Beans Make the Scene in Healthcare

Brought to you by Bush Brothers

Hospital food is progressing far beyond the old stereotype of blah institutional fare. Lively flavors, global recipes and fresh ingredients increasingly appear on patient trays and retail cafeteria plates. In particular, nutritional standouts like beans, whole grains and locally grown produce are finding prominent roles.

At New Milford Hospital in Connecticut, Kerry Gold, Unidine Corp. dining services manager, has been leading a culinary and nutritional renaissance since taking over the kitchen of the 85-bed facility in 2009.

Upon arrival, Gold purged the menu of fried foods, hot dogs, commercial deli meats, white pasta and white rice. He now serves sandwiches made with freshly roasted turkey and roast beef and bases other dishes on whole wheat pasta, brown rice, fresh produce from local farms and a variety of beans.
New Milford’s Tuscan Navy Bean Soup gets its zest from locally grown garlic and tomatoes, and like all of Gold’s soups has a housmade stock made with onion skins, celery tops, carrot peels and other kitchen trimmings. Its vegetable chili is an ensemble of navy beans, kidney beans, onion, garlic, fresh tomatoes, four varieties of local squash, fresh roasted corn kernels and barley. Customary salad bar toppings include kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans and black beans.
Michele MacDonnell, R.D., C.D.N., clinical nutrition manager of the hospital, notes that one-quarter cup of cooked beans counts as a one ounce protein serving. “The non-meat proteins like beans, nuts and soy are very high in phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and fiber, and they also have the healthier forms of fat, not saturated fat,” says MacDonnell.
With signature dishes like Stuffed Portabello on Sautéed Spinach with Balsamic Glaze and Wild Mushroom Risotto with English Peas, the 32-seat hospital café averages more than 400 orders per day, most of them for takeout. Lunchtime regulars include the mayor and many other area residents. In addition, patient satisfaction scores have risen from around the 30th percentile prior to the quality enhancements to the high 90s today.

At healthcare facilities managed by Compass Group North America, incorporating beans in popular comfort foods like macaroni and cheese as well as baked goods and soups is a common method of cutting overall calories and fat while increasing fiber and flavor.

“Beans, being nutrient dense without so many calories, really help with this,” says Jennifer Ignacio, R.D., nutrition communications manager. “Often, you get a very good flavor profile and still have a better nutrient mix.”

Beans also figure in the healthful and tasty recipes of Moose on the Loose, a special program for pediatric patients of the healthcare division of Compass Group’s Morrison Management Specialists. In one example, beans replace flour in chocolate cupcakes. “It results in a cupcake that is not only gluten free, but also really healthier,” says Ignacio. “It has been exciting for the kids.”

At Banner Thunderbird Medical Center in Glendale, Ariz., director of culinary and nutrition services Julie Spelman, R.D., and executive chef Jaime Palenque cite healthfulness, customer satisfaction and relatively low price as the main reasons beans are widely used on menus at the 430-bed hospital.

For starters, Mexican and Tex-Mex bean dishes are a no-brainer in Arizona. “Anything that has that flavor, you can sell here,” declares Spelman.

However, Spelman and Palenque also reach further afield for Indian-inspired specialties like spicy lentils and vegetarian pie of beans, rice, almonds and dried fruit. Such dishes appeal to the large contingent of Indian and Middle Eastern health professionals on the medical staff. Other favorites are chickpeas, used abundantly in hummus, and for salad bar toppings, black beans, pinto beans and black-eyed peas. In addition, most days there is a bean soup on the menu, such as navy bean or Tuscan chicken with cannellini beans. “Beans are very well accepted and we rely on them a lot,” says Palenque.