By Cecily Walters 2013-07-30 07:21:57
This Month’s Guest Carol Chong Meet Carol Chong, MA, RD, national nutrition advisor for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Previously the director of food and menu management for Miami-Dade (Fla.) County Public Schools, Chong now shares her district’s successful practices with school nutrition operations throughout the country. This sounds like an exciting new job! Tell us about it, and about why this was the right time to leave operations. My role is primarily with the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program. I help school nutrition programs improve the nutritional quality of their foods and beverages and advise them on purchasing and writing specifications so that [they are obtaining their menu items in a cost-effective way]. I’d been in my previous position at Miami-Dade for seven years and was getting the “seven-year itch.” Sometimes, opportunities just knock once, and you seize them. I thought this was a nice challenge and a way to share what I’ve done in my district. What excites you most about your new position? I’m excited to be playing a role in changing the face of school food. We need to change the public perception of school meals, and the way to do it is to get high-quality food. I wanted to help programs improve the quality of their menus. You’ve made a career out of offering nutrition advice, but what recommendation do you personally find difficult to follow? It’s hard for me to limit my carbs—I love hot, fresh baked bread and rice! And what comes easiest for you? I eat a lot of lowfat foods. I don’t fry, and I grill often, which is easy, living in Florida. I love lots of colorful fresh fruits and veggies, which is also what I ate frequently growing up. Speaking of food preferences, is there a favorite dish or meal that you love to cook? I’m a big cook. I’d say I’m probably known for some of my ethnic cooking—like Chinese dishes or Jamaican jerk curry. I also like making roasted duck with plum sauce. I make homemade strawberry shortcake, which includes the cake and whipped cream from scratch. What do you like to eat when someone else is cooking? I love eating what other people cook. I’m not a picky eater. (Laughing) Sometimes, though, I think people are intimidated to cook for me because I’ve worked in foodservice! Who is your dietary or culinary hero? I like Giada De Laurentiis on The Food Network—I enjoy her recipes, and I can adapt them. I use her recipe photos, then modify the ingredients and flavors. Of the following spices—which all start with “C” in honor of your initials—which is your favorite and in what dishes? A. Cinnamon B. Coriander C. Curry D. Chili powder Cinnamon for its great flavor—it enhances other flavors when you cook with it. In desserts or hot cereals, it boosts their sweetness, and when you sprinkle it on yogurt or fruit, it makes the flavors pop. What’s your #1 message to kids about healthy eating? It’s important for them to know that food isn’t a pastime—it’s nourishment and fuel. All foods can fit in moderation; you balance out the junk. For example, pizza can be perceived as a junk food, but the crust can be whole grain, the cheese can be reduced-fat and the toppings can be lower in fat and sodium by making them vegetarian. It comes down to the choices you make. And what would you like their parents to know? Parents should learn the same lesson about all foods fitting— it’s not all or none. I think if [parents communicated this message to their kids], we would all be better off in terms of our health as a community. What’s the most successful strategy you’ve used to get kids to make healthier choices? [When] trying something new, you only need to taste it, not necessarily swallow it. We don’t have taste buds in our stomachs, so I tell kids they don’t have to swallow a new food when they’re trying it. Ninety-five percent of the time when they taste something, they like it.
Published by School Nutrition Association. View All Articles.
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