Worlds of Healthy Flavors

January 19-21, 2011The Culinary Institute of AmericaHarvard School of Public Health

Each January, Worlds of Healthy Flavors brings together top nutrition researchers, influential corporate chefs, nutrition executives, world cuisines experts, the media, and other influencers to discuss opportunities for presenting American consumers with a wider range of healthy menu options.

Worlds of Healthy Flavors builds on sixteen years of initiatives at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, initiatives that have made the techniques and flavor dynamics of world cuisines from the Mediterranean and Asia to Latin America more accessible to American foodservice. Traditions from these plant-based cuisines—especially the abundant use of fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and whole grains—form the basis for creating more healthful menu offerings that are both flavorful and craveable.

The seventh annual Worlds of Healthy Flavors leadership retreat (held January 19-21, 2011) focused on presenting information from a variety of experts from different fields in an effort to help the volume foodservice industry address some of the major nutrition and health issues affecting public health in the United States, including excessive caloric intake, carbohydrate quality (specifically sugar-sweetened beverages and refined grains), sodium, protein sources, and fat quality. In 2011, for the first time at this retreat, a significant amount of programming was devoted to children's nutrition issues and the unique operational challenges of K-12 school foodservice operations.

More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and the numbers keep getting worse. While only 25 percent of meals are eaten away from home, volume foodservice operators can play a leadership role in the effort to reverse this trend. Providing nutrition and calorie information on menus, providing options for smaller portion sizes and half portions, and providing a greater variety of reduced calorie menu items are all steps operators can take.

Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RD and Chef Joyce Goldstein led a culinary session that showed how simple ingredient changes (e.g., using less meat and cheese) can dramatically reduce the calories (as well as saturated fat and sodium) in lasagna, without changing the portion size.

Much of the carbohydrate-rich foods and beverages featured on American menus are high glycemic load foods, which means the carbohydrate in them is easily digested and quickly converted to blood sugar. High glycemic load diets are associated with a number of health issues, including increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.

Culinary strategies to address and improve carbohydrate quality on American menus include:

  • Using whole grains in place of refined grains when possible
  • Reducing use of potatoes and increasing use of other vegetables with lower glycemic loads
  • Providing a greater variety of beverages with less added sugar

Guest chefs Suvir Saran (Devi, NYC) and Milind Sovani (Song of India, Singapore) conducted demonstrations on traditional and contemporary Indian dishes that offer excellent carbohydrate quality and seductive flavor.

The daily sodium intake of the average American (3500 mg) far exceeds recommended intake (<2400 mg). The vast majority (>75%) of sodium in the American diet comes from processed and restaurant foods. Blood pressure is related to sodium intake; the higher a person's sodium intake, the higher his or her blood pressure will be. And because elevated blood pressure is associated with increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and other chronic diseases that contribute significantly to healthcare costs in the U.S., reducing sodium intake is a major public health issue.

Chris Gatto, VP of Food and Beverage at Uno Chicago Grill and co-chair of the CIA's Healthy Menus R&D Collaborative (HMC), presented findings from a recent survey of HMC members that asked members about the sodium reduction strategies being used at their companies. HMC members reported having the best success with the following strategies:

  • Using a stealth approach (i.e., making sodium reductions without telling consumers)
  • Making gradual, step-wise reductions so consumers gradually become accustomed to lower levels of sodium in their favorite menu items
  • Focusing on new product development vs. reformulation of current menu items, which helps with consumer expectations
  • Investigating flavor development techniques that don't rely on sodium to develop great flavors

Worldwide meat production and consumption have increased dramatically the past five decades. Between 1960 and 2010, global meat production increased from 75 million tons to more than 276 million tons per year. Both population growth and economic growth are fueling the growing demand for meat around the world, particularly in developing countries. While per capita red meat consumption has decreased in the U.S. the past two decades, even moderate red meat consumption may have serious health implications.

Dr. Frank Hu (Harvard) presented data that revealed that people who consume the most red meat have increased risk of diabetes. One serving (3 oz.) per day of unprocessed red meat increases risk of diabetes by 11% while one serving (1 medium hot dog, sausage, or 2 slices bacon) per day of processed meat increases diabetes risk by 30%. The data are similar for increases in risk for cancer and heart disease.

Dr. Walter Willett (Harvard) presented data on forms of protein that, when used in place of red meat, may provide protection against heart disease. Replacing red meat with poultry, fish, nuts, and beans appears to provide the greatest reduction in heart disease risk.

During a panel discussion, Drs. Dariush Mozaffarian (Harvard), Walter Willett, and Ron Krauss (Children's Hospital Oakland) reviewed the science on dietary fat, which is summarized in the CIA-Harvard Principles of Healthy Menu R&D: A Focus on Fat. The audience was encouraged to "let go of low-fat thinking, focus on fat quality, and pledge to eliminate the term 'low-fat' from your menus."

