Monthly Archives: May 2018

Food Service Focus: Celiac Awareness Month

May was Celiac Awareness Month, but managing this serious autoimmune disorder is a year-round job. If you’re in the foodservice industry, here’s what you need to know about Celiac Disease.

Celiac Basics

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, celiac disease is a genetic disorder in which the body’s immune response to gluten (a protein found in wheat and many other grains) is to attack the lining of the small intestine (the villi).

The attacks damage the villi over time, which affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. If left untreated, celiac disease can lead to other autoimmune disorders like Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis as well as serious neurological conditions and even stomach cancer. Short-term symptoms for adults usually include diarrhea, fatigue, and weight loss as well as other forms of gastric distress.

Approximately 1 percent of Americans have celiac disease.

Celiac Treatment

There is currently no cure or medical treatment for celiac disease. The only way to keep celiac disease at bay is to adhere to a lifelong gluten-free diet. Unlike food allergies or food intolerances, which may wax and wane during a lifetime or have gradations of seriousness, celiac disease requires complete avoidance of even trace amounts of gluten for the rest of the celiac patient’s life.

Avoiding Gluten

Thanks to heightened awareness of celiac disease, it’s easier than ever for people with this disorder to shop and eat normally. Many foods are naturally gluten-free: especially “whole” foods like meat, fruit, and vegetables. And due to a rise in the perceived effects of gluten intolerance, there are many options for gluten-free bread and crackers as well as other processed food.

Standards/Certification

Since only trace amounts of gluten can set off the immune system of someone with celiac disease, it is important that any food that is labeled Gluten Free (GF) is truly free from gluten. The Gluten-Free Certification Organization provides verification through a “stringent review process” that any certified GF product has 10 parts per million or less of gluten.

Food Service for Customers with Celiac Disease

The most important tool for people with celiac disease is knowledge. To best serve team members with celiac disease, it is not necessary to provide only certified GF food items (although it is nice to have a few); what is necessary is to provide easily-accessible nutrition information for all food so that everyone can be sure of what they are eating.

In a food service kitchen, it is also crucial to avoid cross-contamination with gluten—like avoiding cross-contamination with nuts for people with nut allergies. This means keeping equipment separate or cleaning it thoroughly between each use. Frequent gluten-spreading culprits include cutting boards, knives, toasters, spatulas/wooden spoons, and even spreadable condiments like butter or mustard. Kitchen employees should also be sure to wash their hands carefully before working with food that will be served as “gluten-free.”

Are Protein Shakes Right for You?

Shake it Up!

The advertisements and infomercials make it look so obvious; the thing you’ve been missing in your diet is protein, and all you need are these shakes to make everything in life a breeze. Tough day at work? Grab a shake. Going to the gym? Grab a shake. Feeling tired? Grab a shake (of course).

Do you need protein shakes?

The reality, naturally, is a little more nuanced. The claims of shake-makers are predicated on the idea that people do not get enough protein in their diets: an idea that most nutritionists reject. Mayo Clinic researchers note that despite the diet industry’s emphasis on protein, most Americans get at least double the protein they need.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 from the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, most adults should be getting 5½ ounce-equivalents of protein foods per day. The myplate.gov website contains a full table of ounce-equivalents for protein foods, but a basic list includes “1 ounce of meat, poultry or fish, ¼ cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or ½ ounce of nuts or seeds.” As we discuss frequently, USConnect full-service vending and Bistro To Go® micro markets offer many healthy choices for getting protein during the day, including eggs, yogurt, and grains.

That being noted, there are times when people do need a little extra protein, and for those times, protein shakes can be a healthy, convenient choice. Mayo Clinic notes that evidence supports the use of whey protein (the protein most commonly used in protein shakes) for the following uses:

  • To promote increased muscle mass as part of an exercise regime (results are mixed)
  • To help speed muscle recovery after a workout
  • To improve nutrition in malnourished individuals
  • To speed recovery time of wounds and burns
  • To combat infant skin allergies from milk- or soy-based formula

If you do decide that protein shakes are for you, here are some expert tips to consider:

  • Whey protein is milk-based, so if you’re vegan or lactose-intolerant, it is not a good choice.
  • However, whey protein is one of the faster-acting proteins. Experts recommend looking for raw or cold-processed to get the most nutrients.
  • Casein protein is slower-acting, so it is better for muscle recovery.
  • Read the ingredient list; avoid artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated oils, and excessive amounts of sugar.
  • Caveat emptor: a study from the Clean Label Project found that many top-selling protein powders contain high levels of heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and arsenic, as well as BPA.

Diversity in the Workplace: Honoring Ramadan

This week marks the beginning of Ramadan, the holiest Muslim month. During the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar, observant Muslims all over the world commemorate the revelation of the Quran to Muhammed by both feasting as fasting. Islam is the world’s second-largest religion; what do HR departments and employees need to know about this important holiday?

