Low-carbohydrate diets are common now in many segments of the adult population, including young people in their early 20s. For some people, it's a means of keeping weight off or enhancing their bodybuilding efforts. Others embrace these eating regimens because of gluten intolerance or new studies that show pre-diabetes responds well to reducing dietary starches. Here are some tips for how you can update your college food service program to accommodate low-carb dieters while improving student health and the bottom line at the same time.
Learn the Requirements of the Most Popular Low-carb Diets
While some low-carb diets just leave it up to the dieter to reduce the consumption of carbohydrates as they see fit, others are more restrictive in what followers can and cannot eat. The Paleo diet, for example, only allows what Paleolithic hunter-gatherers would have naturally eaten. No dairy or grains are allowed, and all processed and artificial foods are forbidden. Carbohydrates come mainly from fruits and vegetables.
The ketogenic diet overlaps somewhat with the Paleo diet, however it does allow dairy products. It requires dieters to eat a high percentage of fat, moderate protein, and very low carbohydrates. When carbohydrates are significantly restricted, as in this diet, the body generates ketone bodies and switches from burning glucose as a fuel and burns fat instead--a process known as being "in ketosis."
Create More Build-your-own Stations
One way to accommodate the needs of low-carb eaters is to incorporate more build-your-own stations into your food service. In addition to salad bars, you could add taco bars or stations for pizza, kabobs, and Mongolian grill-type dining.
There are advantages to both parties when you create this type of dining environment:
- Dieters can select elements that eliminate carbohydrates and add more fat or protein, as desired.
- The food service sees less waste. Other than food that has to be thrown out by law, you will typically have pre-chopped raw meat and vegetables left over that you can use again in hot or cold dishes. It's much harder to recycle broccoli or chicken, for example, that has already been cooked and left in warming trays.
- Dining that resembles restaurants is more attractive to students, which may make more money for the food service, as students who would have eaten elsewhere elect to dine in-house.
Offer Low-carb Substitutions
When planning menus, it's probably easier than you think to offer low-carb substitutions for many high-carb favorites. Some typical low-carb staples include:
- bun-less burgers
- lettuce wraps
- cauliflower mash in place of potatoes
- coconut and almond milk
- spaghetti squash "noodles"
- crust-less quiche
- grain-free pancakes made with almond flour and mashed bananas
It's easy and cost-effective to put together low-carb lunches and snacks to go also. Foods like nuts, seeds, boiled eggs, whole berries, cheese sticks, and protein bars don't spoil quickly and make low-carb dieters happy when they can't eat in the dining hall.
Some college students will diet regardless of whether their institution's food service program supports it, and others probably should. New evidence shows that approximately 70 percent of college students gain unnecessary weight by the time they graduate. You might as well make low-carbohydrate eating healthy for your students and something that can boost membership in your food service program.
For more information, contact New Horizon Foods or a similar company.