6 dishes healthcare FSDs can’t wait to menu this winter

winter food

While healthy riffs on comfort foods are popping up on hospital and retirement community menus this season, healthcare operators are also debuting fresher fare such as salads and acai bowls. Here’s what’s appearing on menus this winter.

1. A waste-reducer and health-booster

spaghetti squash

This winter, Carolinas Healthcare System Stanly in Albemarle, N.C., is creating a healthier (and more sustainable) build-your-own item with its customizable spaghetti squash bowl. Folks are jumping on “the stem-to-stalk bandwagon,” says Executive chef Jennifer Leamons. “I will be offering a half of a small spaghetti squash with assorted meats, grains and vegetables for our teammates and guests to focus on the plant being the main focus and the proteins and starch being an afterthought to enhance the flavor of the spaghetti squash.”

The menu item is topped with a variety of sauces including zesty marinara, chimichurri, Thai peanut sauce and mushroom veloute. Leamons says the hospital will offer the dish at a lower price as a combo meal to entice customers to try it. The dish will come with a flavored bottled water and a small bag of dried fruit trail mix for a snack. 

2. Salad swap

cucumber crown salad

Residents at The Watermark at Beverly Hills now have the choice to trade a traditional entree for a salad at lunch. One of the new salad options is a cucumber crown salad, which includes chopped lettuce, chopped tomatoes, sliced red onion, feta cheese cubes, sliced hard- cooked egg, dried cranberries and balsamic-glazed walnuts. Executive Chef and Dining Services Director James Howland says that as more baby boomers move into senior living communities, he’s finding the need to move away from the meat-and-potatoes menus made popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s toward healthier, more modern options. 

Photo courtesy of Watermark Retirement Communities

3. Brazilian bowls

Brazilian chicken

Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, Colo., is introducing two Brazilian bowls to its menu this winter: a chicken bowl and tofu bowl, both with rice and chimichurri sauce. “We have been working on adding less meat options to our menu,” says Interim Foodservice Director and Executive Chef JP Krause. “Having a bowl with ancient grains [and] world flavors and topping it your way is perfect in the changing world.”

Guests will be able to customize their bowls with a variety of toppings, including chopped mint, diced tomato, fresh jalapeno, freshly chopped raw diced squash and blanched green peas. 

4. Healthy finger food

Chicken Cordon Bleu

The Fountains at Bronson Place in Kalamazoo, Mich., recently introduced a program called Thrive Dining, which aims to offer memory care patients nutritious meals that are easy to eat. About a month into the new program, the dining team turned to residents of the senior living community for feedback, asking which dishes they would like to see on the menu. “In one of our talks with our residents, they said they would like comfort food, but still healthy,” says Executive Chef Emily Meijer. “So we came up with a Chicken Cordon Bleu that was grilled instead of deep-fried with a light Mornay sauce.”

The menu item is served in cupcake form and will be introduced at the community’s Thrive Dining public tasting lunches held this month and next.

Photo courtesy of Watermark Retirement Communities

5. Tossed risotto

risotto toss

At its Fire ‘n’ Ice saute station, Methodist Health System in Omaha, Neb., is menuing a risotto toss during the colder months. “We took a classic Italian comfort food dish and expanded on the concept,” says Executive Chef Michael Flanagan. “It’s a dish that challenges us to maintain the integrity of the dish while adding additional options for customer satisfaction.”

Guests get to interact with the chef preparing the meal while they choose the protein, vegetable, sauces and spices to add to their risotto. 

6. Acai three ways


Three acai-based menu items have been introduced at Acacia Cafe within The Hacienda at the River in Tucson, Ariz. Residents and guests can now enjoy an acai smoothie (a cranberry and orange-infused acai smoothie with agave syrup drizzle), an acai parfait (made with fresh mixed berries, granola and fresh chocolate mint) and an acai energy boost bowl. “We incorporated acai as an ingredient into our menu for its nutritional qualities,” says Chef de Cuisine Christina Frias. “It’s loaded with B vitamins and offers 120% of the daily recommendation of vitamin C.” 

Photo courtesy of Watermark Retirement Communities

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