Chicago hospital cafeterias embrace healthy focus

Hospitals try to encourage healthy eating without forcing it.

March 21—The new 866,000-square-foot Elmhurst Memorial Hospital features a state-of-the-art emergency department, 259 private in-patient suites, the da Vinci robotic surgical system, the first Aquilion ONE 320-slice CT scanner in Illinois, and an Open Bore MRI.

To complement such cutting-edge services and technology, the hospital offers healthier food choices at its new Wildflower Cafe, the latest addition to a growing list of area hospital cafeterias that serve up tasty, nutritious meals.

Among the choices for Elmhurst visitors are turkey burgers with lower sodium content, sweet potato fries, a grilled portobello sandwich, a Mediterranean vegetable bake, vegetable stir fries, and mahi mahi with mushrooms and tomatoes. Also on the menu are whole wheat breads, low-fat yogurt and braised lentil pilaf.

"The plan of the hospital was to offer more selections of food and healthier and more cooked-to-order food," said James Roth, certified executive chef at the cafe.

Each food station features a widescreen digital monitor displaying a menu, calorie counts and fat content for the daily entrees and some of the daily specials. "We try to encourage people to eat healthfully without being preachy," Roth said.

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University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., has replaced a fajita bar in one of its dining halls with a superfoods bar, Tommie Media reports.

Aiming to provide more options for athletes and students with dietary restrictions, the new bar offers diners a choice of protein with a variety of toppings, such as beans, fruit, couscous and quinoa.

The superfoods bar has made a few appearances on campus since it was first tried for the school’s football players last summer.

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Reading Hospital in West Reading, Pa., is using robots to help deliver patient meals, BCTV reports.

The eight robots, named TUGs, will be used to transport meals from the hospital’s nutrition services department to patient floors at Reading HealthPlex for Advanced Surgical & Patient Care.

Moving at three miles per hour, the robots will follow preprogrammed routes to the HealthPlex, where room ambassadors will remove room service carts from the TUGs and deliver them to patients. The TUGs will then return to nutrition services with dirty dishes for cleaning.

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Sodexo has partnered with fast casual Blaze Pizza to offer the chain’s signature pizzas, salads, beverages and desserts at select venues served by Sodexo, including colleges and universities.

Bill Lacey, senior vice president of marketing at Sodexo, said that Blaze’s growth in the fast-casual sector drove the partnership. Blaze opened its first unit in 2012 near the University of California at Irvine. Its pizzas are flash fired, cooking in under 180 seconds, according to the chain—a selling point for busy customers.

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