Even before the introduction of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, many hospitals had started a movement to produce healthier foods in their kitchens. Hundreds of hospitals took the Healthy Food Pledge from Health Care Without Harm, committing their institutions to better food from sustainable resources. Since the ACA, many other health systems have reconsidered their approach to health food service. Their challenge is to produce healthy fare that’s also delicious in an effort to boost patient satisfaction. Hospital kitchens can make a few changes to start off.
The difficulty that comes with the revamping of hospital food is that the movement appears to heading toward more of a hotel feel – with fine dining options, freedom to order meals at any point and room service. If these accommodations become standard, health care institutions will have to stand out with their food, increasing not only patient satisfaction, but hopefully also loyalty.
Considering new ingredients
One of the first places to start is with the ingredients. Instead of butter, think about using margarine or olive oil spread. The taste will be different, but invite your kitchen staff to experiment with flavors and come up with something that complements it. For those willing to try a more interesting method, Reader’s Digest suggested baking with avocado. It’s a subtle flavor that may be easy to work with and it offers plenty of nutrients. Since it’s a vegetable, consider making carrot cake with it and go from there.
Instead of offering only pre-made brand name cereals, have the chef think of some basic, easy-to-assemble breakfast cereals that offer more nutrition. Granola can be one of the simplest small meals to put together. Make a variety of flavors, like cinnamon, dark chocolate, honey and others. Consider allowing patients to choose what they would like to add in – blueberries, yogurt, raisins and other small ingredients are all quick and easy. This gives patients better control over their meals, making it healthier in the process and ensuring that it doesn’t get too complicated for kitchen staff.
For meat products, make sure to start with the healthiest option before anything is added. Look for the leanest cut of meat available and develop recipes that can make it as appealing to patients as a fattier cut would.
The ACA has many hospitals reevaluating their kitchens and the first step to take in the interest of promoting healthier diets is a reconfiguration of ingredients.