How to Attract Students to Healthier Options Using Good Taste and Appearance


SNA's 2017 Annual National Conference (ANC)

The following is the fourteenth in a series of news stories exploring the exciting opportunities and events at ANC.

It’s an age-old question foodservice professionals face every day; how to make food look better, taste better and healthier for students all at the same time?

Jim Painter, PhD, RDN, adjunct faculty with the University of Texas, Health Sciences Center at Houston says that you can. In an Education Session at SNA’s Annual National Conference (ANC) entitled “Nutrition in Disguise: Enticing Students to Choose Foods with Benefits,” Painter and Maggie Schuster, MS, RDN explain how replacing sugar, white flour and refined carbohydrates in cooking with whole foods in high nutritional value, and then using what they call “stealth and sensual nutrition” to sweeten and display the food item, you can get your students to eat healthier. The session is scheduled for Tuesday July 11, from 2:30 to 3:30 pm.

Other Educational Sessions Dealing with Nutrition Education for Students

Creating Healthy School Environments Through Partnerships
Sunday July 9, 9:15-10:15 am
Learn how Family and Consumer Sciences teachers and school nutrition teams are working together at some schools to enhance meal programs and strengthen student education. Through this partnership, students are engaged in learning (such as facilitating menu changes) in an effort to build healthier school environments.

Nutrition Education from Cafeteria to Classroom
Monday July 10, 3:30-4:30 pm
Have you considered the classroom to cafeteria connection? Come discuss the many ways nutrition education can support both your school nutrition program while integrating seamlessly into core subjects in the classroom.

“I have been a dietitian for many years and what I have often found is people will only eat what tastes good – and especially so with children,” says Painter, who is also emeritus professor at the Eastern Illinois University School of Family and Consumer Sciences. “Because if you give people a choice, here is the healthy food and here is the normal food, which one do they want? They’ll say, ‘I want to the normal food, please.’

“Even when you tell people it is healthy, sometimes that is not a positive thing and so, this idea of eating healthy by stealth is: make it look so good and so tasty, then they want to eat it.”

By way of using a taco as an example, Painter illustrated that by substituting meat with Baja-grilled tilapia (white fish) with fresh avocado slices, and then adding crisp shredded cabbage, tomato, sour cream, and garnish with chopped cilantro and fresh lime, you will not only add good fat and reduce sodium – but most importantly – reduce the calories from 445 to 238. And he says, it tastes good too.

Two main ingredients Painter suggests school nutritionists consider replacing and substituting with whole foods are sugar and white flour.

“The World Health Organization and the FDA guidelines say we need to reduce sugar and how do we do that,” asks Painter. “What you can do for example, is take raisin paste, raisin juice or raisins themselves and use them in place of the sugar that you are putting into desserts, pies, cakes or cookies. And what you are doing is getting all the sweetness but are losing all the problems associated with sugar. Now you are getting all the nutrients and fibers your students need by way of healthy stealth.”

Painter continued, “White flour, which is absolutely void of any nutrients and really rises the glycemic index [a person’s blood sugar two hours after eating a meal] and we replace it with things like: beans, bean paste, sorghum flour, whole grain flours or almond nut flours, that are highly nutrient dense. But what we are doing is not simply taking out the sugar or white flour, we are also taking out the highly refined carbohydrates and putting whole foods back into what we are eating”

The second element to “stealth and sensual nutrition” is to make what you are eating look appealing.

Register for ANC 2017:

Sound interesting? The Regular Rate registration deadline is June 12! For a complete schedule, special event and general session information, hotel and travel information, Exhibit Hall information and more, visit or watch the ANC video.

“If you simply tell kids to eat an apple, as you know, they may not eat it,” notes Painter, who has spoken at Educational Sessions at past ANC conferences. “But, if you cut them up and then put some nut butters, peanut butter or yogurt on it, it can make a big difference. In the end, it’s just a matter of taking common things and making them not only look a little more appealing but tasty, and now the kids will eat it.

“My take home message is: eat whole foods. And how do you do that? By incorporating into the foods that we already eat.”

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