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What’s on your plate?

Nutrition website helps you make informed decisions before you sit down at the dinner table

Created date

February 20th, 2014
dining director in front of marketplace

March is National Nutrition Month, a nutrition education and information campaign created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits, a practice that is at the forefront of the lifestyle offered at Oak Crest, an Erickson Living community in Parkville, Md. 

One of the tools Crest residents can employ to help them make smart food choices is Launched in November 2011, the website was designed to provide nutrition information to Erickson Living community members, empowering them to make informed food choices. With just the click of a mouse, residents can plan their meals for the week, making it easy to stick to their diet. 

Laverne Kaczmarek doesn’t eat a thing without first checking the nutrition information label on every food she buys—a discipline she’s adopted in order to help manage her cholesterol and stick to her gluten-free diet. She began using the website two years ago.  

“I’m the only one responsible for what I put in my mouth, so I have to make sure I know exactly what I’m eating,” says Laverne. “I either log onto the website or check the printed version at the restaurants every day.  You just can’t be sure that you’re making a healthy choice unless you look at the ingredients.” 

Seasoned professionals

Oak Crest Dining Director David Colacicco says the website includes up-to-date information for each menu item including fat content, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbohydrates, and protein, as well as a list of common allergens like eggs, soy, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, and fish.

“Our culinary teams have years of experience preparing foods in a variety of dining venues—restaurants, clubs, and hotels,” says Colacicco. “So we are experienced in designing menus that meet many diet preferences and requirements. Each menu at Oak Crest offers a choice of items that are compatible with heart healthy and diabetic diets, as well as a limited number of vegetarian and vegan items. We also use low sodium bases in all of our soups and sauces, and we never add salt to our recipes.”

Dr. Jeffrey Landsman, senior regional medical director at Oak Crest, says having the nutrition information easily accessible makes informed choices easy for residents.

“Regular exercise is always my number one recommendation regarding achieving and maintaining a healthy weight,” says Dr. Landsman. “But healthy eating choices are also very important. The website makes it easy to decide at which restaurant you would like to eat and what your healthiest options are beforehand. Then when you finally sit down at the table to order your food, you’re less apt to make an impulsive choice.”  

Oak Crest also features two full-time registered dieticians to assist residents with their specific dietary needs.   

“Living here has definitely helped me stick to my diet and eating healthy,” says Laverne. “There is always grilled fish and chicken on the menu, and the salad bar has a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables every day. If I was still at home, I’m sure I would still be cooking the way I always have with things I’m not supposed to have, like butter.” 

What’s new in 2014?

But it isn’t easy to satisfy the appetite of nearly 2,000 people every day, so to keep things fresh, Colacicco and his team stay on top of the latest culinary trends.  

“We attend trade shows, read culinary magazines, and we welcome resident feedback. We do our best to fulfill those suggestions and requests,” says Colacicco. 

Last year, Colacicco and his staff introduced bi-monthly theme dinners, including a Caribbean cruise night complete with a steel drum band and tropical menu and a Texas barbecue. The New Year started off with “A Night at the Rainbow Room,” a tribute to New York City’s signature restaurants featuring a formal menu and big band music.

Come summer, Colacicco says patrons can dine alfresco under a canopy of brightly colored umbrellas while they enjoy food fresh off the grill. 

“This is the tip of the iceberg for 2014,” says Colacicco. “We have already created a road map for a variety of culinary adventures.”