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Out with bologna and hot dogs; in with glazed salmon and soy

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WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif.—It's fitting that Dole Food Co., a company whose name is synonymous with fruit and vegetables, promotes healthy eating in its employee cafeteria.

In the Garden Court Cafe, which serves about 300 employees at Dole's headquarters in Westlake Village, Calif., you won't find red meat, nor pork, nothing fried, no bologna or hot dogs, no full-fat dairy, no butter, no sugary soft drinks. The list goes on, said Vp Jennifer Grossman.

"We wanted to make sure that we weren't just talking the talk; that we were walking the walk," said Ms. Grossman, who oversees the Dole Nutrition Institute and the company's approach to incorporating its corporate wellness policy in its cafeteria menu.

Instead of chili con carne, there's "chili non carne," a soy-based version of the popular Tex-Mex favorite. A "soyrizo" and egg substitute burrito is a popular choice at breakfast time. Lean turkey burgers and turkey "Philly" (cheese steak) sandwiches are also regular offerings.

The switch to all-healthy went into effect three and a half years ago, although it took a while for employees to come around, according to Ms. Grossman.

"There was that bad period of transition because people really have habits and attachments to their food," she said. "But generally this (change) didn't occur in a tire manufacturing company; it occurred at a fruit and vegetable company. It wasn't out of left field for us."

To help ease in the new way of life in its cafeteria, the company hired professional health-food chefs to design the recipes and menus that would entice employees. Dole offered free tastings to those who were skeptical. The company continues to introduce new ways of serving healthy fare.

Each week the company publishes for its employees a menu featuring a combination of more than four dozen choices of entrees, soups, salads, sandwiches and breakfasts. Common are heart-healthy fish dishes, such as orange roughy with fresh citrus salsa and sea bass with pineapple relish. Fresh vegetarian soups, such as curry spinach and wild mushroom, are also regular features.

As for prices, nothing costs more than $5.25.

The cafeteria is now a part of what attracts and retains employees at Dole, Ms. Grossman said. "We have a reputation."

In February, Dole announced that it would be sharing its approach with other companies. Although it said it would not charge directly for the use of its program, Dole said it would co-brand its components with other employers that use it (BI, March 5).