Thrilling to see this Yahoo coverage of one of the country’s emerging voices for culinary medicine, which blends the art of cooking with the science of medicine to create high quality meals which help prevent and treat disease.
Medical schools are just starting to realize that they’re falling behind leaders like North Shore and the Cleveland Clinic, and that others–chefs, coaches and trainers, not mention dietitians, nurses and pharmacists–are offering direct help to patients who want to use food as medicine, too.
Hospital food is an embarrassment to health conscious people, including many good cooks, everywhere. It’s also hazardous to the health of many hospitalized patients.
Luckily, smart initiatives like those at Stanford, Loma Linda, UCSF, UCLA, Fletcher Allen in VT are serving more organic food, taking out the deep fryers and the soda machines, and beginning to cultivate clinical gardens for demonstration, interaction and for meals. More local produce is on the table: here is coverage of healthy food initiatives in med schools and hospitals from all across the U.S. and a 2014 cspi list; here are UK guidelines; and here is an Aussie declaration against hospital fast food, which apparently fell on deaf ears.
A healthy foods list for hospitals would include all foods which were unprocessed and without additives. Thus, most highly processed food would be off the every day menu–many breads and pastries, candy and cookies, and food you can crumple. So would soda, energy drinks, and sugar sweetened beverages: arguably, sugar is an additive, and not a food, as it does not occur in nature, except in unprocessed form (honey, sugar cane, corn, beets). Artificial sweetened food and drink would also be off the menu, as would trans fat containing foods, which rarely occur in nature.
Here is a list of my criteria for healthy conference foods, designed to improve attendee performance and productivity, and implemented at CIGNA, Johns Hopkins, and AMA meetings, among others.
A comfort food menu would include these foods, and I have written and spoken about comfort foods and how important they are, elsewhere. Yet most Americans are unaware that Chick-fil-A has at least 20 public hospital locations, McDonald’s has at least 18, and Wendy’s has at least five. And that’s just public hospitals.
Comfort food near the end of life is one thing. Junk food hastening the end of life is another. If we serve fast food to patients and visitors, we’re only guaranteeing return business to the hospital. We can do better…a lot better.