FORT CARSON, Colo.—The foodservice department at Evans Army Community Hospital on the Army base at Fort Carson has developed a healthy eating and lifestyle program called “Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Soldiers and Families.”
The program’s goal is to change the negative perception of healthy foods, thereby creating healthier patients, staff and families. The program has three primary principals: reducing trans and saturated fats, increasing fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts and moderating the amount of sugar and salt in diets, according to Lt. Col. Melanie Craig, chief of the nutrition care division
Evans’ program is based on the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard Medical School Osher Institute’s “Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives,” conference, which teaches participants about ways to make healthy foods appealing to patients. Clinical Dietitian Kim Milano and Chef Louis Borochaner attended the conference last April. When they returned to Evans, they decided to incorporate the conference’s ideas at their own facility.
So Milano, Borachaner and Craig started brainstorming ways to make healthy dining options more prevalent in the hospital’s café. “The big thing we heard at the conference,” Milano said, “is that when you make changes you need to make sure that they are sustainable and that you don’t overdo it with the great ideas and not be able to follow through.” Instead of implementing all the healthy dining ideas at the same time, the trio introduced the items gradually.
The first healthy initiative introduced was to offer steel cut oats as an alternative to cream of wheat, regular oatmeal and grits at breakfast. This change was received extremely well. “Most mornings we serve more steel cut oats than we do regular oatmeal,” Milano said.
The next change was substituting ground turkey for ground meat in items like tacos and meat sauce for spaghetti.
Other changes include eliminating trans fats in the fryers, adding brown rice and whole grains, starting a daily fresh fruit bar, emphasizing fish, poultry and plan-based proteins for entrées, among many others.
The hospital’s cooks received training as well. “A lot of the cooks are old Army cooks,” Milano said, “and they are used to cooking the way they did years ago.” To demonstrate that healthy foods could taste as good as less-healthy offerings, Chef Borachaner prepared dishes for the cooks to sample. After tasting the new items, the cooks were sold.
Milano said that for the most part, they didn’t advertise the changes, so they could gauge customer reaction, which she said has been overwhelmingly positive. Now, they market with a “Fresh and Good” label on healthier menu options.
With the Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Soldiers and Families initiative, Milano said education was also a huge factor. This fall, a contest based on the TV show, The Biggest Loser, was held. Forty teams of four competed in the contest. Contestants attend educational sessions as part of the contest, and the team that lost the highest percentage of body fat wins a monetary prize
The department also held a “speed dieting” session, during which participants spent five minutes at tables learning different nutrition and healthy lifestyle tactics.
But the trio said the overall goal of the program is to expand it outside the hospital and into the base. Some of the healthy eating initiatives implemented in the hospital café are now being implemented at dining facilities on the Fort Carson base, as well as to the four schools located on base.