Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Healthy Choices

You can buy baked chicken and a salad every day at Wilson Medical Center's Cafe Court. Or maybe a black bean burger with some fresh fruit is more to your liking.

But if you'd rather have a serving of fried chicken tenders and french fries, you're in luck, too.

It's all about making choices, said Dan Cantu, director of food and nutrition services at Wilson Medical Center.

And the hospital is helping its employees and anyone else who eats in Cafe Court to make informed choices. Not only do they prepare healthy foods, in some cases they display the nutritional content of their menu items. For instance, a sign at the grill notes the turkey burger fat content is 9.5 grams with 203 calories. A veggie burger has only 2.7 grams of fat and 130 calories, but the cheeseburger jumps to 24 grams and 476 calories. A grilled chicken sandwich weighs in at 2.2 grams of fat and 146 calories.

The beef hamburger is still a very popular menu item, said Ricky Letchworth, cafeteria supervisor, but more and more people are paying attention to those fat grams and are opting for the healthier turkey, vegetable or black bean burger, he said. And to make it even healthier, they're ordering it on a whole wheat bun.

At breakfast, pork sausage and turkey sausage are each served in the cafeteria. About a third of the sales are for the turkey sausage, Letchworth said.

"We're selling more and more," he said. "People are making those choices."

Employees are also happy to see the big bowl of Apple Cranberry Salad at the salad bar. The salad is garnished with walnuts and feta cheese and dressed with fat-free raspberry vinaigrette. Letchworth sells two to three large serving bowls of the special salads each day.

The hospital has offered healthy menu items for years, but it's stepping up its efforts in order to receive a Red Apple designation from N.C. Prevention Partners. The organization's mission is "prevention first for a healthier North Carolina."

Wilson Medical Center currently has a Yellow Apple status as it implements its plan for a Red Apple, meaning the hospital will be designated a "healthy food environment." That should happen this spring.

To get there, the hospital must meet a number of goals from training food services staff on portion control, to working with outside vendors for healthier options, to labeling foods that can easily be identified as healthy.

Healthy choices will be labeled with a yellow and black bumble bee in the hospital cafeteria. Already, the bee is displayed on menu items and refrigerated beverages that are considered the healthy choice.

And soon, those who eat in the cafeteria will be able to thumb through a notebook of menu items to find the nutritional content of their meal. That process was quite labor-intensive, said Shannon Jackson, clinical dietitian supervisor. The hospital cafeteria is self-managed, and staff couldn't rely on a big corporation to supply the nutrition information.

Hospital dietitian Kay Johnson analyzed each recipe in the hospital's four-week rotation in order to calculate the nutritional content.

Employees and visitors to the hospital will soon see some more changes to the regular menu, Letchworth said. He'll be offering more healthy choices, including a healthy soup of the day, and wants to serve fish twice a week instead of three times a month, he said. Lightly seasoned vegetables will also be on the menu each day.

Jackson said they get mixed messages from their customers. Some are thrilled to have the healthy options, others get defensive and say the cafeteria staff is trying to change them.

Cantu said the challenge is to get people to eat in the cafeteria every day and not get tired of it. With 1,200 register transactions in the cafeteria each day, they need to keep their customers happy, but they also want them healthy.

Strawberry Walnut Salad
  • 1 2 1/2-pound bag spinach or spring mix or both
  • Two quart containers thinly sliced strawberries
  • One red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups walnuts
  • Feta cheese for garnish
  • Fat-free raspberry vinaigrette dressing
Mix ingredients and toss with vinaigrette. You can easily change the ingredient amounts for a smaller salad.

WilMed Cafe Court

Citrus Chicken Salad
  • One bag spinach (or spring mix, or both)
  • 1 pound diced fajita chicken strips
  • 1 30-oz. can mandarin orange slices (drained)
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • Fat-free balsamic vinaigrette dressing
Mix salad ingredients and toss with dressing. You can easily change the ingredient amounts for a smaller salad.

WilMed Cafe Court

Apple Cranberry Salad
  • 1 2 1/2-pound bag spinach or spring mix or both
  • 6 diced Red Delicious apples tossed with lemon juice if desired (don’t peel)
  • 2 cups Craisins
  • One-half red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts
  • Feta cheese to garnish
  • Fat-free Raspberry vinaigrette
Mix ingredients and toss with vinaigrette. You can easily change the ingredient amounts for a smaller salad.

WilMed Cafe Court

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