The medical community has issued repeated warnings about the health risks associated with our population's current level of obesity. Super-sized portions, high fat and sugar-laden food choices are convenient and so readily available, they tempt us at every meal. In an effort to lead by example, all Providence hospitals in Oregon are in the process of adopting a Healthy Dining Initiative.
"We are well aware that over 60 percent of the population is in the overweight or obese category," says Karen Bartalini, director of general services at Providence Medford Medical Center. "We see firsthand the downside of making poor food choices with health issues that we see every day whether it's diabetes or heart disease or obesity."
One of the first changes they have made is removing the deep fryers from all the kitchens. "Even though chicken strips are one of the all-time favorites, we're looking at how we can prepare things differently, like baking our chicken strips and offering teriyaki chicken skewers," Bartalini says. "My staff is looking at healthy alternatives that are lower in fat and have more nutritional value. Our goal is to make a healthy choice the easy choice for our patients, our staff and our visitors."
These changes are the result of a coordinated effort by dieticians and executive chefs at each of the facilities. For instance, the salad bar has received a makeover with more options and better choices for dressings. "We're also looking at how we can minimize sugar-sweetened beverages and offer beverages that have medium or low sugar content," Bartalini says. "We will have healthier snack selections, not only in our cafeteria, but in the vending machines."
Providence takes pride in promoting healthier communities and through this initiative, they hope to model better eating habits. With eight separate facilities, the transition will take time.
"This will be a gradual rollout. It won't happen all of a sudden, like tomorrow we have all healthy food and no donuts in sight, but those kinds of high fat and calorie choices will become less obvious," Bartalini says. "We'll be working at this in little pieces at a time."