Health & Wellness

Think About Your Drink!

By Melissa Garba-Baker
October 11th, 2013

Melissa Garba-Baker

It’s 2pm and you’re starting to drag. Your energy is rapidly draining and you still have lots of work to do.  You think, “Maybe I need some caffeine or sugar to give me a boost.” So, you go to the café or vending machine to get a snack. Once you see the options, you crave something sweet, so you pick a soda. It gives you a boost, but soon you’re feeling sluggish again.

So, what’s the deal? Doesn’t sugar and caffeine supply lasting energy?

Well, the simple answer is yes, but it’s more complicated than that.  Our bodies need energy to survive and thrive, but not all food and drink options are equal.

True, we need carbohydrate calories for energy, yet simple carbohydrates like the sugar in soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages provide “empty calories.” They provide energy, but don’t provide other benefits such as protein, vitamins and minerals that our bodies need to be healthy.  They don’t fill us up and they can add excess calories to our diet, too many of which will lead to unwanted weight gain.

Working at The Nicor Café in Naperville, Illinois, as a Sodexo intern, I had the opportunity to develop and implement a nutrition education project focused on sugar-sweetened beverages. I taught employees how to calculate the amount of sugar in the beverages they like to drink.

Would you sit down and eat 10 teaspoons of sugar? Probably not! If you drink one 12-ounce can of Cola every day at work, you’re consuming 23.5 pounds of sugar a year. That’s just from five cans a week! Drinking sugar-sweetened beverages can be OK in moderation if part of a balanced diet, but if you want to feel energized, there are better options.

Stay hydrated! Drinking water is the best way to energize your body. When you are looking for a little more flavor, try adding some lemon, lime, cucumber or fresh berries to your water.  You can also try unsweetened iced tea for a refreshing drink.  If your beverage of choice is carbonated, how about flavoring some club soda with 100% fruit juice to make your own “soda.” Yes, fruit juice contains sugar, but you’ll drink fewer gram of sugar when you control the amount that goes into your glass.

Drink to your good health!

Melissa Garba Baker, a 2013 Sodexo Dietetic Intern, is a Master’s Degree candidate at CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College.

Kids’ Culinary Competition, Iron Chef-Style

By Jenifer Fournier
September 19th, 2013

Jenifer Fournier

You might expect to find 3rd-5th graders after school in the kitchen eating cookies or making a mess, right?  Well, not this select group of 10 elementary school students!  As the top ten finalists in the Elementary Culinary Competition in Colorado Springs Academy School District 20, they came together to demonstrate their skills in the kitchen as they prepared their favorite healthy salads.  Yes, you read it correctly…“Healthy Salads.”

Each school year, Sodexo and schools around the nation provide an educational opportunity for children to show off their skill in the kitchen.

Three separate competitions are held each year; one for elementary school, middle school, and high school.  This year, aspiring young chefs were asked to submit their favorite “Healthy Salad” recipe for a chance to participate in an Iron Chef-style competition and prepare their recipes from scratch in front of an audience and a panel of judges.

Children were encouraged to be creative and to use fresh ingredients from each food group, including grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, meat and beans, and healthy fats.

Competitions like this are a great opportunity for young children to use their creativity and gain experience preparing healthy foods.

112 recipes were submitted for the local elementary school competition this year.  As a Sodexo Dietetic Intern in the district, I, along with several others, had the opportunity to review all of the recipes and provide feedback.  With names like Tropical Power Packed Salad, Over the Rainbow Salad, and The Mind Blower, even Alton Brown would’ve been impressed with the creativity used in creating and naming the recipes!

Ten finalists were selected and preparations began for the Iron Chef event.  On the evening of the event, the junior chefs arrived to find their stations setup with ingredients and kitchen tools to help them prepare their healthy creations for the judges that included school administrators and teachers. As they slipped into their child-size chef coats and hats, parents, teachers, and others waited eagerly to observe the chefs in action.  After a brief food safety review with Chef Jeff, the children began preparing their salads from scratch.

