Ever since the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990, manufacturers have been required to post nutrition labels on their products. Up to recent years, freshly made foods from instutional and restaurant food services have not been required to post their information. However, that has changed in the last few years. Restaurants of certain sizes and numbers of locations are required to provide their customers with the nutritional information about the items they serve. This has opened up a huge window of opportunity for nutrition experts to assist food service companies with providing accurate information about the foods prepared. However, it also requires a handy and advanced knowledge of professional cooking.
In the May 2011 ADA Journal article “How Accurate Are Your Nutrient Calculations? Why Culinary Expertise Makes a Difference,” the authors say that this is an excellent time for nutritionists, registered dietitians specifically, to step up their culinary expertise and assist manufactureres in product development and nutrition knowledge. However, they caution eager experts from rushing in and providing incomplete information. There are challenges intrinsic to recipe writing and nutrient calculations, and nutrition experts must know the recipes well and the quirks to cooking, such as volume change and unused portions of ingredients (like marinades).
While it is a great window of opportunity for nutrition and diet experts to assist food manufacturers and restaurants with nutrient label development, those embarking on this type of work should be sure to develop competencies in culinary nutriton. This is the core of the thesis of these authors, and this is one of the biggest reasons that I chose to attend culinary school. I knew how to cook, and I was comfortable with reading recipes and entering nutritional data. But now that I have developed an understanding for restaurant prep cooking and line cooking, I see how it can change and how the knowledge has enhanced my understanding in utilizing the nutrient databases more effectively.
Powers, Catharine H., Mary Abbott Hess, and Mary Kimbrough. How Accurate Are Your Nutrient Calculations? Why Culinary Expertise Makes a Difference. May 2011 Journal of the American Dietetic Association Supplement. S8-S11.