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UMass Dining offers fat tips on eating healthy

Anyone who regularly eats at Berkshire Dining Commons has most likely noticed its promotional advertisements outlining its use of healthy fats in its food. There have been chops on the tables as well as laminated signs above different foods such as French fries, pesto and fried meats.

On Wednesday, Oct. 28, Executive Dining Director Ken Toong and members of the University of Massachusetts’ department of nutrition held a presentation on the different types of oils used in cooking and the ways that UMass’ dining halls have adjusted to this information. At the forefront of the PowerPoint presentation on saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and trans fats was Dr. Srimathi Kannan and graduate student Shannon Seguin, both of the department of nutrition, and UMass Dining’s Dietician Dianne Sutherland.

Kannan and her colleagues advocated that fats are not essentially bad for a person’s health. “We need fats to help us absorb vitamins A, D, E and K,” said Kannan. “Fats are also important for maintaining healthy skin. In India, where I grew up, people would rub olive oil on their skin to give it a nice healthy glow.”

However, Kannan went on to warn about the dangers of some fat consumption. “Monounsaturated fats will only lower bad cholesterol in the blood, but polyunsaturated fats will lower bad and good cholesterols together.”

According to a slide in the presentation outlining the 2005 Dietary Guidelines, a person should consume 20 to 35 percent of their calorie intake in the form of fat. The survey by the nutrition department found that nearly 40 percent of students believe that a healthy diet would include five to15 percent of calories by fat.

One of the highlights of the presentation was the dining halls’ acquisition of chemical company Dow’s Omega-9 frying oil, which has become the feature oil in all fried foods served in the dining halls. According to Toong, the use of the healthiest oil possible has become an absolute necessity.

“At UMass dining halls, 20 percent of the items are deep-fried,” said Toong. “Because of this we cannot just get rid of them, and so we must make sure we use the freshest and best oil we can buy.”

According to Dianne Sutherland, UMass became partnered with Dow over the summer.

“They came to our Culinary Conference in June and offered us a partnership,” she said. “The Omega-9 oil is made from a mix of canola and sunflower seeds. It also has no trans fat and has a very low amount of saturated fats. It also has a very light taste that won’t overpower the food it is used in.”

Beyond the utilization of the Omega-9 oil, UMass has also made some significant changes in the food it serves, according to graduate student Shannon Seguin.

“We were the first university to feature baked goods with no trans fat,” she said. “Dining Services also began to offer more fruits, vegetables, whole-grain foods and fish. They also cut back on red-meat entrées served.”

Toong, who was also present at the lecture, outlined some plans of his own to make the DC food healthier.

“Sodium in the foods we serve will be reduced by 25% next year,” he said.       According to Toong, dining services is looking to replace its whole-wheat pizza crust.

“We are researching a different type of pizza crust made of sprouted brown rice,” said Toong.

Toong also gave the reasoning behind having the smaller beef sliders that made their appearance in September as a replacement to the quarter-pound patties served in past years.

“Part of our effort is reducing portion sizes,” he said. “We reduced the portions of grilled chicken from six ounces to three ounces. We did the same with the sliders. They are more expensive and take longer to cook, but we need to educate students to take what they can consume.”

After the lecture, Chef Anthony Jung gave a cooking demonstration in which he concocted fried tempura shrimp made with the new Omega-9 cooking oil as well as a mixed green salad topped with lightly fried apple rings, Roquefort cheese crumbles and an apple-walnut vinaigrette.

            Cameron Ford can be reached at cjford@student.umass.edu, and Bobby Hitt can be reached at rhitt@student.umass.edu.

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