After one hour of chopping, sautéing, peeling, pouring, mixing, plating, and serving, the chefs were able to rest from their labors but then had to wait anxiously for the judges to taste their cuisine.  I’m not sure what made the kids more nervous—cooking in front of all the adults or waiting for the judges to make their decision!

At last, the winner was announced.  Addison Jones, 5th grader, was the winner with her Tropical Power Packed Salad.  As the elementary school champion of this school district, her recipe was sent onto the national finals. See below for her award-winning recipe!

Competitions like this are a great opportunity for young children to use their creativity and gain experience preparing healthy foods.  They learn to create balanced meals by using ingredients from each food group; they learn how to calculate and determine amounts needed to serve 5 judges; and they learn valuable food safety tips and knife skills.  This is the kind of event that will encourage good eating habits among the youth of our nation and potentially change lives for generations to come.

Jenifer Fournier is a Dietetic Intern for Sodexo and is a graduate of University of Northern Colorado.

A Bruschetta You Won’t ‘Forgetta’

By Chef Remmi Smith
September 12th, 2013

Chef Remmi Smith

Hi! I’m Remmi of Cook Time with Remmi and Sodexo’s Student Ambassador for Health and Wellness.

This month, I want to share with you one of my favorite and very easy snacks to make, my White Bean Jicama Bruschetta.

If you haven’t tried jicama, you are missing out on a super crunchy treat.  It is a root vegetable and it has this indescribably crunchy texture like no other vegetable I have ever had! This vegetable also has a subtle sweet taste like that of an apple.

Jicama can be prepared many different ways — raw in salads, cooked in stir-fires, sautéed with other vegetables and added to soups and stews.

This vegetable is grown in warm dry climates like Florida, Hawaii and Puerto Rico and because of its availability in warmer areas; the vegetable is used quite a bit in Mexican and South American cuisines.

In this dish I have replaced the typical toasted bread for bruschetta with slices of jicama. The white bean mixture that tops the jicama is flavored with very simple ingredients of lemon juice and zest, olive oil and the king of all hers, basil.  The bean mixture is creamy and it pairs really well with the jicama. As you can see in the video below, this is an easy dish to prepare and it makes for a great presentation!

Both the jicama and the navy beans are a great source of fiber that lowers cholesterol so this is a really healthy dish!

Now for some more fun food facts: Did you know that jicamas are 86% water…that’s a lot like a cucumber. The vegetable can last for up to 4 weeks in the right temperature. The world record for the heaviest jicama was just over 46 pounds and it was grown in Indonesia.  The best tasting jicamas are those that are grown in the summer months.

Jicamas are packed with vitamins as well as potassium. They are an excellent source of Vitamin C giving us protection from some cancers as well as coughs and colds.

I hope you enjoy the recipe and I look forward to sharing my love of apples next month!

Hugs and Veggies, Remmi

Chef Remmi Smith is Sodexo’s Student Ambassador for Health and Nutrition.

Grilling: A Healthy Cooking Option this Labor Day!

By Shayee Roper, RD
August 30th, 2013

Shayee Roper

As we say goodbye to summer, many of us will fire up the grill this Labor Day Holiday. Spending time with family and friends (and food!) is a great way to spend the long holiday weekend.

There are a few tips to remember when you are cooking meals on the grill in order to keep everything healthy and safe to eat.

Ensuring that food reaches the proper cooking temperatures is very important.

If these temperatures are not reached, then harmful bacteria have more of a chance to grow putting you and your family at risk for food-borne illness.

