Fairly or not, hospital food often gets a universal bad rap. Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle in Columbus is out to change that. With the implementation of the Great Living Menu, the health care facility aims to make meal time something to look forward to, for patients as well diners in its cafeteria and cafe.
With dinner choices ranging from baked ziti and herb roasted pork loin to homemade meatloaf brushed with sweet tomato glaze, and lunch selections like smokehouse chicken sandwiches, beef stew and oven fried chicken, variety and prep are definitely taking a new direction.
Brown is out. Green, orange and yellow are in — as in fresh steamed broccoli, sauteed squash, roasted vegetables such as peppers, whole green beans and carrots and mashed sweet potatoes sweetened with “just a touch” of maple syrup.
The new focus is on meals prepared with the freshest ingredients possible; replacing the butter and salt with olive oil and fresh herbs and spices. A healthy side of dietary education helps patients realize hospital meals can both taste good and be good for them, said Megan Pratt, the hospital’s director of marketing.
Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. contracted with Morrison Food Service in 2013 to provide the food service throughout its 14-hospital system. At Baptist-Golden Triangle, that started a gradual shift toward a healthier menu, not only for patients but also for employees and visitors who eat in the hospital’s Main Cafeteria and Corner Cafe.
Soon the traditional broccoli with cheese sauce was replaced with crisp, bright green steamed broccoli (minus the cheese sauce option). The canned green beans and carrots were replaced with tasty, crisp, well-seasoned, roasted versions, and salad choices multiplied.
It was a trend that started in California, explained Libby Walker, Baptist-Golden Triangle director of Food and Nutrition Services, and has grown mainly due to the Internet. “There is so much more information available to people now. The education level of the public has been raised to eat more healthy foods,” she said.
Patients at Baptist Golden Triangle have long been able to select their menu items from a traditional list of dishes. Now, not only are menu items prepared fresh each day, there are also more options. The biggest change may be a new ‘Always Available’ menu listing items ranging from pasta and pizza to a variety of soups, sandwiches and salads, a wide variety of breakfast items, beverages and desserts that are now accessible to patients any time, as long as their physician gives the OK.
Changes in the kitchen
The new focus on preparing fresh menu items daily has meant a big learning curve for the dietary staff, according to Morrison’s on-site Executive Chef Drew Dixon, who has implemented the new menu items and trained dietary staff.
“The staff now has to cut the onions, pick the fresh herbs and make the mousse,” he said, citing some examples of changes. But when one menu can meet the dietary requirements for up to six different diets, it’s worth the extra time and cuts down on waste in the kitchen, he added. For instance, oven fried chicken contains no salt and uses egg whites and crushed corn flakes in place of a traditional crust. It can be served to a patient on a regular diet or a physician-ordered reduced fat, reduced cholesterol or low sodium diet.
“It’s been a big change for the kitchen staff. They are no longer opening a can and dumping food in a pot. Now, they are cutting fresh vegetables every day,” said Dixon. And more roasted vegetables means more time spent in front of the oven, he added.
Presentation is also a big ingredient in the new system, according to both Walker and Dixon. For patients on a pureed food diet, instead of getting a mound of ground meat, their ground pork chop will actually be put in a food form and show up on the plate in the shape of an actual pork chop. The same applies to a chicken breast or hamburger patty.
“We want our food to not only taste good, but to also look appetizing,” Walker said.
With all of the changes in the menu, it seemed the biggest question, at least for employees and the public, centered around a staple on the Wednesday retail lunch line — the fried chicken. Would it make the healthy menu cut?
No fears, reassured both Walker and Dixon. “Every hospital has that one item they have had for years and years. There will still be fried chicken on the retail line at lunch on Wednesdays,” said Walker.
Chef Dixon will present a free Community Education program, with complimentary lunch, Jan. 20, from noon to 1 p.m. He will discuss the Great Living Menu and how to eat healthier at home. In order to get an accurate lunch count, preregistration is required by Friday, Jan. 16 by calling 662-244-1132. Editor’s note: The Dispatch thanks Megan Pratt for information contained in this story.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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