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Canton-Potsdam Hospital aims toward heart healthy menu

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POTSDAM - Menu options at Canton-Potsdam Hospital are changing for the healthier at a steady pace, as its Nutrition Services department makes continual strides toward more heart-healthy menu options and partnerships with local food co-ops and markets.

“We are a hospital. It’s important for us to lead by example when it comes to the food offerings we make available to our patients and employees,” said Stave Gadapee, director of Nutrition Services. “But change of this nature also requires an educational and cultural transition, so we’re trying to be considerate of the expectations of our customers by making incremental changes over a reasonable period of time.”

The goal is not to eliminate all traditional fare from patient menus and the cafeteria, but to feature and promote an increased number of healthier options.

The Nutrition Services staff started by defining what “heart healthy” means and promoting it in the hospital café along with nutritional information to assist staff and visitors in making healthy, informed choices. “Heart Healthy,” according to Gadapee involves many factors, including:

■ Food that is purchased and prepared in a healthier manner in order to reduce calories, fats, bad cholesterol and sodium.

■ Promoting good eating habits and a well-balanced diet.

■ Prepare many foods by baking instead of frying.

■ Fewer commercially-prepared, breaded foods to reduce sodium, saturated fats and carbohydrates.

■ Fewer red meats and more fish options for the menu selection.

■ More whole grains and brown rice and less processed grains.

With the support and encouragement from members of the Hospital’s medical staff, a number of changes have already been implemented, according to Gadapee.

Café selections have been enhanced to include choices like turkey and vegetable burgers, Greek yogurt, fewer processed foods, more vegetarian soups, a larger selection of baked entrees and steamed vegetables and “super foods” like oatmeal available every weekday morning.

As an incentive to select healthier options, many of those choices are offered at a reduced cost. Fresh brewed iced tea is now available as an alternative to sodas. Bottled waters and juices have also been increased to offer better beverage options. New equipment is planned in the café to increase healthy “grab and go” salad selections along with low calorie and low fat prepared sandwiches and desserts. He’s also been working with local vending machine retailers to include healthier vending options.

Gadapee is working to enhance relationships with outside organizations to promote healthy, affordable eating and nutritional information. Local vegetables will be used during the growing season in the Café and patient menus. A “chef’s choice” option will allow Gadapee to secure vegetables from local food cooperatives to be featured as available on a daily basis. He is also working on developing, in the café, a small additional farmers’ market display for visitors and staff that promotes the availability of healthier food options locally.

A new patient menu has been finalized and will be introduced soon. Dessert offerings will emphasize fruits and healthier dessert options. The new patient menu will contain fewer fats by featuring fewer gravy options and eliminating breaded foods.

In addition to making changes in the hospital café and patient menus, Gadapee is an active participant in a new hospital-wide wellness initiative spearheaded by Eydie Bovay, occupational health nurse and a committee of hospital staff members.

The program is being funded, in part, by a grant from the St. Lawrence County Health Initiative. Registered Dietician Elizabeth Isenberg is a frequent presenter at various Hospital programs, community organizations, and school groups, where she provides education about the benefits of nutritionally sound eating habits to support a healthy lifestyle.

“We’re very excited about the progress we’re making here,” Gadapee said. “It’s heartening to know that we’re poised to help our patients, staff and community members make healthier eating decisions for themselves and their families.”

For more information, visit www.cphospital.org or call CPH Nutrition Services at 315-261-5348.

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