Monday, April 25, 2011

Chocolate Milk Makeovers

Whether it’s chocolate milk on a school lunch menu or fruit flavored yogurt eaten during a coffee break, there’s something you might not know about the grams of sugar listed on the Nutrition Facts label of dairy products. The total number of grams includes the amount of the naturally occurring milk sugar called lactose. (By the way, the “-ose” ending on words in the nutrition world let’s you know this compound is a type of sugar such as lactose, sucrose, glucose or fructose.)
For instance, when you see that an 8 ounce glass of chocolate milk contains 27 grams of total sugar consider that 12 grams of this comes from the naturally occurring milk sugar lactose; leaving 15 grams or about 60 calories worth from sucrose added to sweeten the milk. The problem is that the Nutrition Facts label doesn’t require “added sugars” be revealed separately. The same goes for fruit flavored yogurts; the sugar content listed is a total of added sugars from the fruit preserves and the lactose in the milk used to make the yogurt.
Chocolate Milk Makeovers
Because of concerns about consumption of sugar, “We do get parents who say get rid of flavored milk” says registered dietitian Marilyn Yon, Compliance Specialist with Georgia’s School Nutrition Program, “but we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Yon shares nutrition research with parents that shows compared to kids who drink plain milk, children who drink flavored milk consume more milk overall and fewer soft drinks and sweetened fruit drinks. They also get more calcium, vitamin D and potassium.”

Nationwide, chocolate milk producers today are working to lower the amount of added sugars as well as introducing fat free versions to lower calories and improve the overall nutrition profile of chocolate milk, especially for school food service. California milk processors make fat-free chocolate milk for schools with only 10 grams of added sugars per cup. Yon says Georgia will introduce the slimmed down, lower sugar recipe for flavored milks starting in August for the next school year, “We’re previewing a new flavored milk made by Mayfield Dairy that is fat free and the sugar content has been lowered from 25 grams to 22 grams with 10 grams of added sugars. We’re hoping other smaller milk providers will follow statewide.”
But, will kids drink it? Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D., R.D., Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont and member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition Science Board, tested children’s acceptance of lower-calorie flavored milks. Johnson shares, “We measured children’s actual consumption of traditional flavored milk and compared it with children consuming lower-calorie flavored milk and found there was no difference in how much milk the kids drank. The children in our study accepted the “healthier” milk.”
The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity detailed 70 recommendations to eradicate childhood obesity within the next two generations. One of them aimed at food service providers advises “Be Creative. Host a kids’ tasting event … and let kids guide you in developing new items that are tasty and appealing.” I bet they’ll choose the chocolate milk, even if it is lower in fat and sugar.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Low Carb to Low Carbon-Catering to Your Health

Vegetarian, gluten-free, low-carb, high-protein and pleas to “keep it light.”

Do these sound like special diet requests from health-conscious restaurant patrons? Well, you got the patron part right. But these are increasingly common comments from clients who work with professional caterers to plan a party or meals for business meetings.

Lance Hagen, sous chef for A Legendary Event, one of Atlanta’s most popular and busiest catering companies, says, “We certainly don’t see a lot of call for classic French dining these days. Our customers want menus designed around healthier world cuisines such as Asian and Mediterranean.”

And forget the "rubber chicken circuit" of disappointing banquet meals. From corporate events to weddings, caterers are expected to deliver restaurant-quality meals, from a really good restaurant.

For instance, chicken entrees on A Legendary Event’s catering menus change with the season, such as spring's pan-seared organic herb marinated chicken breast with fava beans, roasted yellow peppers and a rainbow of mixed microgreens.

Hagen says, “We like to showcase produce from Southern regional farms. I like to say it’s our own private little California.”

Even desserts are getting a healthy makeover.

Next to the chocolate fountains and cheesecake bites; lighter versions of sweet treats are being added to please health-conscious palates. Legendary’s pastry chef, Brittany Wright, created a lower-calorie panna cotta by using more gelatin in the recipe, and serves it with fresh berries and a sliver of dark chocolate to match the glamour of richer desserts.

Serve something green
Today’s definition of what’s "healthy" increasingly includes what’s healthy for the planet, too.

When Laura Turner Seydel and the staff of the Captain Planet Foundation plan events to support their work educating people about ways to protect the environment, caterers have to make the “going green” cut, too.

At a recent party held at Seydel’s home in Atlanta, the dining room table was set with elegant bites of goat cheese lollipops, deviled eggs with smoked salmon, crab mini quiche and organic butternut squash empanadas.

Caterer Frank Bragg of Radial Cafe even made sure the display included sustainable principles: “We used a stack of cardboard egg cartons topped with glass to present the devilled eggs. It’s a touch of whimsy, but it’s also a way to reuse and repurpose the egg cartons.”

Bragg, whose company motto is “Small Carbon Footprint, Big Local Flavor,” has been on the forefront of “green catering” since he began his company in 1999.

He says happily organic and other sustainable ingredients are easier to find today, “but you still have to plan ahead. I have one Georgia honey producer who reminded me that her product was available only seasonally, so I have to buy when it’s available and stock up. It’s a challenge, but it’s worth it when you find such a beautiful product.”

The challenge to please clients no matter what they want and no matter what the circumstance is nothing new in the catering business.

Tony Conway, owner and founder of A Legendary Event, says he’s always had to work with Mother Nature: “She’s one of our favorite guests. Snow, rain, wind, heat or cold, she’s always right there with us as we prep, pack, load and unload.”

Now with the increased visibility for organic, just picked, locally grown and farm-fresh foods on catering menus, Mother Nature is guaranteed an invitation to even more parties, but now she's welcome to join the table.

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