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Students test new items on low-sodium menu

Jamestown (N.D.) High School students say new low-sodium menu choices made the grade after tasting them recently. Students tried items like Asian salad and low-sodium french fries, foods now expected to be added to the menu in some of the schools...

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Carla Elstad, left, food service manager for Jamestown High School, fills a plate with new items for the 2015-16 school year after preparing them with kitchen staff from Jamestown Public Schools on Friday. Also sampling food, from left, are JHS juniors Ligia Schulz and Rachel Morin, Shelly Mack, Food Service director and dietician, and JHS freshman Aaron Mack. (Tom LaVenture / Forum News Service)
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Jamestown (N.D.) High School students say new low-sodium menu choices made the grade after tasting them recently.

Students tried items like Asian salad and low-sodium french fries, foods now expected to be added to the menu in some of the schools.

 “We like to try new recipes ahead of time and not during school,” said Shelly Mack, Jamestown Public School District’s food service director and dietitian. “We want to make sure the quality is really good when school starts.”

Other new items include a morning glory muffin, fruit pudding, pea and cheese salad, baked low-sodium hot dogs, low-sodium broccoli and cheese soup, whole-grain turkey pepperoni pizza and teriyaki-chicken stir-fry.

Jamestown High School Student Council members Rachel Morin, 16, Ligia Schulz, 16, and Aaron Mack, 14, helped grade the new menu.

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“I liked the stir-fry teriyaki chicken and broccoli,” said Aaron Mack.

Schulz said she appreciated what the food service was trying to do.

“It’s hard to balance taste, nutrition and cost,” Schulz said. “That is really hard to do.”

She also liked the new menu.

“I liked the Asian salad,” Schulz said.

“I liked the new fries,” Morin said. “The low-sodium version doesn’t taste any different than from last year.”

Federal guidelines and recommendations from the Institute of Medicine set nutrition goals that include using more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and less sodium and fat, Mack said.

Sourcing more fresh and local food sources is also a goal, Mack said. Local brands on the menu include french fries from Cavendish Farms, all-beef hot dogs from Cloverdale and a whole grain French toast bagel from Dakota Brands International.

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“As much as we can we try to buy local,” Mack said.

Improving taste is important when adding healthier ingredients, Mack said. If the kids don’t eat the food then it won’t matter if it’s healthier.

Overall, she said kids have taken to salads and healthier items already on the menu and that has helped work against the trend of obesity and health issues affecting more younger people.

“If we keep going in this (healthier) direction then about 10 years down the road we will see kids as adults saying, ‘I know what kale is,’ and they will have a taste for less salty foods and choosing fresh fruits and vegetables and not just going for the bag of chips,” she said.

One way to make it work with kids is to mix it up, Mack said. Standards on the menu like a 1.5 ounce whole grain M&M cookie went over very well, as do fresh apple fruit crisps and oatmeal.

Fresh fruit and vegetables make a big difference and the kids notice it, she said. The nutrition is improved, too, when it is fresh off the vine from farm to table in two days.

“Especially fresh watermelon, cantaloupe and melon,” Mack said. “From August through October they clean the pans out.”

The school system serves turkey frequently, but the avian influenza outbreak this year has sent prices soaring, Mack said. The option now is to purchase half the normal amount of turkey and to add low-sodium beef.

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Mack invited Andrew Thompson, a chef from Thompson’s Café, a 35-year-old family restaurant in Cavalier, N.D., to demonstrate proper beef-cutting technique and other pointers to food service staff.

“We go through quite a bit of food in a day and it’s surprising,” Thompson said. “But while the restaurant might do one roast per day the schools will cook five or six roasts.”

 

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