Childhood obesity in the U.S. has more than tripled in the past 30 years. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the prevalence of obesity among kids age 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. The prevalence of obesity among kids age 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0% to 18.1% in the same timeframe.

Childhood obesity has both short-term and long-term health impacts:

  • Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. The Bogalusa Heart Study found that of the 5- to 17-year-olds in the study, 70% of obese youth have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
  • According to the 2001 U.S. Surgeon General's Report, children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem (U.S. Surgeon General's Report, 2001).
  • The Surgeon General's Report goes on to state that obese youth are more likely than youth of normal weight to become overweight or obese adults, and therefore more at risk for associated adult health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.

At the same time that we are seeing increasing rates of obesity among children, we are also seeing increasing rates of hunger among children in the U.S. According to Share Our Strength, today there are nearly 17 million children in America — nearly one in four — facing hunger every day.

At the 2011 Worlds of Healthy Flavors leadership retreat, a number of presenters shared information on programs and strategies for improving children's health and nutrition, including:

  • Dr. Janet King (Children's Hospital Oakland), who presented information on a successful family-based approach to reducing weight and improving nutrition in young children from low-income families
  • Dr. Lorelei DiSogra (United Fresh Produce Association), who described national programs that are providing greater access for fresh fruits and vegetables in our nation's schools
  • Dr. David Ludwig (Children's Hospital Boston), who provided recommendations on the best beverage options for children
  • Jorge Collazo (New York City Schools), who provided insights into how our nation's largest school district is encouraging increased fruit and vegetable consumption through innovative salad bar programs

Another new programming element in 2011 was the operator challenges. Chef Dan Coudreaut of McDonald's accepted the challenge to develop and demonstrate two breakfast recipes that incorporated vegetables. His White Bean Mediterranean Hash (served as part of breakfast on Friday morning) and Spicy Lentil Hash with Poached Eggs were big hits! Chef Thomas John of Au Bon Pain accepted the challenge to develop lower sodium bread products, and instead of conducting a demo or presentation, he led the audience through a tasting of reduced sodium baguettes Au Bon Pain is currently testing. The final challenger was Chef Paul Carr of ARAMARK, who accepted the challenge of developing two new children's menu items that incorporated more vegetables into the final dish. Paul demonstrated two pizzas, one with hummus as the base and a second with an apple-raisin barbecue sauce. Attendees who tasted the Whole Wheat Chicken Pizza with Apple-Raisin Barbecue Sauce can attest to the incredible flavor and appeal!

Read more information at Worlds of Health Flavors Online


Amy Myrdal Miller, MS, RD
Chef Joyce Goldstein
Cooking with Fat and Counting Calories
464 KB

Christopher S. Gatto C.E.C.
HMC Plan for Sodium Reduction
11 KB

Dariush Mozaffarian, MD DrPH
Meats, Other Choices, and Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases and Diabetes
1.2 MB

David S. Ludwig, MD, PhD
Beverages & Health
How Sweet is Too Sweet?
811 KB

Deanne Brandstetter, MBA, RD, CDN
Consumer Demand for Healthier Menu Items
1.3 MB

Eric B. Rimm, ScD
2010 Dietary Guidelines: What's new? What's different? What issues are unresolved?
1.5 MB

Frank Hu, MD, PhD
What Are the Colors of Your Protein: Red, White, or Green?
798 KB

Greg Drescher
Tasting Success with Cutting Salt: 25 Science-Based Strategies & Culinary Insights
179 KB

Janet C. King, Ph.D.
Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Children
707 KB

Jorge Collazo
Salad Bars in K-12 Schools: Making the Healthy Choice the Most Appealing Choice
5.5 MB

Lawrence Kushi, ScD
Four Legs? Moo... Two Legs? Cluck cluck... No Legs? What's the Best Protein Source, and Why?
3.2 MB

Lilian Cheung, DSc, RD
Improving Kids' Menus in Restaurants & Schools
160 KB

Lisa Carlson, MS, RD
Global Perspectives on American Menu Solutions: Health, Transparency and Innovation
1.3 MB

Lorelei DiSogra, EdD, RD
Making the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice for Students
1.8 MB

School Salad Bar Advocates Join First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! Initiative
177 KB MB

Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Snack Program for Schools
79 KB

Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools
134 KB

Michael Sansolo
They Are What They Eat
487 KB

Rafi Taherian & Joyce Goldstein
The "Rethinking of Salad Bar"
1.9 MB

Thomas John
Sodium Reduction - Breads
129 KB

Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH
Front-of-Package Labeling Debate: No
782 KB

Walter C. Willett, MD, DrPH
Nutrition and Health: 2011
1.7 MB