Local school taps tasty way to cut calories

Federal guidelines to cut fat and calories from school lunches have been difficult to swallow for districts facing funding cuts.

The government requires calorie limits for meals and more servings of fruits and vegetables.

But the Liberty School District Cafeteria staff is meeting the guidelines head on with some creative solutions.

Liberty School District Food Services Director and Chef Chris Hogge knows his way around the kitchen. But it's been difficult to navigate calorie counts and federal mandates without affecting the taste of food he serves to students.

"It was very challenging," Hogge said. "As you well know at the grocery store, fruits vegetables, meats and dairy are all going up in price and the revenues aren't keeping up."

Click here to learn more about how calorie counts differ for the various age groups.

You won't find a fryer in this kitchen anymore. Many foods are baked, while Hogge utilizes sodium-free vegetable salts and cinnamon to add flavor to veggies and fruits. Click here to learn more from KHQA This Morning on how the school district is using seasonings to add taste.

"Since they've eliminated salt we cannot keep salt shakers on our tables," Hogge said.

While most food is prepared here in the kitchen, here at the Liberty School District cooks head outside to cut more fat and calories form its main entre's. Click here to learn more from KHQA This Morning.

Hogge prepares everything from chicken breasts to pork loin, pulled pork and hot dogs on this smoker, without using added oils and fats to prepare it.

"It has a very distinct flavor," Hogge said. "You really don't have to use any salts or seasonings so that is nice."

Smoking meats is the healthy way to avoid adding fat and calories to a meal, but it is more labor intensive. Click here to hear about the process and the labor involved in smoking meats from KHQA this Morning. Preparations begin earlier and hickory wood like this needs monitoring periodically during the process.

Click here to hear more about how Liberty began smoking its own meats.