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Hospitals Setting Health Food Example: May 10, 2014

Toss the notion of grabbing grub at a hospital cafeteria. What you’ll find more and more are healthy choices as health care settings undergo a food makeover.

 “We will be removing all our fryers from all our cafeterias. So we push people away from their preponderance of fried foods and lead them to healthier products like freshly made salad or whole fruit or maybe a lean burger or a lean piece of chicken with no skin,” says Larry Altier, who is the director of food and nutrition with Lee Memorial Health System.

For years hospitals suffered a bad rap for serving cheap, lack-luster food. Instead of fighting the stereotype, health systems are taking aim.

 “We introduced about 40% more salad bar products, we introduced lean meats, more fish, fresh vegetables, we had an exhibition station that offers a vegetarian option daily,” Altier says.

The idea is to toss out the salty, greasy, sugary and fattening foods and adding more lean, fresh and plant-based. Serving as a healthy example, promoting the benefits of a good diet.

 “Give it about three to four weeks you’ll start to see the energy levels start to go up, usually cholesterol will go down, weight starts to go down,” says Jeanne Struve, a registered dietitian with Lee Memorial Health System.

Fresh foods are typically viewed as more expensive, but Lee Memorial Health System controls costs by relying largely on its massive food service operation which produces for all of its hospitals and retail settings.

“We are able in this capacity to buy directly from manufacturers or the suppliers via the farm or at a local ingredient supplier,” Larry Altier says.

The end results are cafeterias that are breaking new ground, without breaking the bank.