Grilling is one of the most healthful methods of cooking because no fat is added.  But, certain aspects of grilling increase your risk of developing Cancer. Here are few tips to reduce your risk:

  1. Grilled vegetables are always fun (and healthy) to grill up.

    Clean your grill before & after each use

  2. Oil the grates after cleaning to prevent rust
  3. Remember too many smoked or grilled meats (the blackened/charred bits) can increase your risk of developing pancreatic cancer by as much as 60%-decreasing grill temperature and cooking for a longer period of time will help to prevent this charring.
  4. Marinate meats 15-30 minutes prior to cooking-the marinade acts as a barrier to harmful carcinogenic chemicals
  5. Grill your fruits & vegetables-the Phytochemicals in these actually help reduce your Cancer risk!

Finally, try this delicious grilled salmon & corn relish recipe as an alternative to good ‘ol burgers and dogs. Don’t forget to grill the salmon to the temperature specified for fish above!

Shayee Roper is a Regional Registered Dietitian for Sodexo.

Summer Salad Starring Avocados & Tomatoes!

By Chef Remmi Smith
August 8th, 2013

Chef Remmi Smith

This month, I want to tell you about one of my favorite summer recipes to make, my Avocado Tomato Salad.

I LOVE avocados. They are so creamy!

I love tomatoes too and they are considered a super food…a food that you should try to eat every day.

The tomato is not the only star in this salad — avocados have the highest content of fiber of any fruit!  Yes I know we think of avocados as a vegetable, but it really is a fruit!

This diamond of a fruit is awesome just by itself but mixed with other ingredients and dishes it’s just as yummy.

90% of this fruit is grown in California. The most popular avocado grown worldwide is the “Hass” avocado.

Avocado & Tomato Salad

This variety of the avocado was named after Rudolph Hass, a mailman and a resident of California who acquired a patent on the fruit in 1935.

This recipe also has great presentation to it. As you can see in the below video, the avocado is sliced in half and each half is topped with the tomato stuffing.

I have made this recipe for a long time but, I have recently been reading about Peruvian cuisine and they serve stuffed avocados quite a lot. So be sure to check out other delicious fruits and vegetables that can be added as stuffing for the avocado.

Now for some more fun food facts: Did you know that  a single avocado tree can yield up  to 500 avocados per year?  Also, once picked, it takes 7 to 10 days to ripen an avocado and the quick method is to put it in a brown bag with an apple!

This fruit is a really healthy source of fats and helps to prevent heart disease and diabetes.  Hope you enjoy my recipe and I look forward to sharing my love of apples next month.

Hugs and Veggies, Remmi

Chef Remmi Smith is Sodexo’s Student Ambassador for Health and Nutrition.

Balancing Your Mind, Body & Soul

By Brandis Miller
July 1st, 2013

Brandis Miller

I am a Sodexo Dietetic Intern, AND a wife and mother of three beautiful little girls (all under the age of three, I might add…), so I almost always have an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion.  There are many products out there promising to be the answer to this epidemic of fatigue: although I have been tempted to try every single one of them, I remember that there are equally many alternative ways to feel refreshed and energized.

In the long run, these “quick fixes” can do our bodies way more harm than good.  July is Social Wellness Month, which is a chance to nurture ourselves, our state of mind as well as our relationships. We humans are designed to maintain and heal ourselves if properly fueled and cared for.

Taking care of yourself is a holistic art: balanced mind, body & soul, along with nutrition, physical activity, and adequate sleep are all key ways to feel both refreshed and energized.

When it comes to nutrition, it’s easy to get exactly what your body needs to be fueled.  One of the easiest ways to look at it is eating colorful, fresh foods.  Focus on eating lots of brightly colored fruits and veggies along with brown grains (as opposed to those plain, boring white or beige ones…).  Eat fresh foods instead of highly processed foods.  Above all, remember food is delicious, and we have to eat it in order for it to do its job!  I used to be a “breakfast forgetter,” but in the last few years, I’ve added a good meal to the start of my day, and it’s made a world of difference.  Try it!  You feel your best when you stick to these basic nutrition principles.

If your life is as busy as mine, and it most likely is, finding time to exercise is pretty tough.  However, that doesn’t stop me from adding some extra physical activity into my daily routine. And don’t let it stop you!

