The monthly menu reads like that of a popular neighborhood restaurant: grilled salmon with brown rice and seasoned broccoli; lemon chicken with quinoa and roasted carrots; and three-bean soup with zucchini sticks and pineapple.
These are not the dinner options at a four-star restaurant, but are among the typical daily offerings on the lunch menu at The Guild School’s cafeteria. The focus on nutritious, wholesome meals prepared from scratch is a key ingredient (pun intended) of The Guild’s commitment to healthy eating.
In developing the lunch menus, Michelle Pearson, The Guild’s registered dietitian nutritionist, faces challenges familiar to any parent – but her responsibilities are to the school’s 85 students.
“We’re working really hard to figure out what the kids are enjoying, while also ensuring that they’re being served fresh, nutritious meals prepared in our own kitchen,” says Michelle, who earned her master’s degree in biochemical and molecular nutrition at Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
The lunch selections do not end with each day’s hot entrée. The daily salad bar features 16 options, including kale, assorted raw and cooked vegetables, hummus, tabbouleh, chicken and tuna. Fresh fruit is plentiful. For students seeking different lunch options, sandwiches and wraps are available.
Members of the kitchen staff get to know many of the students personally and help meet their specific needs. “We have a lot of special diets here, including allergies, food aversions and intolerances,” explains Michelle, “and providing options for each food group is one way to help our students meet their nutritional needs.”
During an interview, Michelle makes a timely reference to March being National Nutrition Month, as designated by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Proper nutrition is vital for everybody, especially kids,” Michelle explains. “Proper nutrition helps them grow and thrive.”
Beyond carefully curating selections for the lunch menu, Michelle’s responsibilities include partnering in ServSafe practices with Food Service Manager Bob Barbosa and the rest of his kitchen staff; developing nutrition plans; consulting with residential services staff on healthy home meal preparation; and training new employees in establishing good eating habits for those they serve.
The Guild’s adherence to dietary guidelines has helped many students maintain healthy weight-loss goals and improve their overall health outcomes. One student, who was diagnosed with diabetes, has lost 40 pounds in the last year after being placed on a consistent carbohydrate diet that reduced his intake of sugary fruit juices and desserts. Other students have had weight loss success with eating patterns that focus on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and seafood. This success is due to the hard work and dedication of the entire Guild staff.
“We’re trying to influence their palates at a young age,” says Michelle, who joined The Guild last summer. “If we can get them to enjoy healthy eating, they will make better food choices as they grow into adulthood.”