As we celebrate the 30th birthday of SAGE Dining Services®, we’re taking a look back at how our programs have evolved throughout the years. In this blog series, we’re covering the different kinds of innovations that have made SAGE a company of firsts.
We already reviewed how SAGE’s approach to food service management and the culinary experience has enabled us to build lasting partnerships and serve outstanding, healthy food. In this entry, we’re focusing on our unparalleled wellness education and food allergy accommodation.
No nuts – Peanuts and tree nuts can cause a severe and potentially fatal allergic reaction, anaphylaxis. Unless a client specifically requests otherwise, we don’t prepare or serve peanuts or tree nuts in any venue. Further, we don’t serve products that contain a warning label for peanuts or tree nuts, unless we’ve carefully evaluated the manufacturer’s processes to prevent peanut or tree nut cross-contact and are satisfied that good manufacturing practices are in place.
No MSG – MSG is an artificial flavor enhancer that contains very concentrated levels of glutamate compounds. It’s been linked to headaches and allergic reactions in many people. Additionally, added MSG is a clear indicator of low-quality food. Manufacturers could achieve the same flavor levels simply by using real spices and seasonings, which is what we do at SAGE.
No trans fats – Trans fats have been chemically altered to provide a longer shelf life. They contribute to heart disease by raising LDL cholesterol, known as “bad” cholesterol, and lowering HDL cholesterol, known as “good” cholesterol. We stopped using products containing artificial trans fats years before the U.S. government determined that they weren’t safe for use in food. Our foods also don’t need these preservatives — because we prepare and serve fresh meals.
First in-house Dietitian – We now have a team of four full-time Registered Dietitians, practitioners authorized by the Commission on Dietetic Registration of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics who must maintain continuing education requirements for recertification. Our Dietitians regularly engage with peer-reviewed medical research, professional conferences, webinars, presentations, and self-study programs to ensure they stay up to date with the latest nutrition recommendations to fuel our programs and initiatives.
The SAGE Spotlight Program® – A system of Spotlight colors — green, yellow, and red — guides community members to build a balanced plate. Our Registered Dietitians determine the appropriate color by using a proprietary algorithm, which balances underconsumed nutrients and nutrients of public health concern, using data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines. Our goal is to educate community members that foods are not only nutritious but also tasty and enjoyable, allowing for a more sustainable approach to eating throughout their lifetime.
Allergy awareness guidelines and filters – Our Registered Dietitians review each and every ingredient used in recipes, then tag them with the 12 main allergens recognized in the U.S. and Canada. The Dietitians also check every menu to ensure there’s enough variety for every student. Parents and students can find safe foods and plan for meals using the online menu allergen filter, which crosses out food items containing certain allergens, and looking for options that don’t contain the allergen(s) they want to avoid, which are clearly marked on the serving line.
Eating disorders awareness program – We’ve worked closely with the Eating Recovery Center of Maryland to develop our approach to preventing eating disorders. We don’t post calories in schools, having found that posting calories allowed students with eating disorders or those who had restrictive tendencies to use this information in a negative way. Additionally, there’s a strict policy against fat talk for all of our Team Members to continuously promote positivity toward food and body image in dining halls.
Serve It Safely Food Allergy Program – Our food allergen safety training program, Serve It Safely, teaches Team Members the proper protocols for food storage, preparation, service, and cleanup to prevent cross-contact. At the point of receipt, Managers are checking all product deliveries, reading product labels, and storing to prevent cross-contact.
Performance Spotlight™ — Drawing upon guidelines from the U.S. Olympic Committee, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, and other sports associations, Performance Spotlight both nourishes and educates athletes. Menu icons highlight special Performance picks, which promote optimal athletic performance and provide the right nutrients for training, performance, and recovery. Teams can bring clean-label, house-made sports drinks and bars when they compete on the road. Educational materials in the Touch of SAGE™ Mobile App explain when athletes should fuel, hydrate, and recover with plate schematics showing optimal amounts of protein, vegetables, grains, and starches for each performance phase. This cutting-edge program is the first — and only — of its kind in K-12 schools that specifically guides food choices for athletes.
The next edition of this series will be about the people behind SAGE and the training they receive — stay tuned!