The saying “you are what you eat” may be true. What’s on your plate — along with lifestyle choices, physical activity, genetics and environment — has the power to affect your overall health.
In 2011, Sharp HealthCare joined the Nutrition and Healthcare Leadership Team (NHLT) to further its commitment to providing sustainable, accessible, nutritious food for patients, visitors and staff.
The mission of the NHLT is to provide healthy, sustainable food practices in San Diego health care systems. These efforts are a part of the Healthier Hospitals Initiative — a national campaign to address the health and environmental impacts of the health care sector.
The Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP) — an organization that strives to bring diverse groups together to address critical health issues — facilitates the NHLT. Currently, more than a dozen hospitals and health systems across San Diego County volunteer to participate.
“The team gives health care systems throughout the county the opportunity to collaborate and share ways to improve their food services so they can serve healthier food,” says Elizabeth Vaughan, food systems manager at CHIP.
Sharp has developed several practices to provide high-quality, nourishing food, including:
- Meatless Mondays to reduce meat consumption
- Increasing sustainable protein purchases such as antibiotic-free, grass-fed and hormone-free meats; cage-free eggs; and sustainable seafood
- Buying local, seasonal and sustainable food and increasing purchases from local farms
- Increasing access to local fresh fruits and vegetables with hospital gardens, farmers market, community supported agriculture programs
- Stocking healthy food and beverage choices in vending machines
- Providing patients and guests with access to fresh, healthy food at any time of the day with Pantry Retail’s grab-and-go kiosks
- Collaborating with Sharp Best Health to reduce consumption of sugary beverages
- Wellness-focused patient and cafeteria menus
“In addition to creating dishes that promote wellness, we have recently started using research-based ingredients and preparation methods in our kitchens to create recipes that may help with healing and recovery,” says Greg Young, executive chef at Sharp Memorial Hospital and Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns. “I’ve enjoyed finding new ways to preserve the power of ingredients to serve meals that are good for your body, but that are also tasty.”
Meals on the patient menu not only focus on the wellness of the body, but also the mind. There are meals that provide emotional nourishment — such as foods connected to heritage, a region of the world or a certain holiday. These types of foods can bring back positive memories and evoke comfort, joy and peace.
According to Nicole Hoffman, food operations manager at Sharp Memorial Hospital and Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns, food is a significant part of wellness.
“Eating a diet with proper proteins, vitamins and minerals is important, but knowing how your food is processed is important too,” says Hoffman. “The food you eat may help you stay well or heal.”
To try one of Chef Greg Young’s healthy and delicious meals at home, try this Mole Spiced Flank Steak.