SAGE Spotlight Program

Helping Students Make Informed Choices

SAGE believes all foods fit on your plate when you practice variety, balance and moderation. The SAGE Spotlight Program® makes this easy! We assign color-coded dots to all menu items to guide your decisions. Our program encourages a healthy relationship with food that is both fun and nutritious.

A balanced approach to eating relies on getting a variety of nutrients from a broad array of foods. Moderation is key since all foods contain differing amounts of nutrients. The green, red and yellow dots indicate how much and how often certain foods should appear on a plate.

Green Spotlight

Green spotlight foods are the foundation of your plate. Simply prepared fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and non-fat dairy are common green dot foods. Everyday, add a variety of these foods to at least half your plate for added color and nutrients.

Yellow Spotlight Foods

Yellow spotlight foods add a mix of nutrients and flavors to your plate. Yellow dot foods include fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins and low-fat dairy prepared with moderate amounts of added sugar, fat and/or salt. Balance your plate by filling a quarter to a half of it with yellow dot foods.

Red Spotlight Foods

Red spotlight foods provide valuable nutrients, but also contain some you want to moderate. Focusing on portion or frequency is a great way to enjoy red dot foods. Reserve a quarter of your plate for foods like macaroni and cheese, or add items like pizza to your plate a couple times per week.

SAGE's registered dietitians evaluate and update the program on an ongoing basis. As part of the SAGE Signature Service®, they also analyze recipes and review menus for balance, completeness and accuracy.

We promote healthy lifestyles at every meal.

At SAGE, we raise the bar by preparing delicious, high-quality meals that are also nutritious. We use whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and house-made entrees to offer a balanced menu. Our nutrition education materials guide students to make their own food choices. As providers of nourishment for children, it is our responsibility to arm them with the proper knowledge and resources to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

Our Commitment to Nutrition extends to our Spotlight Program and its key messages of variety, balance and moderation. These concepts help students develop a positive relationship with food and understand how to make informed choices. The Spotlight Program is also utilized by our managers and chefs to create menus that exemplify variety, balance and moderation.

In addition, SAGE maintains standards for foods served to promote optimal health. Our team of registered dietitians works with our managers and chefs to develop recipes that adhere to these nutrition standards.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are your nutrition standards?

SAGE encourages all customers to maintain a healthful lifestyle. Here are just a few examples of how we try to help:

  • We cook primarily from scratch, reducing use of processed foods.
  • We grill, bake, broil or saute to avoid frying.
  • We use fresh and frozen vegetables to maximize nutritional value.
  • We use fresh, ground beef that contains no lean, finely textured beef (LFTB)
  • We offer meatless entrees daily.
  • We offer fresh salads and fresh fruit daily.
  • We offer a variety of whole-grain breads, bagels and rolls.
  • We offer a complete deli bar daily, with a low-fat selection.
  • We offer 2% and skim milk at all locations.
  • We offer 100% fruit juice.
  • We cook with trans fat-free oils, such as olive and canola.
  • We use MSG-free seasonings.
  • We use a variety of herbs and spices to reduce the use of salt.

How do you handle food allergies?

SAGE is committed to providing a safe and healthful dining environment for all our patrons. We understand the growing incidence of food allergies in our society, and we have crafted our programs to accommodate most individuals safely and sustainably.

Our Allergy Resource Guide was developed in conjunction with the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN), which educates our staff and supports students in addressing the most common food allergens. Our registered dietitians serve as a resource for our staff, responding to any questions or concerns in handling food allergies.

As most students with food allergies face a lifetime of managing their condition, we do not make special meals, but create varied menus that feature safe foods. SAGE prepares cycle menus in advance, and we particularly encourage students with allergies to review these menus at the beginning of each new cycle. SAGE's Food Service Directors, as well as our service personnel, are happy to discuss the day's menu, recipes and ingredient lists for the foods served in the dining hall.

In addition, we have an "open kitchen" policy, which allows parents and students to schedule a time to go through our inventory to check for hidden allergens. Cycle menus change seasonally. When these revisions occur, we encourage interested parties to return to the kitchen to review the new menu, food ingredient lists and recipes.

What's the difference between an allergy and an intolerance?

Many people think the terms food allergy and food intolerance mean the same thing. They do not.

A food allergy occurs when the immune system reacts to a certain food. The most common form of an immune system reaction occurs when the body creates immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies against the food. When these IgE antibodies react with the food, histamine and other chemicals (called "mediators") are released, causing hives, asthma or other symptoms of an allergic reaction.

Food intolerance, unlike a food allergy, does not involve the immune system and is not life-threatening. Lactose intolerance, trouble digesting the milk sugar lactose, is a common example. Symptoms may include abdominal cramps, bloating and diarrhea.

Do you have a gluten-free menu? How do you handle allergies?

SAGE does not have specific gluten-free/allergen-free menus. Instead, the cornerstone of our program is variety. We believe the vast majority of participants in our dining program will be able to find a balanced meal that is safe for them to eat. Thus we offer an array of soups, hot entrees, deli selections, a salad bar, fresh fruits, as well as a variety of beverages that will satisfy most ary needs.

