Eat Your Veggies!

Thursday, October 19, 2017

On Monday, SAGE Dining Services® set up a RAW vegetable tasting bar to show the many amazing vegetable options and how fresh and delicious there are. We offer two kinds of fresh-cut fruit every day, serve fresh fruit salad every Friday, and offer fresh fruit as an alternative to sugary dessert items. We serve fresh vegetables daily, including one plain steamed veggie, as an accompaniment to our main entree. We also offer grilled and raw veggies for sandwiches and wraps, and to accompany our soups.

We offer at least two different types of salad greens every day, at least three house-made composed salads (which include several ingredients in interesting and flavorful combinations), and at least two dressings made from scratch every day from a short list of recognizable ingredients. We provide a variety of toppings for those salads, including dried fruits and seeds, for added nutrients and flavor.

We prepare Spa Water, filtered water infused with fresh fruits and herbs, as a delicious daily alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages.

Fruits and vegetables are a valuable source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and they’re associated with a reduced risk of health problems like heart disease and cancer. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, school-age Americans are consuming less than the recommended amount of vegetables—which is a problem, because produce is dense in nutrients children need, like fiber, calcium, vitamin C, and potassium. By offering a variety of ingredients and composed salads makes eating vegetables tasty, convenient, and customizable, we increase the likelihood that our students will eat their veggies. By making our own salad dressings, we can limit the amount of added sugars and sodium they contain, and avoid the use of trans fats altogether—so those healthy veggies don’t end up doused in empty calories.

We prefer fresh vegetables to canned because canned vegetables typically contain high amounts of sodium. Overconsumption of sodium can lead to long-term health issues like high blood pressure and heart disease. The same goes for fresh versus canned fruit. Canned fruit in syrup contains added sugars. Overconsumption of added sugars can lead to long-term health issues like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Frozen produce can be a good substitute if fresh isn’t in season, but we prefer fresh for better flavor and texture. Some canned and frozen vegetables can be of poor quality in both texture and taste.

If getting your daily dose of fruits and veggies is difficult, try these strategies to keep things interesting:
-Join a Community Supported Agriculture program, or visit your local farmer’s market for a variety of fresh fruits and veggies.
-Prepare them in multiple ways—like baking, grilling, roasting, sauteing, and pureeing.
-Combine them with different whole grains, lean meats, healthy fats, and other produce.

SAGE Dining Services® has been promoting healthy eating habits since its beginning in 1990. We know that nutrition has a big impact on our students’ academic performance, attendance, athletic performance, and long-term health. That’s why we put such care into making sure every menu is delicious, nutritious, and diverse—no small feat.

Every menu is composed of a variety of from-scratch recipes. Each recipe begins as an idea in a SAGE Chef’s head. It’s then submitted and tested in our kitchens. After every ingredient in the recipe is examined, it’s tagged for allergens, color-coded based on its nutritional value, and entered into the Recipe Database of more than 10,000 recipes. Our Food Service Directors (FSDs) construct our menus by choosing specific dishes based on the needs and preferences of each community. They then share the menu with one of our five Registered Dietitians, who go through each menu by hand with a three-page checklist to make sure it meets our rigorous standards. They review at least three seasonal menu cycles for each of our 250-plus venues. That’s at least 29,748 meals per year!

The FSDs and Dietitians ensure that each menu provides plenty of options, including complete-protein vegan and vegetarian dishes with all nine essential amino acids, and allergen-free options, especially for any allergies that are prominent in the community. We’re careful to offer food allergen and animal product alternatives, including rice and soy milk, sunflower seed butter, house-made hummus, and a plain steamed veggie with no sauce. Every member of the community can use our online allergen filter and ingredient lists to be sure of what's in a dish. That way, everyone stays safe and satisfied.

Community members without dietary restrictions benefit just as much from our focus on variety. Students are exposed to different cultures and culinary trends through ethnic and street food options at our diverse station concepts—like Paquito’s, Pacific Thyme, Crossroads, and Mangia! Mangia!. During menu review, the Dietitians check that these options are offered frequently, and that each main dish is accompanied by healthy, complementary sides.