School Lunch Pros Take Flavor to the Next Level

Atlanta (GA) was the host city of this year’s School Nutrition Association Annual National Conference. It was very exciting to hear about so many great things going on in cafeterias in the state and across the country.

During an educational session titled “Shake It Up School Nutrition,” GA Department of Education guest speakers Sarah Combs and Paige Holland spoke about the challenges that face school nutrition professionals when it comes to providing healthier foods that still appeal to children.

During an educational session at SNA’s ANC 2017, school nutrition professionals learn about making their food and programs shine!

Foods with less sodium and more whole grains are often thought of as less flavorful, but there are lots of efforts underway to change that. With the Shake It Up campaign, Georgia schools are focused on adding the flavor with spices and herbs.

Some recipes that were shared include a California blend of plain steamed vegetables, combined with low sodium pineapple teriyaki to make the veggies more palatable for students. Sweet and sour chicken bowls and chili lime taquitos with refried beans were two other options offered as seasoned, low sodium, nutritious choices for cafeteria menus. The Shake It Up campaign also suggests creating flavor stations, where students are able to add spices and flavor to their healthy options, without adding salt.

An example of one of the most popular school Flavor Station companies out there, which was presented on the ANC exhibit floor.

In Georgia alone, 940 schools in 64 districts completed their pledge to Shake It Up. During the educational session, school nutrition professionals from around the country were asked to share stories about their school meal programs.  In particular, they shared successful tactics to enhance the flavor and excitement for school meals, while still providing healthy food that meets federal USDA guidelines.

Outside of education session, another interactive experience focused on flavor was at live culinary demonstration. Chef and Registered Dietitian Garrett Berdan utilized Kikkoman lower sodium sauces to make yummy dishes including Thai Style Fish Tacos, Teriyaki Vegetable Chow Mein Noodles and Sweet & Sour Glazed Chicken Wings.

School nutrition professionals learn more about well-known companies making low sodium, more whole grain options for children.

All of these recipes were prepared with students in mind, both in presentation and in nutritional guidelines. A mirror placed above the demo kitchen allowed the audience to watch Chef Berdan prepare the meals. Taste tests of the delicious recipes were passed around afterward.  A win-win for all involved: getting ideas and then sampling the recipes firsthand!

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