Hospitals Put Health on the Menu with Meatless Monday

August 15th, 2011

The connection between diet and disease is not lost on the medical community, which is why many hospitals have started offering Meatless Monday meals in their cafeterias. Each week staff, patients and visitors alike get a delicious lesson in healthier habits.

Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, located just outside Chicago, started going Meatless Monday in April. Each week they offer enticing dishes like their Strawberry Fields Salad, taking advantage of fresh ingredients from local farms. Like those that came before them, Gottlieb Memorial has joined the movement to showcase nutritious options. “Meatless Monday promotes healthier eating by emphasizing fruits, vegetables and alternative sources of protein that are free from saturated fat” says registered dietician and manager Susan Ofria. The team at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York agrees, explaining why they’ve also decided to offer Meatless Monday meals on their website:

“Each Monday, [Mt. Sinai’s] Plaza Cafe serves more meatless products to encourage employees and visitors to reduce their risk of chronic preventable diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Reducing meat consumption has been shown to; Limit cancer risk, including risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer; reduce risk of heart disease; fight obesity, curb diabetes [and] allows you to improve your diet and live longer.”

The team at Gottlieb Memorial takes pride in their role as good health stewards to their colleagues and the community. “Hospital employees are so busy getting everyone else well that they often neglect their own wellness” says medical director Dr. Carlos Reynes “we want Gottlieb staff to know we are here for them.” It turns out that hospital employees appreciate the helping hand! Cait James, a senior health educator at the Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Medical Center, has been gauging staff reactions to Meatless Monday at her hospital for almost two years: “Overwhelmingly, they felt that Kaiser Permanente was looking out for their health and well being.” A recent staff survey confirmed that employees love the medical center’s Meatless Monday options!

When leading institutional feeder Sodexo decided to offer Meatless Monday materials to over 900 of their hospital clients they knew that nutrition wasn’t enough; if you want staff, patients and visitors to go meatless, you have to entice them with delicious, creative dishes! The Johns Hopkins Hospital was one of the first Sodexo clients to offer Meatless Monday meals. Executive Chef Shawn Fields takes care to create entrees that will have people going meatless for weeks to come: “Once people realize that vegetarian meals provide the protein they need and are just as interesting, flavorful -and fun to prepare- people find them easy to integrate into their lives.”

The tradition of delicious Meatless Monday meals goes for all of Sodexo’s clients; Monday entrees at Holy Spirit Hospital in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania include a southwest inspired Eggplant Tampico. Gottlieb Memorial launched their program with a flavor for everyone: “Chicagoans are ethnically diverse and many have sophisticated palates,” Ms. Ofria explains, “so Gottlieb’s menu includes Italian and Mexican dishes plus trendy entrees and even comfort foods to try and satisfy all appetites.” Meatless Monday then is an opportunity for hospitals to revamp their menu for the better, both in health and taste. Now patients, visitors and staff start the week with nutritious dishes that may just inspire them to make better choices at home.