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Healthy Balance

New Menus Mean Healthy but Tasty Cafeteria Food

The folks responsible for the food served at UVA always have their work cut out for them.

The food service operations at UVA must please a long list of clients, including:

  • Patients
  • Staff
  • Families and friends

And since it’s in a hospital, the cafeteria also increasingly tries to keep its food and drink as healthy as possible.

Without, importantly, any sacrifice in taste. 

Healthier Comfort Food

“You have to be careful with healthy food, because if that’s all you offer, even though your intentions are good, not everyone is going to respond to it,” says Chris Lee, associate director in the Department of Nutrition Services. “You have to do it in a way that’s creative, flavorful and people feel like they’re still getting that comforting food item that they would at home.”

Healthy Cafeteria Food
Grilled vegetable lasagna is part of the new Wellness menu at the UVA cafeteria.

The goal of making a healthier menu is part of the broader goal of  Morrison Healthcare, the contractor that handles UVA’s food service.

In March, Morrison says it became the first healthcare food service company to join The Partnership for Healthier America.

As a result of the partnership, UVA patrons can expect to see more nutrition labeling, a new slate of “wellness meals,” healthier beverages and an emphasis on fresh foods like fruits and vegetables.

For example, cooks making a new lasagna recipe use ground turkey instead of beef and use whole wheat noodles instead of white.

The reformulated lasagna can be served to a variety of different constituencies at the hospital and is appropriate for a patient on a heart healthy diet.

“The nice thing is it’s still good,” Lee says. “And the person who might be sitting next to you doesn’t feel deprived because you got one thing and they got another. “

These sorts of changes have rolled out both for inpatient meals and the food served in the retail locations, Lee said.

A change in beverage offerings — look for more water and fruit juice — means eliminating 5.7 million pounds of sugar from bottled beverages among the hospitals Morrison serves, according to the company.

Small Changes Mean Better Health

Many of the changes are relatively small ones that could easily escape notice. For example:

  • Hamburgers are served with a whole wheat bun, although the customer can request a traditional white bun.
  • Pans, grills and woks are also now lightly greased with an oil mister.

Although the new program is not strictly the result of customer demand, Lee says Morrison generally sees a more informed, curious clientele these days.

People increasingly want to know what’s in their food, he says.

Other health system-related food and dining related initiatives include:

There’s an App for That: A diner can also learn about nutritional information by searching for “Morrison” in the MyFitnessPal app.

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