Feature Article - October 2007
Find a printable version here

Food For Thought

Simple Menu Changes for Special Diets

By Stacy St. Clair



Dietary Definitions

There's no shortage of special dietary needs and eating plans today. Some people are on low-fat diets, others need protein, and still others shun wheat.

For many recreation managers, following today's healthy eating trends can be as impossible as baking a soufflé at a Little League snack bar.

Still, patrons will come to the concession looking for answers about which foods are calorie-free, gluten-free or fat-free. Progressive managers will not only be well-versed in these dietary terms, they'll also have their employees ready to answer customer questions.

Here's a list of terms worth learning:

Added sugars: Sugars and syrups that are added to foods during processing or preparation. Added sugars do not include naturally occurring sugars such as lactose in milk or fructose in fruits.

Calorie-free: A food that has fewer than 5 calories in each serving.

Cholesterol-free: A food that has fewer than 2 milligrams of cholesterol in each serving.

Fat-free: A food that has fewer than 0.5 grams of total fat per serving.

Gluten-free: There's no official government standard. In general, this includes food free from wheat, barley, rye, oats and triticale. The Celiac Sprue Association offers information at no charge for concessionaires looking to provide gluten-free options.

Kosher: Any food prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary guidelines or Kahrut, which means proper. Any food can be called kosher if it follows the proper guidelines. Conversely, foods typically labeled as "Jewish" or "Kosher-style" aren't necessarily kosher.

Lite/light: A food that has lower fat or calories than similar brands. It's not a low-calorie and low-fat food. However, light-sodium foods must be low-calorie and low-fat.

Low-calorie: A food with 40 or fewer calories per serving.

Low-carb diets: Food diet programs for weight loss and dietary health that advocate restricted carbohydrate consumption, based on research that ties carbohydrate consumption with increased blood insulin levels and increased insulin with obesity.

Low-cholesterol: Foods containing less than 20 milligrams of cholesterol per serving.

Low-fat: Foods containing 3 grams of total fat or less per serving.

Low-sodium: Foods containing less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving.

Sodium-free: A food that has less than 5 milligrams of total sodium per serving.

Sugar-free: A food that has fewer than 0.5 grams of sugar in each serving.

Vegan: Someone who does not eat or use any animal or dairy products, including eggs and milk.

Vegetarian: A person whose diet does not include meat, fowl or fish or products made from those items, such as chicken stock.

Whole-grain: Foods made from the entire grain seed, usually called the kernel, which consists of the bran, germ and endosperm. If the kernel has been cracked, crushed or flaked, it must retain nearly the same relative proportions of bran, germ and endosperm as the original grain in order to be called whole grain.