Most students who have celiac disease or food allergies face a lifetime of managing their condition. They must learn to eat and prepare foods that are safe for them to eat. Students and parents need information to help them make informed choices — not only in SAGE's dining facilities, but at home and in the community as well. Thus, SAGE's registered dietitians have prepared detailed materials addressing conditions such as celiac disease and food allergies.

SAGE Food Service Directors are educated on these issues and write menus with their school population in mind. They are happy to meet with parents and students to discuss the menu, recipe and ingredient lists for the foods served in the dining hall.

Why doesn't SAGE post calories in schools?

Posting calories abets and exacerbates eating disorders among young people, and we see that as violating our mission. At one time, we did post this information. To our dismay, the heads of some of our girls schools asked us to stop, explaining that posting calories, in their words, allowed students with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia to "keep score" on how they were doing. Abiding by their wishes, we dropped this labeling. In 2005 we rolled out our SAGE Spotlight Program®. This program is designed to solve the colorie problem and correct the very real issue of portion size and recipe variation. For more information on why we don't post calories click here.

If the SAGE Spotlight Program® says to limit foods with red Spotlight dots, why does SAGE serve them at all?

The Spotlight program's message is that all foods have a place in a balanced diet, and that red Spotlight foods should be enjoyed in moderation, balanced with yellow and green dot items. Simply not serving certain foods doesn't teach these principles to students and doesn't help them develop healthy eating habits. Many red dot foods are nutrient-dense. A slice of cheese pizza, for example, is packed with calcium, an essential nutrient for bone health.

A positive relationship with food develops at a young age, and the Spotlight program teaches there are no "bad foods" or "good foods." These messages are reinforced by SAGE's nutrition education materials, which provide additional guidance on healthy eating. Our goal at SAGE is to help students embrace the wonderful array of foods that our world has to offer, including red Spotlight foods, while maintaining a balanced approach.

Do you serve tree nuts or peanuts? What about peanut butter?

SAGE Dining Services believes there is a health risk involved with serving peanuts or tree nuts to children. Children with allergies to peanuts or tree nuts are more likely than children with other food allergies to experience anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening reaction that can be induced by airborne exposure, skin exposure or ingestion of tree nuts or peanuts. Due to these risks, SAGE does not serve peanuts, tree nuts or nut oils to school age children in the dining hall. We allow each school to determine whether, and how, peanut butter may be served.

Is coconut a tree nut?

Prior to 2006, the USDA did not consider coconut a tree nut. There continues to be limited research to support the classification of coconut as a tree nut. Further, there are few individuals diagnosed with coconut allergies.

Consequently, SAGE does not treat coconuts as tree nuts. SAGE managers are free to use coconut in preparation of menu items. However, we counsel our managers to inform tree nut-allergic students and their parents of this policy, so students can make informed decisions about what to eat.

How does SAGE source the food it serves? Do you serve organic or sustainable foods? How about hormone- and antibiotic-free animal products?

SAGE's menus are custom-designed for each school community. Our menus change seasonally to reflect the fresh product available in each market. We source local food wherever possible. We enthusiastically support school gardens and we love to serve locally grown food in our kitchens.

We serve organic products whenever feasible. Our milk is rbST-free and hormone free. Our shell eggs are cage-free and Certified Humane. We serve only dolphin-safe tuna, packed in water. We support the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guidelines and strive to increase our purchases of sustainable seafood. We serve shade-grown coffee that is certified Fair Trade.

We are very proud of our sustainable purchasing practices and we continue to evolve our purchasing practices to ensure the highest quality, sustainable products for our customers.

Some schools are banning chocolate milk. What do you think about it?

SAGE works with school communities to deliver customized programs to fit the needs of everyone involved. There are many factors that influence food offerings. Parents, students, school administrators and SAGE are all part of the conversation. There is no right or wrong answer; rather, it's about finding the answer that works best for that community. Sometimes a decision is made to not serve certain foods at all, while in other communities the decision is made to limit consumption, such as only offering the choice to older students.

SAGE and the Spotlight program support varied food offerings and educated choices, as students will make decisions regarding food for the rest of their life. SAGE provides educational materials to reinforce the message of balanced food choices.

What's the difference between a registered dietitian (RD) and a nutritionist?

The "RD" credential is a legally protected title that can only be used by practitioners who are authorized by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND).

Individuals with the RD credential have fulfilled specific requirements, including having earned at least a bachelor's degree, completed a supervised practice program and passed a registration examination - in addition to maintaining continuing education requirements for re-certification.

Some RDs may call themselves "nutritionists," but not all nutritionists are registered dietitians, according the AND. The definition and requirements for the term "nutritionist" vary. Some states have licensure laws that define the range of practice for someone using the designation "nutritionist," but in other states, virtually anyone can call him- or herself a "nutritionist," regardless of education or training, the AND says.