My college professor reminded me often that small changes make a huge difference.  She went on to explain that she always parks her car as far away as possible from her destination so she can have a longer walk to where she needs to go.  She almost always takes the stairs instead of the elevator.

Something I’ve come to enjoy is doing a little activity such as walking in place or squeezing in some crunches while I’m catching up on my favorite TV shows.

Lastly, and quite obviously, a good night’s sleep is essential to feeling energized and well rested.  For quite a while after my oldest daughter was born, I would put her to bed around 8 o’clock and then cram in as much house work or homework that I could before I got to the point that I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore.  I averaged 5-6 hours of sleep a night, and had a hard time keeping up with the next day’s activities.

This vicious cycle continued for some time before I started to realize that it wasn’t worth it.  These days I catch myself falling into my old ways once in a while, but I remind myself that I have to be the one in control.

I have started creating a sort of agenda for my day.  I follow the schedule I make for myself, and include a bedtime as one of the items on my list.  It sounds pretty strange, but it really works.  Schedule your bedtime as you would a business or other self-care appointment and make sure you stick to it!  Trust me, life can be super hectic at times, but if you eat well, move much, and sleep enough you’ll be refreshed, energized, and ready to face your day!

Brandis Miller, a 2013 Sodexo Dietetic Intern, is a 2010 graduate of Minnesota State University.

Is it Time to Clean Your Diet?

By Heather Cunningham, RD, CNSC
June 17th, 2013

Heather Cunningham, RD, CNSC

The warmer weather can bring thoughts of new approaches to nutrition and health.

More and more, people are trying to eliminate chemicals from their bodies and want their food to be healthier.

Eating Clean” is a new diet state of mind that does not focus on weight loss but on improving health.

What exactly does “Eating Clean” mean?

The pillars of eating clean include avoiding junk and processed foods and making more wholesome, healthy choices.

Many aspects of this eating plan are steps that people already follow, but “Eating Clean” focuses on going back to the basics.

How can you “Eat Clean?”

Here are several tips to get you started:

  1. Try going back to the basics and eat clean!

    Try your best to eliminate processed foods from your diet (and pantry). Foods such as whole wheat pasta or natural cheeses are widely accepted on this eating regimen.

  2. Choose whole foods.  Fruits, vegetables, grass-fed and free-range meats, low-fat dairy products, unsalted nuts and seeds are good choices.
  3. Stay away from refined sugars. These are empty and non-nutritive calories.
  4. Get comfortable in the kitchen. By preparing your food, you know what is going into the meal and have 100 percent control of ingredients. Wholesome meats and produce need little prep through sautéing or baking to make delicious and healthy meals that you (and your family) will love.
  5. Eat five to six small meals a day.  By eating more frequently, our bodies store less excessive calories that can be ingested at larger meals. Listen to your body and be aware when and why you’re eating.

It’s always a great time to improve your health and diet. Changing the way you eat can be overwhelming at first, but over time your tastes will change.

The way to make permanent changes is to introduce them slowly. Remember it’s important to treat yourself once in a while, but this means a meal or snack — not going off track for a week!  Give yourself time and you will slowly begin to feel healthier — both mentally and physically!

Heather Cunningham, CNSC, is a Registered Dietitian and Sodexo Clinical Nutrition Manager and member of the Institute for Weight Loss at Raritan Bay Medical Center.

Broccoli Rocks!

By Chef Remmi Smith
June 6th, 2013

Chef Remmi Smith

I’m Remmi of Cook Time with Remmi and Sodexo’s Student Ambassador for Health and Wellness.

This month we are going to cook up one of my favorite dishes with one of my favorite vegetables: broccoli.  I know broccoli is not always a kid favorite but sometimes when you pair this vegetable with others it creates a whole new flavor that can taste pretty awesome!

Giving healthy food a shot can be a lot of fun – especially if you learn to cook it yourself! And make the dish your own by mixing it up and adding some of your favorite flavors.

