The year of 2017 has been one for a lot of improvements and innovations in the school nutrition industry. We will review the 2017 school nutrition trends and show you how Health-e Pro can help keep you moving forward into 2018.
2017 Menu Trends
Introducing bold, international flavors has become increasingly popular amongst districts in the United States. Whether you are adding new spices to a dish or offering a new recipe, students are liking the different flavors! 59.7% of schools have already adapted to introducing new foods, while another 26.2% want to test out this new trend.
Everyone likes to have a choice in what they eat and that is why one of the school nutrition trends is customizable menu items, having risen in popularity over the past year. From salad bars to taco bars, districts are letting students pick their own ingredients and have a say in what they eat. Some districts even have a flavor station where students can add their own spices or sauces to their menu items!
In addition to serving students a variety of new options, districts are working towards serving items with cleaner labels by choosing items with no artificial flavors or preservatives. According to the 2017 Trend Report, 56.3% of districts have been serving items with cleaner labels.
Clean labels also help districts reach the new sodium and whole-grain rich requirements. The biggest challenge schools face with the new requirements is student acceptance of the foods with less sodium or whole-grain rich ingredients. Most schools are implementing a variety of ways to meet the new sodium standards, using new lower-sodium food as the top change.
See how some of our customers are staying on top of the trends:
- A Delaware school serves a customizable Asian cuisine bowl. Students get to choose from pepper steak, mandarin orange chicken, chicken teriyaki or stir fry vegetables with a choice of rice or noodles!
- Another school in California decided to implement a fun idea for school lunch and has “BBQ round-up days” where students can choose from popular bbq items like cheeseburgers, hotdogs or a hamburger.
- While customizable options are growing in popularity so are bold flavors. That is why a school in Washington has created a spice recipe that students can use to flavor their food. It is a mixture of cayenne pepper, onion powder, ginger and many other spices that make food more fun and flavorful without all of the excess sodium.
All these examples show just how creative districts all over the country are getting in order to make school lunch more fun. Health-e Pro understands that keeping up with school nutrition trends can be challenging and that is why we provide a software that you can depend on for innovation.
Health-e Pro recognizes the challenges that districts face with the new requirements and have resources to help meet them. Along with pre-loaded recipes with low sodium, Health-e Pro calculates the weekly sodium intake and notifies you when you have gone over by a color-coding system. Menu planners can also filter recipes by sodium level if they are trying to find one with a lower sodium count than another. You can then filter the days with the highest sodium count so you can adjust menu items accordingly. When building your menu with Health-e Pro, the sodium content is readily available so you can easily view the recipe before putting it on your menu so that you can keep up with school nutrition trends.
Another challenge districts are faced with is whole-grain rich requirements. Student acceptance is still a pressing concern for most districts, so making 100% of menu items whole-grain rich is no easy feat. The number one product that overall districts have had trouble adapting to is pasta & noodle dishes. In addition, regions of the United States also struggled with specific menu items to their region. For example, the Southeast struggled getting 100% whole-grain rich biscuits. Many districts are attempting to get waivers to combat student acceptance and higher costs, but are even presented with barriers there. Health-e Pro understands the challenges and offers pre-loaded whole-grain rich products, so you can quickly and easily explore new menu items and stay up to date with school nutrition trends!
- Increasing the amount of scratch cooking
- Increasing fruit and vegetable options
- Expanding breakfast venues
- Increasing grab-and-go options for lunch
- Student engagement initiatives
- Expanding local purchasing or farm to school programs
Every year brings its own set of trends and challenges, but the School Nutrition Trends Report keeps you up to date, so you can go into the new year ready to make positive changes and help the community around you.