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A fitter fare
Gwinnett schools give a lunch favorite a healthy makeover

SUWANEE - In its effort to provide healthier food to students, Gwinnett County Public Schools is now serving all-natural beef hot dogs in its lunch lines.

The gluten-free product has almost half the amount of sodium as the previous version of the district's most popular entree, as well as fewer calories and less fat, said dietitian Karen Crawford, the school system's nutrition education coordinator.

"They're a little more expensive, but the health benefits trump the cost," Crawford said. "We certainly save money where we can to spend money where we need it."

Schools began serving the hot dogs in December, Crawford said.

"Students may not know yet they're eating a new hot dog that's better for them," she said.

The new hot dog will allow students with celiac disease to safely join their classmates in the cafeteria on the days the entree is served, Crawford said. People with celiac disease are not able to digest gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye.

Another health benefit: The hot dogs are also nitrate free. Nitrates have been linked to cancer, said John Bogert, chief marketing officer for Coleman Natural Food, the company that makes the hot dogs.

About 20 school systems throughout the United States serve the product, Coleman said.

"As soon as the product went on the market to schools nationwide, we knew it was in the best interest of our students to add it to our menu," Crawford said.