I will not claim to having performed an exhaustive study of the essential food groups that fuel the doctors, nurses and others working within a hospital.
I have made several observations in the field as part of my due diligence and learning, and I feel comfortable sharing with you these elements, sans food pyramid.
The Essential Foods:
3. Coffee, Mountain Dew or other more exotic caffeinated energy beverages
4. Any fried food, most importantly French fries or chicken
6. Chips, or high-fat, cheese-containing and/or salt-laden snacks
Preferably, meals are constructed to include at least three of the essential foods, fit into the pocket of a white coat, and can be eaten in less than four minutes. (Or, more scientifically, the intake rate of 12,000 calories per minute).
Please note that I am not considering tobacco a food group.
You may ask me why I believe that I am an expert at defining the essential food groups.
With all due respect to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA, my opinions are based on essentially nothing more than numerous observations in hospital cafeterias around the country, the foods these cafeterias offer and the eating habits of many in health care.
It most certainly is not based on any formal training that I received on nutrition in medical school.
In all seriousness, health and wellness needs to begin at home. And this home called a hospital needs to promote healthy habits of life.
Auto pioneer Henry Ford promoted food for its healing qualities. His original hospital had its own farm sources, bakeries and menu planning.
To paraphrase Henry Ford: “If good food leads to good health, perfect food leads to perfect health.”
Possibly overstated, but I think you get the point.
Fewer calories, less processing, less fat, less salt and less simple carbohydrates would go along way to improving obesity, hypertension and vascular disease. While good food can’t do it alone, at least it’s a good start.
But those foods can’t be eaten. They are, to quote one local expert, “yucky.”
Not so fast.
Our sister hospital, Henry Ford West Bloomfield , under the skillful guidance of a former hotel executive and my counterpart CEO, Gerard van Grisven, created a healthy, great-tasting and affordable menus for patients employees and, yes, even the community.
They’re using no fryers, no traditional fast foods and creating healthy alternatives to the usual hospital fare.
Of course, it was difficult for Gerard to not offer foie gras, brie de meaux, viennoiserie and gamay. But I’m sure he and his culinary staff are working on it.
This is revolutionary in thought and a model for the industry: Make healthy foods more available, easier to pick up in the cafeteria and cheaper.
The corollary – other than eliminating “suicide sausages” and “ham slams” – is to make less healthy foods less available and a bit more expensive than the healthy alternatives.
This requires careful consideration of the palate and appeal of the healthy alternative, as well as the cognizance that some of the choices our employees make (myself included) are due to the lack of time we have to sit down and actually eat a meal.
I have been advised that taking this on is akin to other hot button issues like politics, religion and parking spaces.
But I am bipartisan.
I believe in ecumenical pluralism and park on a surface lot.
The cause – keeping our most precious assets healthy – is the right one.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue. (Please post your comments below.)