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Dietitian refines, revs up kid-favorite recipes

By Tara Fitzpatrick 

Dietitians often debate the merits of “stealth health,” that is, the sneaking in of healthier ingredients, like a cup of quinoa in chili, a dollop of cauliflower puree in mac ‘n cheese or black beans hidden in brownies.

As Flik Independent School Dining’s director of wellness, Susan Cooper, MS RD CDN, took that debate and combined the best of both worlds a couple of years ago with the Revved Up Program, which neither hides nor forces healthier versions of favorite recipes, finding a balance between what’s good for kids and what they will eat.

The recipes in the Revved Up series keep culinary integrity in tact with recipe enhancement rather than a cheap bait and switch. That means Flik chefs and dietitians work together to create recipes for a new marinara sauce with extra veggie power from mushrooms and parsnips; mac and cheese with butternut squash; and meatballs with veggies in the blend.

The program has expanded over the years, with new recipes regularly being added by the culinary and nutrition teams. The program’s success is due in part to what Cooper describes as “improving the item’s nutritional profile while maintaining the integrity of the recipe as a recognizable favorite.”

“The goal is not to hide healthy ingredients, but rather to make appropriate additions and substitutions—such as incorporating different vegetables—in ways which make culinary sense,” Cooper says.

With this philosophy, classic favorite dishes essentially taste and appear like they always have, if not a little better. And, of course, the nutritional profile and nutrient density can be vastly improved with just a couple of subtle tweaks to a recipe.

This school year, the Flik dining teams at K12 accounts have added the following new Revved Up creations to the rotation:

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Revved Up beef tacos: The secret here is in the taco-meat mix, which is beef blended with lots of chopped veggies. 

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Revved Up Alfredo sauce: Cream isn’t the only thing that can be creamy. Light colored root vegetables like white carrots or parsnips, when pureed, can create that same creamy experience.

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Revved Up tomato soup: This kids’ classic is pretty healthy to begin with, but pureed parsnips make it even more so, without changing the flavor.

*Originally appeared in Food Management on January 22, 2018.