Diversity in the Workplace - Ramadan

Even during the rest of the year, observant Muslims eat only foods that are halal. Like kosher foods, halal (lawful) rules of Islam prohibit pork, as well as “carnivorous animals, birds of prey, animals without external ears (some birds and reptiles), blood, alcohol, and foods contaminated with any of these.” According to Today’s Dietician, processed food containing ingredients like gelatin, emulsifiers, and enzymes may be unlawful for some Muslim consumers, so providing nutrition information is especially important.

The timing changes every year. Ramadan goes by a lunar calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar that is most widely used in secular society. The holiday starts the day after the new moon of the ninth month, and ends with the new moon of the tenth month. In 2018, Ramadan starts on May 15. In 2019, it will start on May 5. To be culturally sensitive to this changing holiday, it’s a good idea to keep track of when it will fall each year.

Observant Muslims fast during the day during the whole month of Ramadan. Before dawn, Muslims eat a meal called suhoor, and they break their fast after dusk with a meal called iftar. Be aware, if any colleagues or employees are observing Ramadan, that it would be insensitive to offer them lunch or snacks during the day.

Iftar is often a social meal. While specific food customs differ around the globe, iftar often involves a gathering in the home or a location central to the community. Want to try some Ramadan treats? The Kitchn suggests the following tasty treats from around the world:

  • Dahi vadey: Lentil dumplings that are soaked in a spicy yogurt sauce (India)
  • Haleem: A slow-cooked stew of meat, bulgur wheat, and lentils (Middle East, India, Pakistan, and Central Asia)
  • Chicken 65: Spicy, bite-sized pieces of chicken that are marinated and deep-fried (India)
  • Ramazan Kebabi: A dish made with lamb, onions, yogurt, and pita bread (Turkey)
  • Ful medammes: Fava beans cooked with garlic and spread on bread (North Africa)
  • Paomo: A bread and mutton soup (China)
  • Chapatis: Unleavened flatbread that is rolled up with vegetables and meats (India and Pakistan)
  • Fattoush: A salad made of vegetables and pita bread (Lebanon and Arab countries)
  • Konafah: A pastry made with phyllo dough and cheese (Middle East)
  • Kolak: A fruit dessert made with palm sugar, coconut milk, and pandanus leaf. Fruits, such as jackfruit or banana, or mung beans are added (Indonesia).

In our increasingly globalized world, it’s more important than ever to be respectful of all traditions, and USConnect is glad to help.

Do You Know Keto?

Would you be willing to swap a doughnut for several slices of bacon? How about a nice grilled cheese sandwich… without the bread? Would you consider replacing the cream in your coffee with clarified butter? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then the keto diet might be right for you.

Keto is short for ketogenic, which refers to the way the program relies on a diet of drastically reduced carbohydrates and drastically increased fats. The basis of the keto diet is the fact that, usually, humans get their energy from glucose—blood sugar—because our bodies can quickly convert it into adenosine triphosphate (ATP): the chemical form of energy that our bodies can use. We raise our blood sugar—and thus our usable energy—by digesting carbohydrates from grains, fruits, and vegetables.

If we eat almost no carbs, however, the human body still finds a way to make energy through a process called ketogenesis. During ketogenesis, the body goes into a state of ketosis and begins to burn fat for energy instead of glucose. Thus, ironically, eating a high-fat diet actually makes the body burn more fat.

For all its newfound popularity in recent years, the ketogenic diet actually dates back to the early 20th century, when researchers found that a high-fat, low-carb diet helped reduce the occurrence of seizures in epileptic children. Other, more recent weight-loss diets have also advocated for deep cuts to carbohydrate consumption: but not this deep. People on the keto diet can eat only 20-50 grams of carbohydrates per day for the entire duration of the program; or if they’re making it a lifestyle choice, for the rest of their lives. As a point of comparison, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that most Americans get almost half of their caloric intake from carbohydrates; this is usually closer to 300 grams per day.

The keto diet does result in weight loss—especially at first. For many participants, eating more fatty foods helps them feel full and satisfied, so they actually end up eating less food. However, as a practical matter, the keto diet is quite restrictive. The average apple contains 25 grams of carbohydrates. A half-cup of quinoa contains 20 grams. To get your body to go into ketosis means truly eliminating almost every carbohydrate from your diet, including the healthy ones. In their review of 40 different diets, the health experts of U.S. News and World Report ranked the keto diet as number 39.

The bottom line: the keto diet works better for some people than for others. It may be worth a try for short-term weight loss, but its long-term effects still need more research. Talk to a doctor before starting the keto diet, especially if you have a history of kidney problems or disordered eating.