Hey Chef: Here is what is missing from your recipe

If you want to have your recipe analyzed for its nutrition content you have two choices: send several samples of the prepared menu item to a laboratory so they can perform chemical analysis or have a food and nutrition expert calculate the nutrition content using your recipe and ingredient information.

If you chose the latter approach (which is much more cost effective), the accuracy and completeness of the recipe you provide to the analyst is critical.

While your standardized recipe may be complete for restaurant operations, you may be surprised at what may be missing to conduct an accurate nutrient analysis.

I asked three of my favorite recipe analysts what is most often missing from the recipes they are given. Take a second look at your recipes after reviewing this expert advice from Wendy Hess, Christin Loudon and Patricia DiLorenzo.

• Failure to clarify ounce vs. fluid ounce. One is a weight and the other is a measure. You cannot assume that 1 fluid ounce also weighs 1 ounce; it will depend on the density of the product. It is best practice to analyze recipes using weights because they are more accurate.

• Missing yield information. Cooking and moisture changes must be taken into account when analyzing a recipe, which makes having only the weight of the unprocessed or uncooked ingredients problematic. The final yield of the cooked product is important.

• Lack of details. Are the nuts salted? Is the flour enriched? What fat content is the ground beef and is the skin on or off the chicken? These details make a big difference in your final result. If you don’t provide them up front, you can be sure that your analyst will pester you relentlessly for these details.

• Omitting the name of the brand or supplier. Similar products can vary greatly in their nutrition content, especially when it comes to sodium. If you know what brand you use, include those details. If you know what supplier provides it, send the spec sheet along so the exact nutrition can be used.

If you want to increase your understanding of recipe analysis, check out www.recipenutrientanalysis.com

Cheryl L. Dolven, MS, RDN is a nutrition consultant with over 15 years in corporate dietetics, including experience in packaged foods, retail, and restaurants. In addition to her work in nutrition affairs and food & nutrition communication, Cheryl works with restaurants to guide them through the menu labeling regulation, with the goal of making it manageable for businesses and meaningful for consumers. Cheryl is co-author of Recipe Nutrient Analysis: Best Practices for Calculation and Chemical Analysis and was recognized by FSR Magazine as one of its “40 rising stars under 40” in 2014.

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