September 9, 2010

San Diego Unified gets it.

Possibly the saving grace of Eating in 3D for San Diego families with children is the remarkable public school system food services department. Late last night, I sent an e-mail into SDU’s Supervisor of Food Management, Sally Spero. In stark contrast to the stereotype of school bureaucrats, Ms. Spero responded to my request for menu item nutritional information at 7 AM this morning. In addition to pointing me to a complete nutritional breakdown of all lunch entrees and salad bar items (, Ms. Spero enthusiastically shared highlights of the SDU program including:

• Lunch is $2.00, today we had a choice of three entrée choices (one is always vegetarian and one is always non-dairy). So today the kids had a cheese pizza slice made with low-fat mozzarella cheese, turkey and gravy with mashed potatoes (“real” potatoes, not dehydrated) and cured turkey and cheese sub.

• All our breads are made with a special albino white whole-wheat which we find the children accept better than traditional dark whole-wheat.

• There are unlimited fruits and vegetables on the salad bar which today was romaine (we don’t use iceberg), fresh spinach, croutons, frozen unsweetened fruit blend, fresh grapes and pears canned in juice with two low-fat dressing choices.

• At elementary school, we do not sell any foods a la carte except milk.

• We do not allow trans-fats, dyes or MSG in our foods.

• We are working to eliminate high-fructose corn syrup but this is quite challenging. We do not accept any new products that have it, however.

• Our Registered Dietitian plans all the menus and does a computer analysis to assure that they meet the standards of less than 30% of calories from fat, less than 10% of calories from saturated fat and they contain ¼ of RDA for breakfast and 1/3 of RDA for lunch of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium and iron.

• We recently hired a Farm to School Specialist who will assist us in purchasing more local products for our programs.

Say it with me – wow! You can justifiably complain about innumerable aspects of our public school system but the food available to our children is not one of them. School breakfast and lunch are very good deals both in terms of cost and nutrition – we can learn a lot from the meals they prepare. Our task as parents is to train our kids to make wise selections from the foods offered to them. Celia and I discussed the entrée items for each day and looked over the nutritional data together to pick out the best options. Celia has a 1 cup measure which she uses to estimate a serving of fruits and vegetables from the salad bar – an exercise that we should all master. She skips the chocolate milk for regular milk because it allows her to have more fruit during the day– her preferred source of the sweet stuff.

And, true to the Eating in 3D philosophy, school lunches hit the mark at a low $2.50 (with milk). This expense is further reduced for the 60% of SDU students needing financial assistance. Finally, I am confident that Celia is able to achieve her daily nutrition goals without adding the task of making bag lunches each night to my responsibilities - priceless.

Thank you Ms. Spero – keep up the great work!

Check out the SDU Food Services Website ( There are a number of interesting resources there including their monthly newsletter which includes kid-friendly nutrition information, recipes, etc… Here’s one that we will definitely try:

Recipe Idea to Do at Home with your Children:
Chicken-Spinach Quesadillas
By Rosemary Black

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Serves: 4

• 10-oz box frozen spinach, thawed
• 8 six-inch flour tortillas
• 1/2 cup prepared pesto sauce (in deli section of supermarket)
• 1 cup shredded reduced-fat monterey jack cheese
• 1 cup leftover diced cooked chicken

1. Squeeze excess liquid from the spinach. Place 4 tortillas on a work surface. Spread 2 tablespoons pesto on each tortilla, then top with 1/4 cup spinach.

2. Sprinkle each tortilla with 1/4 cup each cheese and chicken. Top with remaining tortillas and press firmly.

3. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and cook each quesadilla until cheese melts and tortillas are golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate. Cut each into quarters before serving.

How kids can help: Measure ingredients; squeeze spinach; assemble quesadillas.

Per quesadilla: 484 calories, 26 g fat (7 g saturated), 770 mg sodium, 44 mg cholesterol.

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