Hospital Cafeteria Food Undermines Wellness Movement

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , December 5, 2011

Yes, it's a matter of choice and will power. But why, as champions of healthier living, would hospitals provide a temptation to people who are trying to improve their health?  Would you wave a Marlboro in front of an ex-smoker? 

The UCLA/RAND study found that many hospitals provided healthy alternatives such as fruit, but that less than one-third of the hospitals provided point-of-sale signage that offered nutritional information or promoted healthy eating.

Even worse, 81% of the hospitals offered high-sugar items such as cookies and ice cream near the cash register—which any tabloid news junkie or candy bar fiend at your local supermarket will confirm is Ground Zero for impulse buying.

In addition, half of the hospitals in the study did not indicate to consumers that they carried healthy entrees, and 44% did not have low-calorie salad dressings. Cracker Barrel and Shoney's do that!

There is some good news. While the findings were released this month, the study was conducted in July 2010 and the researchers said that since then some hospitals have taken steps to eliminated unhealthy offerings. For example, some have eliminated fried foods, lowered the prices for salads, and hiked prices for sugary drinks, or eliminated them altogether.

Lesser said it best: "If we can't improve the food environment in our hospitals, how do we expect to improve the health of food in our community? By serving as role models for healthy eating, we can make a small step toward helping children prevent the onset of dietary-related chronic diseases."

Amen! And, pass the veggies, please.

John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.

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