Hospital food shifts to organic, low-sugar
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
January 22, 2013
The next time doctors or patients in St. John’s Medical Center’s cafeteria pass up water for a sugary soft drink, they may think twice.
At least, that’s what hospital dieticians hope.
In an attempt to decrease the sale of sodas and other sugar-infused refreshments at St. John’s by 20 percent this year, beverages in the Refuge Grill are now labeled with colored stickers indicating how healthy they are, said Bonnie Maddex, a registered dietician at St. John’s.
A green smiley face means a drink has less than 6 grams of sugar per 12 ounces of liquid. That category usually includes only water, soda water and skim milk.
Most soda and sports drinks receive a red sticker, meaning sugar content is above 12 grams. Yellow means the drink’s sugar content falls somewhere in the middle.
“There are so many reasons why people shouldn’t drink soda,” Maddex said. “High-fructose corn syrup and just plain sugar are linked to obesity.”
The soft drink reduction campaign is part of an initiative aimed at making the hospital’s food options healthier.
Those working on the project, including food service manager Margaret Hubbard, rolled out a number of changes this month.
One of those was to subsidize the cost of healthier foods by increasing the price of unhealthy items.
The salad bar, for example, costs 10 percent less than it did in December, Hubbard said. In turn, a large soft drink has shrunk from 22 ounces to 16 ounces, but the price is the same.
Another part of the program is a new focus on local and organic food products.
Beginning this spring, Cosmic Apple Gardens, an organic farm in Teton Valley, Idaho, will deliver fresh vegetables to St. John’s each week. Chefs at the cafeteria have also switched to using cage-free eggs and natural meat that doesn’t contain antibiotics or hormones.
Hospital food is often compared to airplane food, Maddex said, but it shouldn’t be that way. The hospital should be a model for the community.
“Everybody should be eating healthy,” she said. “But I do think that people sometimes look to hospital staff as examples. We should be walking the walk.”
On Friday, the special at the cafeteria was peppers stuffed with quinoa and wild rice. To drink, there was fresh raspberry-rosemary soda water, prepared by Hubbard herself.
Those options are a far cry from the sloppy joes or cheeseburgers that often grace the menu. But the injection of some healthy items will help, hospital staff said.
The aim is to help stressed physicians and nurses working long hours make better food choices when they stop for a quick lunch.
“It’s a matter of convenience,” said Julia Heemstra, wellness coordinator at St. John’s. “People have really short breaks. They’re on their feet. The truth of the matter is they’re going to feel better when they go back to the floor if they have a healthy lunch, rather than a burger and fries.”