Meal programs found to exceed standards

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JOYCE Schneiderman knew intuitively that the 3,000- plus meals served each day to elderly Milwaukee County residents were healthful certainly that they met the minimum standards required by the state.

However, when results of an independent nutritional analysis came across her desk, the director of the county’s Elderly Nutrition Program was gratified to learn that in fact they well exceeded those standards.

Administered by the county’s Department on Aging, the program serves 2,400 meals each weekday at 30 sites plus 950 home-delivered meals.

In January, six weeks of menus, a mix from winter and summer, were submitted to a Mount Mary College graduate dietetics student for the program’s first analysis in 3 1/2 years.

The analysis found:

The average meal provides 24 grams of fat, which accounts for 32% of total calories. That is when 2% milk is chosen as a beverage. When skim milk is chosen, the figures drop to 20 grams of fat or 27% of calories per meal. (Diners can choose either form of milk.)

At the program’s kosher site, where no dairy products are served, just 25% of calories in the average meal come from fat.

Nutrition experts generally recommend that people keep the fat-calorie percentage in their overall diet to 30% or less.

The average meal fares well in the cholesterol category as well, Schneiderman said. It provides just 97 milligrams of cholesterol with the 2% milk option (86 milligrams with skim).

Experts say we should consume no more than 300 milligrams of cholesterol daily.

Schneiderman, who has been director of the program since it began 21 years ago, said she had been taking steps in recent years to lower the fat content. Among them is development of a light gravy, prepared without any fat, and inclusion of a fruit or fruit dessert two to three times a week. Skim milk was added as an option a few years back.

The state requires only that meals reflect attempts to reduce fat content, especially saturated fat and cholesterol. Meals also must provide one-third of the RDA for nutrients.

Again, the average meal measured up.

For every nutrient but iron, which amounted to slightly more than one-third of the RDA, nutrient content hit or exceeded 50% of the RDA, Schneiderman said. Some examples:

Vitamin A: 63% of RDA for kosher meals; 70% to 73% for other meal options. figures vary acc to type of milk and if the meals are home delivered or served at a site

Vitamin C: 103% of RDA for home-delivered meals, 91% to 92% for on-site meal options.

Calcium: Just 16% of RDA for kosher meals (no dairy products), but 55% to 57% for all other meal options.

Sodium content for the average meal varies from 882 (kosher) to about 1,170 (other meal sites) to 1,338 (home-delivered meals, unless medical needs call for something different).

County residents who are 60 or older and/or the spouse of someone 60 or older are eligible to participate in the program. (There are additional requirements for home-delivered meals.) Suggested contribution is $1.75 per meal.

“For many people {in the program}, this is their main, main meal of the day,” Schneiderman said, adding that she hoped it wasn’t the day’s only meal for many people.

For a list of meal sites, or more information, call the Department on Aging at 289-6995.

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