by Jay Kitterman, consultant, LLCC Culinary Institute
Charlyn Fargo Ware was the food and agribusiness editor for the State Journal-Register for 27 years and continues to write a weekly syndicated food/nutrition article that appears in papers across the country. Last week, I had the opportunity to turn the tables, interviewing Charlyn and chatting with her about her role as the in-house Hy-Vee registered dietitian.
First, some background on Charlyn. She grew up on a farm in central Illinois, partially explaining her lifelong interest in food. After receiving two bachelors’ degrees from the University of Illinois, Urbana/Champaign, one in food and one in agricultural communications, she went on to complete her master of science degree in nutrition and dietetics from Eastern Illinois University. When the culinary program started at Lincoln Land Community College, she was the first adjunct instructor. Currently she teaches baking, food sanitation, and short-term Community Education classes in the food labs at LLCC. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), Illinois Dietetics Association and the Capital Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and is certified in adult weight management. For the past two years, she has been recognized as the Dietitian of the Year in the State Journal Register.
From my research I discovered that grocery stores are hiring dietitians to counsel shoppers and possibly help the store achieve a competitive edge over others. At best we probably see a doctor once or twice a year but are at the supermarket at least once or twice a week. Eating healthy can be a key to warding off many diseases, and the supermarket dietitian can help us make the best choices while providing recommendations for special diets. From a business point of view, having an in-store dietitian is a way to differentiate yourself from the competition and a reason for shoppers to return to that store.
For Charlyn, being the supermarket nutritionist is all about “community and education.”
“What does gluten-free mean?” “What is good fat?” “Can I still eat my Cheerios?” These are all questions she receives.
Charlyn also receives many referrals from the medical community. She calls them “teachable moments” for the person is able to actually “walk the floor” of the 90,000 square feet store. She will then sit down with the person and together develop a customized plan. Hy-Vee has invested heavily in becoming recognized as the site for healthy shopping. On the Hy-Vee webpage under “Meal Solutions” is “Weekly Menus.” You have the option to select Regular, Heart Healthy, Diabetic Friendly or Weight Control menus. Weekly menus with complete nutritional information and shopping lists can then be printed out. How cool is that!
Another service Charlyn provides is what she calls “freezer meals.” Groups of people numbering from six to 12, select five or six menus and submit them to her. She then rounds up all the ingredients and does some of the initial prep work. The group meets with her in the Hy-Vee display kitchen and prepares the meals. All of the ingredients are fresh from the store, and the completed meals are taken home to freeze. Many of the same groups come in on a monthly basis. Charlyn believes cooking should be fun and often a glass of wine is involved as they cook. Her regular groups include area Weight Watchers, teachers from a local school, as well as hospital and other health-care provided staff.There is a nominal charge for this fun and “hands on” experience.
I asked her about the current increased interest in gluten-free foods. Charlyn replied that she does not feel everyone needs to be gluten-free but if one has an issue, Hy-Vee is the perfect store in which to shop. Their selection is the largest in the city, and they even have organic gluten-free items. Another question she receives, is increasing concern about food allergies, especially about kids’ allergies to peanuts.
When asked what surprised her about the job at Hy-Vee, she said she had no idea “how much fun it would be.” Traditionally when we think of the registered dietitian, it is a person in a white lab coat analyzing menus. At Hy-Vee, Charlyn is constantly walking the aisles and for her it feels like “old home week” reconnecting with friends. Charlyn is a teacher at heart and in addition to what she does at LLCC, she is in a perfect position to help people eat better and try something new. For her it is a way to “share knowledge.”
When asked what her favorite part of the store was, she immediately said the perimeters: produce, bakery and fresh meats. We walked some of the aisles and ended up in produce where she reminded me to spend more time when shopping. If you have been to Hy-Vee’s produce department then you know how large and varied it is. New items from around the world are constantly arriving. Charlyn said Hy-Vee has a local farmers program and tries to stock items from farms located 200 miles or closer. One new item that Charlyn had me try was gum drop premium table grapes. The manufacturer describes them as “gummy-licious,” and I must agree. They are filed with a luscious candy-sweet flavor, and are naturally raised with no additives, infusions or GMO. I purchased a big bag and surprised Carol.
My thanks to Charlyn Fargo Ware and Hy-Vee for making a difference in Springfield.
Creamy Garlic Mashed Cauliflower
Recipe from Charlyn Fargo Ware
Serves: 4 (3/4 cup each)
* 8 c. cauliflower florets (approximately 1 large head of cauliflower)
* 4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
* 1/3 c. non-fat buttermilk
* 4 tsp Hy-Vee select extra-virgin olive oil, divided
* 1 tsp Hy-Vee butter
* 1/2 tsp salt
* Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Place cauliflower florets and garlic in a steamer basket over boiling water, cover and steam until very tender, 12 to 15 minutes. (Alternately, place florets and garlic in a microwave-safe bowl with 1/4 cup water, cover and microwave on HIGH power for 3 to 5 minutes or until soft.)
- Place the cooked cauliflower and garlic in food processor. Add buttermilk, 2 teaspoons olive oil, butter, salt and pepper. Process until smooth and creamy.
- Transfer to serving bowl. Drizzle remaining olive oil over top and garnish with chives. Serve hot.
150% vitamin C
Nutrition Facts per serving:
Calories: 107 Fat: 7g
Carbohydrate: 10g Protein: 5g
Cholesterol: 3mg Saturated Fat: 1g
Dietary Fiber: 4g