running an exhibition station, the criteria is always more demanding than that. Healthful is one thing. But ensuring that daily menu offerings provide variety, flavor, color, presentation quality and plain old customer appeal (at the right price point, of course) is quite another and a never ending challenge.
If you’re looking for new healthful menu ideas, the food industry’s many commodity boards and commissions offer myriad sources of help and stand at the ready to supply you with healthful ideas, recipes, promotional support items and other materials that can add pop and pizzazz to your café and menus.
Each has its own latest “health” message, and all support web sites chuck full of downloadable “stuff”—all free of charge—for you and your customers. Keep in mind, their management mandates are often very similar to your own! Here’s a brief reference guide and you’ll find even more links in the online version at food-management.com.
USA RICE FEDERATION
The latest science: As whole gains have increasingly become mainstream, chefs and operators are finding more ways to use brown rice. Since one cup of brown rice equals two of the three recommended daily whole grain servings, it helps you meet government nutritional guidelines and offer better-for-you options to guests.
“In a recent USA Rice survey of over 500 foodservice professionals, more than half replied that rice is an easy solution to providing healthy menu options that appeal to customers’ tastes,” says Anne Banville, the Federation’s vice president of domestic promotion. “Rice is the foundation of popular cuisines from around the world; and its versatility means it can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner.”
Free materials: USA Rice has a Recognition Program that lets operations that use U.S. rice showcase a “USA Grown Rice” logo on menu and websites. The website also provides a one-stop resource of information and support, including a wide selection of gluten-free recipes, sports nutrition information, videos, purchasing tips, etc. Go to www.usarice.com
ALASKA SEAFOOD MARKETING INSTITUTE (ASMI)
The latest science: Along with vitamin D and important minerals, much Alaska seafood is a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation and improve heart health. The American Heart Association and USDA both encourage everyone to enjoy at least two servings of seafood a week—especially important for pregnant and breastfeeding women since omega-3s play a critical role in babies’ eye and brain development.
“Alaskan waters offer tremendous diversity—five species of salmon, whitefish like halibut, cod and Pollock, and three species of crab. There’s always something to spice up the menu.” says ASMI marketing director Claudia Hogue.
Free materials: ASMI offers a foodservice recipe bank focused on high-flavor health and diverse global flavors. ASMI also offers a vintage-inspired line of Alaska cod promo materials, plenty of consumer research and opportunities to create unique promotions. Visit: www.alaskaseafood.org/foodservice
NATIONAL MANGO BOARD (NMB)
The latest science: A recent study published in the Journal of Nutrition and Food Sciences suggests that adults who consume mangos tend to have higher intakes of nutrients like potassium and dietary fiber.
Also, according to Megan McKenna, NMB’s director of marketing, adult mango consumers have been found to have lower levels of C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation). (High levels of C-reactive protein in the blood may be indicative of increased risk for heart disease.)
Free materials: If you’re in K-12, download Mango Fun Facts, Meet a Mango Tree and the Mango 101 Guide. Nutrition educators will also like the mango ripeness and flavor-tasting exercise.
If you’re looking for fresh new mango recipe ideas, fresh mango menu promotion support and mango culinary training materials go to www.mango.org/foodservice.
And for mango nutrition information, go to www.mango.org/foodservice/mango-nutrition
IDAHO POTATO COMMISSION (IPC)
The latest science: Idaho potatoes are now certified by the American Heart Association, according to Don Odiorne, IPC vice president of food service. “This means America’s favorite potato meets the American Heart Association’s criteria for foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and can carry the well-recognized heart check mark.” Check out IPC’s nutrition page (www.idahopotato.com/nutrition_education) for a selection of gluten-free and heart-healthy recipes.
Free materials: The Idaho Potato Variety Chart (think Russets, Red potatoes, Fingerlings, Yukon Golds, Purple Peruvians, etc.) illustrates the variety of color and textures available as well as menupotential.
IPC’s foodservice landing page. www.foodservice.idahopotato.com always a features a video and training downloads (Turning Leftovers Into Profits, for example), answers to operational questions and working recipes from well known chefs.
CALIFORNIA AVOCADO COMMISSION (CAC)
The latest science: One serving of avocado (one-fifth of a medium avocado) contains 50 calories and 3 grams carbohydrate (3 grams of fiber= 0 grams of net carbohydrate). See the nutrition section of the consumer site (www.californiaavocado.com/nutrition) for the latest nutrition info.
Free materials: Healthcare professionals will find a variety of downloadable nutrition education materials including a dietetic tool kit and handouts for kids. For current and potential volume users interested in the California Avocado tree-to-table process, CAC Foodservice organizes a grove and packing house tour every August. CAC also supports a menu promotions program (Volume and unit minimums apply).
Also, check out CAC’s extensive recipe library and its “Cut, Seed, Scoop” diagram that demonstrates how to maximize fruit yield for menu preparations: www.californiaavocado.com/assets/Uploads/Foodservice/cutseedscoop.pdf
PACIFIC NORTHWEST CANNED PEAR SERVICE (PNCPS)
The latest science: It’s not “new” news that naturally sweet Pacific Northwest Canned Bartlett Pears are a wholesome and convenient food. Director of promotions Mark Miller is a veteran of school and healthcare foodservice and points out that Pacific Northwest Canned Pears are fat- and sodium-free. A single serving (1⁄2 cup) of canned pears is a handy, tasty snack that packs less than 100 calories. “A perennial comfort food, canned pears are always ready to use and available in a variety of forms,” Miller adds. Simply drain and fill (halves), serve (slices, chunks, dices), stir in (chunks or dices) or blend (any form).
Free materials: The PNCPS ioffers a wide range of application and recipe ideas; K-12 operators in particular will appreciate the many promotional ideas created for younger students (Coconut Pear Bars or Pear Ice-cream Sandwiches anyone?). Or check out the winning healthcare recipes from PNCPS’ fall recipe contest. Go to: www.eatcannedpears.com
HASS AVOCADO BOARD
The latest science: The Hass Avocado Board has conducted extensive research into the benefits of avocados, which provide nearly 20 vitamins and minerals along with heart-healthy mono unsaturated fats.
In recipe applications, avocado provides a creaminess that replaces dairy for lactose intolerant and vegan customers; it can be combined with pineapple, mango or berries for a satisfying and healthful beverage. And avocado’s ability to “upscale” old standbys like burgers, salads or mac-and-cheese is unmatched, even as it replaces some of the saturated fats in many dishes.
Free materials: The Hass Avocado Board has combined consumer and menu research into summary pieces available online. Additionally, new videos present simple techniques using avocados to produce healthful preparations that go way beyond guacamole. For more information and recipes, visit: www.avocadocentral.com
The latest science: At only 80 fat-free calories/cup, blueberries are packed with vitamin C; one serving contains almost 25% of the daily requirement. They’re also dynamos of dietary fiber—just a handful helps meet the daily requirement.
Wait—there’s more! Blueberries are an excellent source of manganese, a mineral that plays an important role in bone development and in converting the proteins, carbohydrates and fats in food into energy. And, when it comes to antioxidant properties, “blueberries contain polyphenols, specifically the anthocyanins that give the fruit its blue hue, are the major contributors to antioxidant activity,” the Council says.
Free materials: For health research news and promotional graphics, visit: www.blueberrycouncil.org. There’s also a sheet for kids, free in packs of 500; send a request with your name and facility address to Julie Stas at [email protected]. For dining hall promotions, the Council can provide a variety of giveaways: Contact [email protected] or go to: www.blueberrycouncil.org/foodservice/campus-dining/