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by Michael Sansolo

ST. HELENA, CA. -- Mary Poppins sang that it only took a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down. Well, the hook is no longer sugar, but top chefs clearly still like the idea of a little inducement to produce some healthier eating. And the idea, with or without a song, might have some merit.

The World of Healthy Flavors leadership retreat here opened with some predictably bad news that Americans are in increasingly poor health and much of it is due to the foods they are eating. The conference, co-sponsored by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) and Harvard’s School of Public Health, attracts a diverse group of chefs, dietitians and food specialists from food retailers, restaurants, institutions and more.

The opening session featured four chefs detailing recipes that all featured a heavy dose of vegetables and other healthier ingredients. And all the chefs paid homage to Mary Poppins in their own ways. One chef suggested including a small helping of shrimp in a rice and chickpea dish; another suggested low-fat cheese topping stuffed peppers. Others used various spices and other inducements. In each case they explained that using such products will help get families to try new healthier foods that also pack an enormous taste wallop. (We got to sample all the dishes afterwards and the recipes were everything advertised.)

More recipe tasting is planned for the balance of the two and one-half day conference at the CIA campus at Greystone, as are in-depth discussions of ways to address and improve Americans’ eating habits.
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