MARQUETTE - In an effort to combat obesity, Marquette General Hospital is improving the food served at the hospital for staff, visitors and patients, making it healthier and more nutritional.
MGH is one of about 50 Michigan hospitals taking part in the Healthy Food Hospitals program. Hospitals earn stars in the four-star program by improving the nutritional value of default menus for food and beverages, adding nutritional content labels to cafeteria and menu items, and committing to buying more Michigan grown and produced food products. The program was created by the Michigan Health & Hospital Association.
Carol Holman, the hospital's director of food and nutrition services, said MGH has already eliminated trans fats from its menu and will unveil a new hot food menu on Monday. The new menu features well-being combinations - meals with less than 550 calories, 15 gams of fat or less and to two to three grams of fiber.
Marquette General Hospital will have a new “Well Being” option in the cafeteria for patients and vistors starting Monday for those who wish to eat healthier meals. The options will be listed online and indicated by signs in the cafeteria. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"If someone purchases this combination they get it at a discounted price. You also get a punch-card and once you purchase 10 of the well-being combinations, the 11th is free," she said.
The program also emphasizes fresh food. Holman said the hospital's executive chef will prepare stir-fry on Tuesdays and Thursdays and other fresh foods and fresh salads made to order on Fridays.
In addition, the hospital will work with the Marquette Food Co-op and local farmers to have a farmers market on hospital property on Aug. 19. Holman said MGH has incorporated local produce into its menu before and will likely continue the practice.
"It's hard sometimes, for the quantity we're preparing, to always use local but we try to stress that as much as we can," Holman said.
The Healthy Food Hospitals program focuses on improving hospital menus for children and adults. The first two stars are accomplished when hospitals adopt pediatric patient default menus for children ages 2 to 18 that meet American Heart Association guidelines, and using Bishpenol A free containers and/or reusable cups. The third star is achieved when hospitals label food nutritional content in their cafeterias. Hospitals complete the fourth star by committing to source at least 20 percent Michigan-grown, produced and processed foods. In March, the MHA conducted well-attended regional training forums in Lansing, Novi and Gaylord to introduce the concept and show Michigan hospitals how to implement it.
MGH has already obtained the first star and should have the third star by Monday. It is scheduled to get the second and fourth stars within the next nine years.
Holman said neither the hospital's menu or the items located in several vending machines at the hospital contain trans fats. Trans- fatty acids are formed during the process of hydrogenation. They are common in margarine and shortening and food which contain hydrogenated fats like baked goods, fried foods and snack foods. These fats also can raise LDL cholesterol, which has been linked to an increased risk in heart disease, Holman said.
"I'm pretty excited about it," Holman said of the changes. "In the health care industry, we really should be making an example. You need to make options available to people and I think that's really the direction we're going. We're giving a variety of different options and we're also not penalizing someone for eating healthy because often when you see things that are diet or healthy they often cost more and we're trying not to penalize people by offering well-being choices that won't cost you more."
Christopher Diem can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.