The Nation’s Healthiest Hospital Food

Featured Article, Healthy Recipes and Nutrition, Nutrition, Power to the Patient
on August 14, 2012

You’d think that a place that exists to make sick people well would be all about healthy foods—but all it takes is one visit to a hospital cafeteria to know that’s not exactly the case. Indeed, reports of unhealthy fare being served in our nation’s hospitals have made headlines in recent years, focusing on high sodium and fat levels and the presence of fast food chains in cafeterias. But uou won’t find mushy meatloaf—or Big Macs–on the menu at these five hospitals. The healthcare facilities believe quality patient care starts in the kitchen—and their fresh, nutritious gourmet dishes are earning rave reviews.

Adventist Medical Center, Portland, Oregon: At many hospitals, calling the eatery a “bistro” might seem like an overly optimistic attempt to elevate the experience. But Adventist’s Living Well Bistro more than earns the name, with its sophisticated all-vegan menu featuring green smoothies, quinoa bowls, Portobello pizzas and more. It was developed with the help of Portland restaurateur Bo Rinaldi. In a city with no shortage of vegan options, Living Well is already attracting lots of local traffic. An attached health-food store sells organic food, local breads and cookbooks. On the menu: Sunflower paté with flax crackers

Fletcher Allen Health Care, Burlington, Vermont: The Fletcher Allen hospital kitchen is among the facilities leading the way nationally in a commitment to local and sustainable food sources. More than half of the food served up in the kitchen—about 5,000 meals a day and 2 million a year—is sourced from Vermont farmers and growers, including a garden on the hospital roof that features alpine strawberries, Swiss chard and eggplant. The hospital also has its own beekeeper, who provides more than 300 pounds of local honey to be served each year. On the menu: Seitan chili wrap with cilantro tofu dipping sauce

Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, Michigan: There are no deep fryers or freezers at Henry’s, the cafeteria at Henry Ford, and most of the entrees offered are vegetarian. But it’s not enough just to serve healthy food—the administrators are passionate about using the facilities as a platform for nutrition education. A 90-seat demonstration kitchen features cooking classes on a variety of topics, from vegan food to nutrition for cancer patients to college cooking basics. A greenhouse scheduled to open later this year will serve as a community classroom for organic farming and gardening. On the menu: Organic ratatouille omelet

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New Milford Hospital, New Milford, Connecticut: Six years ago, New Milford Hospital ranked in the 51th percentile for patient meal satisfaction. Now that number’s in the high 90s—and the hospital’s café is a popular lunchtime destination for the community. That’s thanks to a complete overhaul of the food services program, including a ban on high-fructose corn syrup and canned and processed foods; a new vendor; and a chef trained at the Culinary Institute of America. The café’s signature lavender scones feature herbs grown on the premises. On the menu: Squash risotto with local corn, sage and honey

Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, Palo Alto, California: You might think the cafeteria of a hospital that treats more than 12,000 children a year would be a Candyland full of comfort food. But when the eatery at Lucile Packard flooded last December and needed to be renovated, administrators decided to redo the menu, too. They banned sugar-sweetened sodas and banished candy bars and other sugary treats from the checkout lanes. That doesn’t mean there are no treats in sight: Visitors can nosh on frozen yogurt or dessert portions slimmed down to fewer than 120 calories and no more than 30 percent of calories from fat. On the menu: Grilled salmon marinated with orange, paprika, cumin, sesame and mint