The program is a joint effort with the
Illinois Soybean Checkoff Board and Archer Daniels Midland.
"Many school lunches currently exceed
the recommended fat and calorie content given in federal and state
regulations," said Barbara Klein, co-director of the center and
emeritus professor in the Department of Food Science and Human
Nutrition at the U of I. "The goal of the ISOY program was to show
that products made from soy ingredients can help reduce fat,
cholesterol and calorie in the lunches and still be acceptable to
A major focus of the pilot program
was demonstrating consumer acceptability of soy and soy-enhanced
foods and showing how they can be easily incorporated into the
school lunch programs.
"Asking whether a product is liked
or disliked in a controlled situation does not always translate into
acceptance in normal eating conditions," Klein said. "In our study,
we used plate waste or the percentage of a product that was consumed
during the usual lunch programs as a proxy for acceptance. If
students consumed the same amount or more of the test product than
the usual one, then we can conclude that the products were at least
The pilot studies were carried out
in four school districts. The test included four different entrees:
spaghetti with sauce, chili, ravioli and nuggets.
The results showed that the
percentage consumed of the soy products versus the meat versions was
the same for the chili and spaghetti dishes used in the study.
"Equal amounts of these foods were
eaten, indicating that children did not notice appreciable
differences," Klein said. "Fat, calories and cholesterol in the soy
versions were reduced by at least one-half."
Soy-enhanced ravioli and a meat
version prepared for the study were not as well-liked, but there was
no difference between the amounts consumed of each.
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"Children ate less of the meatless
nuggets because the students had strong preconceived notions of the
flavor, shape and size of chicken nuggets,"
Klein said. "However, the percentage
consumed was at least 75 percent for both types. This indicates that
soy-based nuggets could be served and achieve acceptance."
She points out that reformulation
and testing with children could also result in development of more
satisfactory products for both nuggets and ravioli.
"From a nutritional standpoint, the
spaghetti made with soy products had 22 percent fewer calories and
43 percent less fat than the meat version," Klein said. "The chili
made with soy had 32 percent fewer calories and 20 percent less fat
than the meat version. The percent of calories from fat was also
reduced from 54 percent to 14 percent."
Based on the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's values for fast-food chicken nuggets, the soy nuggets
had more protein and slightly less total fat. They also had about
half the saturated fat and no cholesterol. All the soy products were
about two-thirds the price of the same item made with meat.
Klein notes that the project was
part of an overall effort by the center to be an active participant
in the fight against childhood obesity.
"Our youth are becoming increasingly
overweight," she said. "Many school lunch programs inadvertently
contribute to this problem by offering high-fat lunches. Working
together on this and other projects, we hope to become part of the
solution for overcoming this increasingly important health issue."
[University of Illinois news release]