Only 44% of children’s hospitals offered “low cal” salad dressing, while 81% offered cookies. Quelle horreur!
From a University of California-Los Angeles media release:
Food served in children’s hospitals rated largely unhealthy
Given the obesity epidemic among the nation’s young, one might hope that children’s hospitals would serve as a role model for healthy eating. But hospitals in California fall short, with only 7 percent of entrees classified as “healthy,” according to a new study published in the journal Academic Pediatrics.
Researchers from UCLA and the RAND Corp. assessed 16 food venues at the state’s 14 major children’s hospitals and found much room for improvement in their offerings and practices.
“As health professionals, we understand the connection between healthy eating and good health, and our hospitals should be role models in this regard,” said Dr. Lenard Lesser, the primary investigator on the study and a physician in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program in the department of family medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. “Unfortunately, the food in many hospitals is no better — and in some cases worse — than what you would find in a fast food restaurant.”
The study authors developed a modified version of the Nutrition Environment Measures Study for restaurants (NEMS-R) as an assessment tool for rating the food offerings in hospital cafeterias. This measurement system takes into account pricing, the availability of vegetables, nutrition labeling, combination promotions and healthy beverages.
Overall, the average score for the 16 hospital food venues was 19.1 — on a scale of 0 (least healthy) to 37 (most healthy). Of the total 384 entrees and sandwiches the hospitals served, only 7 percent were classified as healthy according to the NEMS-R criteria. And while nearly all the hospitals offered healthy alternatives such as fruit, less than one-third had nutritional information at the point of sale or signs to promote healthy eating.
Other key findings included:
- All 16 food venues offered low-fat or skim milk and diet soda.
- 81 percent offered high-calorie, high-sugar items such as cookies and ice cream near the cash register.
- 25 percent sold whole wheat bread.
- Half the hospitals did not provide any indication that they carried healthy entrees.
- 44 percent did not have low-calorie salad dressings.
Since no one had previously documented the health of food in these hospitals, researchers provided hospital administrators with their scores to encourage improvement. Since the study was conducted, in July 2010, some of the hospitals surveyed have taken steps to improve their fare and/or reduce unhealthy offerings. For example, some have eliminated fried food, lowered the price of salads and increased the price of sugary beverages or eliminated them altogether from their cafeterias.
“The steps some hospitals are already taking to improve nutrition and reduce junk food are encouraging,” Lesser said. “We plan to make this nutritional quality measurement tool available to hospitals around the country to help them assess and improve their food offerings.”
Researchers said hospitals can improve the health of their food offerings by providing more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and smaller portions; shrinking the amount of low-nutrient choices; utilizing low-cost options, such as signage, to promote healthy eating; and keeping unhealthy “impulse” items away from the checkout stand.
“If we can’t improve the food environment in our hospitals, how do we expect to improve the health of food in our community?” Lesser said. “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.”
Why not wait until they’re out of the hospital before torturing them with “health” foods?