Hospital cafeterias put healthier food on the menu

Hospital cafeterias have been notorious as purveyors of junk food. But two ThedaCare hospitals are taking a step away from traditional fare by putting fresher, more nutritious food on the menu.

The deep fryer was banned. Bacon, donuts and super-sized meals and drinks are no longer options. Fresh produce now replaces canned fruit and frozen blocks of veggies.

These are just a few of the changes taking place at ThedaCare's Theda Clark Medical Center and Appleton Medical Center in Wisconsin.

"We suddenly have freezers that have a lot of empty space in them, which is a good thing," ThedaCare's Executive Chef Larry London told the Post-Crescent.

The cafeterias also are phasing out foods high in sodium, fat and cholesterol, and moving toward meat that is free of hormones and antibiotics. More whole grains will be incorporated into French toast, buttermilk pancakes and pasta. In addition, the cafeterias are going locavore, trying to buy more local fresh ingredients.

There's an educational component too. Patients, staff, and guests will be exposed to a new nutrition program that color codes cafeteria foods as green, yellow or red options, based on how processed the food is. For example, an apple is "green," but apple sauce is "yellow," because of the added sweetener, and apple pie is "red."

The idea, ThedaCare spokesman Megan Wilcox told FierceHealthcare, is to get someone to ask why apple sauce and apple pie are not green. Processing takes some of the nutrients out of apple sauce, according to Jan Peiffer, manager of dining and patient room services for ThedaCare and an onsite manager for the food service manager, Sodexo. Apple pie or apple fritters would become a "red" food, because you've added more sugar, fat and salt to the apple, making it less healthy. ThedaCare's goal is to be 70 percent "green" in the cafeterias by 2011.

What's more, at onsite "innovation" stations, cafeteria patrons can sample new items, such as eggplant and barley pilaf, and learn healthy ways to prepare foods.

To learn more:
- read the ThedaCare press release
- see the Post-Crescent article

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