Eating Healthy a Challenge at Many Hospitals
> 2/8/2006 8:18:24 AM

As reported today by the Philadelphia Inquirer, some of our top hospitals are not doing the best job of providing healthy foods in their cafeterias. This news comes by way of a study performed by The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer advocacy organization that focuses on nutrition and healthy eating.

The recent CSPI study examined the offerings in 14 of the U.S.'s 16 best hospitals (as ranked by U.S. News and World Report) as well as the 6 best children's hospitals. The group found that partially hydrogenated oil, a notorious source of artery clogging trans fat, was used in every one of the cafeterias. To standardize their results, CPSI used a serving size of 6 oz., which approximates a large French fry at McDonalds. Their results showed that the University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan and UCLA had the three most harmful offerings.

In their own report, the CPSI excoriated hospitals for their use of trans fat in their cooking practices:
Hospitals should know better than to use partially hydrogenated oil. In 2003, the National Academies' Institute of Medicine concluded that Americans should eat as little trans fat as possible, and in 2004, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended that Americans consume less than 1 percent of their calories from trans fat-about 2 grams per day.

"Deep-fried foods probably shouldn't be served in hospitals in the first place, but foods high in trans fat should certainly be excluded," said Carlos Camargo, Associate Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Harvard Medical School.

French fries have been one of the worst offenders in helping Americans swell their own waist lines. The fact that our hospitals not only serve them, but provide offerings with as much trans fat as they do is not a great sign for our continuing battle of the bulge. If anything medical centers like those that CSPI looked at in their study should be setting the curve for healthy eating by employing cafeterias and eateries that provide low fat yet tasty meals. Obviously, this can be challenging, especially when faced with the budgetary restrictions often faced by large hospitals, but it is a service that would benefit not only those patients and families who utilize the hospitals services, but the numerous doctors, nurses and employees that must eat at the hospital everyday.

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