TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --
Diners at Aramark restaurant and concession facilities now have easier and expanded ways to find calorie and nutrition information about the hundreds of food and beverage items for sale every day across base.
Wendi Knowles, a registered dietitian and Nutrition Program manager with Health Promotion Services, said she is excited about the nutrition information improvements that began this month. They complement Aramark’s longstanding Health for Life awareness initiative and the company’s existing focus on labeling and highlighting healthier food options.
“They’re just upping the game with what they’re doing,” Knowles said. “This is significant that they’re putting calorie counts on everything for full disclosure so you can make your best choices.”
One of the most notable changes for customers is calorie information stickers on nearly every product sold in Aramark operations, which include the premier Café 3001 in Bldg. 3001, food trucks and staffed and self-serve C-Stores.
A kitchen-prepared parfait in a clear plastic container, for example, now labels its calories along with the price. Café 3001 beverage dispensing machines have signage listing the calorie totals for an 8-ounce, 16-ounce or 32-ounce serving. The cafeteria now features calorie totals on their overhead menu screens.
The expanded information joins Aramark’s existing nutrition awareness efforts such as “Look for the Leaf.” The leaf symbols on menus, signs and screens are colored green, yellow and red to indicate healthier to less healthy choices, respectively.
The changes are designed to empower health-conscious eaters, not to discourage customer choices, said Chef Joe Hackett, Aramark’s chef manager. Fan favorites such as pizza and fried items will still be part of daily menus.
“We’ve designed our menus and lines, for example, to have a fish fry line every third Friday and a scheduled baked potato line,” he said. “Options are built in that if a person wants to eat healthy, they can. We have baked wings, we have sautéed zucchini in these lines and baked fish, as well.”
The information improvements follow a U.S. Food and Drug Administration requirement this month for large restaurant/food operations to add calorie totals to prepared foods and menus. The implementation deadline was May 5, but the FDA recently delayed the deadline until next year. Many of the affected chains are going ahead with the change anyway.
Customers are also encouraged to come to Aramark’s main business office, located behind Java City in Café 3001, for more detailed nutrition information, such as fat grams, said Carrie Oehlerich, lead office assistant in Business Services. The office number is 734-3161.
The website Ararmarkcafe.com/tinkerafb also contains more nutrition details on entrees and other food items offered on base, in addition to daily and weekly menus, site locations and hours of operation.
Hackett said the requirement dovetails well with Aramark’s commitment to expand its health-conscious fare.
“Our company wants 20 percent of our offerings to be heart healthy by 2020, which is a huge undertaking,” he said. One new item along that line is a breaded chicken sandwich that is baked, not fried, for a tasty meal with fewer calories, he said.
Hackett encourages people to try health-conscious options that they may not be familiar with, such as a recent batch of roasted beets. With Aramark’s guarantee, there’s no downside, he said.
“This is a transition for everybody, not just us, but also for our customers,” he said. “We still stand behind food with a 100 percent satisfaction policy. If they take the risk to try something new, they my love it. They may not. But if they don’t like it, we’re going to take it back, give them something else, or make up for that.
“It’s like, ‘Try it.’ What are you going to lose, except some weight?”