When I am hungry for a snack I have been known to grab a green or red bell pepper and devour it whole.  My little sister, Elizah, is a pretty picky eater….she doesn’t even like ketchup! Vegetables are not one of her favorites either….but she is gradually learning to like more of them.

I love to add vegetables to dishes because they taste great and add color to the dish. For instance, I mix carrots or cauliflower or broccoli in my macaroni and cheese. I also add a ton of different vegetables to my sloppy Joe’s like fresh tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, bell peppers, and more.

California produces 90% of broccoli in the USA.

I think it is really important kids are continually introduced to new foods…especially the healthy ones.  That’s why I think Sodexo’s “Fresh Pick” Program is so cool.  They introduce new veggies and fruits each month in their student nutrition programs all over the country. Posters of the vegetables or fruits are all over the cafeterias and they also highlight the nutritional benefits and sometimes they post fun food facts which I really love to read.

New recipes with the featured fruit or veggie are introduced as well. Sodexo makes food fun and interesting and this is a great way to get kids more interested in trying new foods.

Ok…let’s get cooking!  Today, I am featuring my “Oven Roasted Broccoli with Panko.”  This dish is so easy to make and it makes for beautiful presentation.  In this dish I added great flavor combinations. I have paired the broccoli with cherry tomatoes which tastes great but also adds rich color. A little bit of garlic adds great flavor too!  One of the best ingredients I use is Japanese bread crumbs called “Panko,” which add a really nice crunch to the dish.  This dish is so easy to put together and it would be great fun for kids to do it themselves. Just remember when kids get involved in any aspect of cooking, they are more likely to try it and…hopefully like it!

OK, now for some fun food facts: Did you know broccoli originated in Italy off the Mediterranean in Roman times?  Thomas Jefferson loved the vegetable so much he had seeds imported from Italy in 1767. While California produces 90% of broccoli in the US, it is really China that is the world’s #1 producer growing 8,000,000 tons per year.  Broccoli is high in vitamin C and contains “kaemferol” which fights cancer, heart disease and adult diabetes.  What’s really cool is our consumption of this great vegetable has increased over 900% in the last 25 years.

I hope you enjoy this recipe.  I also hope you are inspired to play in the kitchen and enjoy some fun with food. I’ve always wanted to be a cook star, and you can be a cook star too!

Go Nuts for Peanuts

By Laura Armstrong, RD LD
June 3rd, 2013

Laura Armstrong, RD LD

Peanuts, Roasted Peanuts, Boiled Peanuts, Honey-Coated Peanuts, Peanut Hummus, Peanut Brittle, Peanut Butter, Spicy Peanuts, Peanut Oil, Chocolate Covered Peanuts, Thai Peanut Sauce, Peanut butter cookies (yum!) and Peanut Pesto.

There are almost as many ways to use Peanuts as Shrimp.

Peanuts are the most popular nut in the United States and that isn’t surprising considering its versatility and nutritional value.

They are a good source, meaning they contain at least 10% of the Recommended Daily Value, of Vitamin E, Folate, Niacin, riboflavin, magnesium, and Phosphorous.

Plus, like all other plant foods, they are cholesterol free.

That does not mean they are fat free, a 1 ounce serving contains about 14 grams of fat, but 11.5g of that is the “good fats” (monounsaturated or polyunsaturated).

Peanuts are the most popular nut in the United States.

So, there we go, they are tasty, used in lots of different ways, and have a solid nutritional backbone — now where can you go to celebrate their many positive attributes?

1.)    Dothan, AL National Peanut Festival will celebrate its 70th anniversary in fall 2013.  Over 200,000 people enjoy this fun filled event. Rides, games, hometown baking and arts/crafts competitions, plus the annual crowning of a Peanut Queen and her court are some of the many “peanutty” festival events.  Fun fact: 50% of USA peanuts are grown within 100 miles of Dothan.  Also, my hometown is Dothan; which explains my “nuttiness!” However, sad as it may be; I was never selected a Peanut Queen.

