Better Choice: Putting your best fork forward in 2017
If you have visited an Emory dining facility in the past year, then you have probably encountered the familiar Better Choice logo on some of our food items. This spring, you can expect to see even more of these nutrition labels, as the Better Choice planning team prepares to expand the program to include salad bars, deli and pre-packaged salad and sandwich items. The nutrition labeling system is designed to help dining customers make more informed decisions about their dining options. Using national nutrition guidelines, the Better Choice planning team developed a set of criteria that evaluated key components, such as fat, added sugars, calories, sodium and protein to assign the label.
“Whether you’re at one of the dining facilities at Emory Healthcare or at the University, we wanted a set of criteria and guidelines that could be easily standardized and implemented, regardless of location,” said Lynne Ometer, director of Food & Nutrition Services at Emory University Hospital. “All of our locations are unique, so we needed to understand how they currently operate – from what’s available in the salad bar to the daily volume of customers they’re serving each day – before we could make any recommendations for implementing changes.”
This past fall, food & nutrition services teams from the university and the hospitals came together to begin planning for the Better Choices expansion into food stations other than the hot entrees and side dishes. The teams reviewed a variety of factors, including the amount of meat employees typically add to a sandwich and the nutritional content of the breads purchased from each of the organizations’ suppliers. While some simple modifications were made for the pre-packaged items, the build-your-own options were a bit more of a challenge. For example, how do you build guidelines for what constitutes a “better choice” when you’re not in control of portions?
“Most deli meats are similar in value such as protein or calories – the real difference between turkey and pastrami is the sodium and fat content,” said Jessica Perry, RD, residential dietitian for Bon Appetit Management Company, which oversees food services for Emory University. “Likewise, with the salads, the vegetables that you put on top aren’t going to undermine your health goals, but the cheese, croutons or salad dressings you add might.”
The new guidelines for the build-your-own and pre-packaged items, which will be located in the dining facilities, will begin rolling out in March in recognition of National Nutrition Month and as part of Healthy Emory. Looking for other ways to integrate healthier options into your diet as part of National Nutrition Month? Check out these resources: