Video: Hospital Food Takes On New Meaning at Baptist Golden Triangle

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Libby Walker, director Food & Nutrition, and Morrison’s Executive Chef Drew Dixon

Libby Walker, director Food & Nutrition, and Morrison’s Executive Chef Drew Dixon

COLUMBUS, Miss., (Press Release) —  They sound like items found on the menu at your favorite family restaurant: Smokehouse Chicken Sandwich, Beef Stew, Oven Fried Chicken, Spaghetti, Whipped Potatoes, Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding, Orange Creamsicle Dessert.

But, in fact, this menu is reserved for only a very special culinary crowd – patients at Baptist Memorial Hospital – Golden Triangle. And, these dishes are just a few examples of the new lunch entre’ items on the regular ‘Great Living Menu’ that are making mouths water and meal time something to look forward to at the Columbus hospital these days.

It’s rare to hear anyone who has ever been a patient at any hospital brag about the food. From the traditional powdered eggs and soggy toast for breakfast to the brown mystery meat smothered in brown gravy passed off as lunch; to the tasteless, shapeless, out-of-the can vegetables, with the standard ‘Jell-O of the day’ for dinner, over the years, hospital food has certainly earned its bad rap.

And if you were looking for a fresh vegetable or herb, well, good luck with that.

But a new culinary day has dawned at Baptist Golden Triangle, and when the meal carts roll out of the kitchen and onto the patient floors, you might think you actually are in a new family dining restaurant. Dinner entre’ choices now range from baked ziti and herb roasted pork loin to homemade meatloaf brushed with a ‘sweet tomato glaze’ – and almost all is made from scratch.

Brown is out. Green, orange and yellow are definitely in – as in fresh steamed broccoli, sautéed squash, roasted vegetables such as peppers, whole green beans and carrots and mashed sweet potatoes sweetened with ‘just a touch’ of maple syrup.

It’s all a part of the new focus on meals prepared with the freshest ingredients possible; replacing the butter and salt with olive oil and fresh herbs and spices; and everything is served up with a healthy side of dietary education for patients to help them realize that hospital meals can both taste good and be good for them.

Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. contracted with Morrison Food Service in 2013 to provide the food service throughout its 14-hospital system. At Baptist Golden Triangle, that started a gradual shift toward a healthier menu, not only just for patients but also for employees and visitors who eat in the hospital’s Main Cafeteria and Corner Café.

It’s meant the same at Baptist hospitals in Booneville, New Albany and Oxford, as well.

Soon the traditional broccoli with cheese sauce was replaced with crisp, bright green steamed broccoli (minus the cheese sauce option); the canned green beans and carrots were replaced with tasty, crisp, well-seasoned, roasted versions, and the salad choices multiplied.

It was a trend that started in California, explained Libby Walker, Baptist Golden Triangle director of Food and Nutrition Services, and has grown mainly due to the internet. “There is so much more information available to people now. The education level of the public has been raised to eat more healthy foods,” she said.

Patients at Baptist Golden Triangle have long been able to select their menu items from a traditional list of dishes. Now, with the new emphasis on healthier fare, not only are the menu items prepared fresh each day, there are also more options. Perhaps the biggest change is a new ‘Always Available’ menu listing items ranging from pasta and pizza to a variety of soups, sandwiches and salads; a wide variety of breakfast items; beverages; and desserts that are now accessible to patients any time hunger pangs hit, as long as their physician gives the OK.

The new focus on preparing fresh menu items daily has meant a big learning curve for the dietary staff, according to Morrison’s on-site Executive Chef Drew Dixon, who has implemented the new menu items and trained dietary staff.

For example, “The staff now has to cut the onions, pick the fresh herbs and make the mousse,” he said. But when one menu can literally meet the dietary requirements for up to six different diets, it’s worth the extra time and cuts down on waste in the kitchen, he added. For example, Oven Fried Chicken contains no salt and uses egg whites and crushed corn flakes in place of a traditional crust. It can be served to a patient on a regular diet or a physician-ordered reduced fat, reduced cholesterol or low sodium diet.

“It’s been a big change for the kitchen staff. They are no longer opening a can and dumping food in a pot. Now, they are cutting fresh vegetables every day,” said Dixon. And more roasted vegetables means more time spent in front of the oven, he added.

Presentation is also a big ingredient in the new system, according to both Walker and Dixon. For patients on a pureed food diet, instead of getting a mound of ground, gray meat, their ground pork chop will actually be put in a food form and show up on the plate in the shape of an actual pork chop. The same applies to a chicken breast or hamburger patty.

“We want our food to not only taste good, but to also look appetizing,” Walker said.

But, with all of the changes in the menu, it seemed the biggest question, at least for employees and the public, centered around a staple on the Wednesday retail lunch line – the fried chicken. ‘Would it make the healthy menu cut?”

No fears reassured both Walker and Dixon. “Every hospital has that one item they have had for years and years. There will still be fried chicken on the retail line at lunch on Wednesdays,” said Walker. And, so with that, the lunch menu continues to get rave reviews at Baptist Golden Triangle.

Categories: Cooking, Local News

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