The author without her peanut fix!

2.)    Suffolk, Virginia will hold its 38th annual Peanut Festival this year with live music, big cookouts, parade, a motorcycle rally, and even a demolition derby.  They obviously know a good time in Suffolk.

3.)    The Georgia Peanut Festival is a home-grown, family friendly affair in Sylvester.  Host to the Annual Peter Pan Peanut Butter Parade and plenty of live music.  This event has vendors to meet all your peanut needs.

4.)    Grapeland, Texas a city with a name that certainly compliments Peanut Butter (grape jelly – - get it?) hosts its 68th annual Peanut Festival October 2013.  A fun town with a fun-filled pageant & parade.

Like we say in Dothan, “Go Nuts for Peanuts!”

Laura Armstrong, RD, LD is a Sodexo Clinical Dietitian at the Springhill Medical Center.

Medical Nutrition Therapy

By Susan Ramsey, MS RD CDE LDN
May 15th, 2013

Susan Ramsey, MS RD CDE LDN

In 2002, when the United States Congress passed the Benefits Improvements and Protection Act, most dietitians were still trying to figure out Medicare Part A from Medicare Part B.  However a very astute and savvy area nutrition manager saw the big picture and pitched a new idea.  Noralyn Wilson, RD knew that Sodexo, as the largest employer of dietitians, had a responsibility and an opportunity to act on the new legislation.  Ten years later her idea is not only thriving but has emerged as an industry leader.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics worked tirelessly in the late 90’s, collecting the evidence and demonstrating to Congress that Registered Dietitians (RDs) and medical nutrition therapy (MNT) can make a difference.  Their hard work paid off in 2002 when the Medical Nutrition Therapy legislation was written and expanded Medicare Part B coverage to include nutrition counseling to Part B beneficiaries with diabetes or kidney disease.   Medicare, the biggest and most influential insurer in the land, recognized the work of Registered Dietitians in disease management and began reimbursing for nutrition counseling.  As things go, this was the best thing to happen in nutrition therapy since the food model.

Immediately after the new legislation was written Sodexo dedicated resources to the development of programs to assist our clients and dietitians in addressing the new Medicare benefit.  Not only were there many new rules and regulations to follow, the risk of non-compliance had severe consequences.

I’ve been managing the Sodexo Medicare MNT programs for the past 10 (gulp) years.  During that time the Medicare MNT benefit has evolved and today it continues to provide Medicare beneficiaries with outstanding nutrition service.  Sodexo’s MNT programs are in over 160 hospitals in 29 states with hundreds of Sodexo and client dietitians enrolled as Medicare providers.  Sodexo itself is enrolled with 14 different Medicare carriers.  Over 15,000 individuals have received MNT from our program sites.  In 2011, Sodexo MNT was expanded to Senior Living when our first site in Tacoma, WA was added.

Sodexo’s MNT programs are dedicated to not only ensuring Medicare compliance but also assisting our clients and dietitians in developing outpatient nutrition but more importantly helping the public manage their chronic disease, their quality of life and their wellness.  Registered Dietitians are uniquely trained in deciphering medical science and complex nutrition research and delivering it to the people.  We are proud to report that our national clinical MNT outcomes are statistically significant for weight loss, a decrease in BMI and a decrease in hemoglobin a1c, a blood value that indicates the severity of diabetes.

Over the past 10 years, our Sodexo MNT programs have fully embraced Noralyn’s original vision, maximized the Medicare MNT benefit for our patients and allowed Sodexo to emerge as a leader in comprehensive nutrition services.   Congratulations to our Registered Dietitians and MNT programs who work so hard providing Quality of Daily Life Services.

Susan Ramsey, MS RD CDE LDN, is a Senior Manager for Medical Nutrition Therapy in Yardley, Pennsylvania.