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'Oatmeal Day' hopes to encourage healthy eating

Wednesday, September 01, 2010  
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By Mike DeDoncker
HEALTHYROCKFORD.COM
Posted Sep 01, 2010 @ 05:06 PM
Last update Sep 02, 2010 @ 09:13 AM

ROCKFORD
— On a typical morning, Rockford College Dining Services serves — maybe — five bowls of oatmeal.

Executive Chef Debbie Allen and her staff hope to change that in a big way Thursday when they present three different flavored oatmeal offerings at breakfast. The idea is to celebrate National Oatmeal Day, have a little fun and encourage healthy eating for the 291 students on meal plans at the college cafeteria.

"We’re hoping that, by celebrating National Oatmeal Day, they will live outside the box and explore the options there are with oatmeal,” Allen said today while she and her staff prepared for Thursday’s meals. "An e-mail was sent out at 5 this morning saying tomorrow is National Oatmeal Day and be ready to just come celebrate the day with us. It’s kind of silly, but sometimes, you have to be silly to get their attention.”

The flavoring choices will be apple-walnut, blueberry-almond and maple with brown sugar, raisins and cinnamon.

"They can come back as many times as they want,” Allen said.

And, she said, National Oatmeal Day is just the start.

"It’s something my company has just started to do because we understand that these kids eat at the cafeteria seven days a week for their full year and, honestly, it can get boring after awhile,” said Allen, who is employed by worldwide food service company Sodexo, which is based in Paris. "So we decided to promote some crazy holidays.”

For instance, National Waffle Week starts Sunday, and Allen said the students will be able to have home-style waffles all week "with a choice of toppings, both healthy and unhealthy” and they plan to celebrate Col. Harland Sanders’ birthday on Thursday, Sept. 9.

"We’re going to have fried chicken all the way across the board, coleslaw, the works. Our versions, of course,” she said. "It’s just something to keep morale up and make it fun coming into a dining hall.”
Allen said the food service makes sure to offer healthy options on a daily basis, including healthy cereals, soy products and egg whites and catering to students’ special food needs such as gluten-free diets or specific allergies.

"We work very closely with the medical staff here,” Allen said, "and they give us information. Then we will sit down one on one with the student and see what we can offer them that they may not be aware of. Our bases are all low-sodium or gluten-free, and we also pretty much dissect our recipes so if there are any allergy or other health issues, the students can pick and choose.”

She said Sodexo promotes a program called The Balanced Plate that offers the students information "on how to portion their plate where it should be more greens and more protein, and less of the starches.”

Allen also said the students are conscious of healthy eating habits independent of efforts by the food service.

"We don’t seeing them gearing toward the hamburgers and the pizzas so much,” she said. "We see them more toward the salad bar and just keeping to meat and vegetables. The more we see them doing it, the more we accentuate our options of what we bring to them.”

This story appeared at http://www.rrstar.com/carousel/x861575874/Oatmeal-Day-to-celebrate-healthy-eating on September 1, 2010 and at http://www.wifr.com/home/headlines/102113559.html on September 2, 2010.

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