Culinary Healthcare

How to Improve Health and Healing Through the Food Served at the Hospital

The average person may say they are interested in healthy eating, but their purchasing habits don’t always reflect that mindset. Although hospitals can’t control what patients, staff, and guests buy at the store, they can influence what individuals eat within the walls of the hospital. We spoke with HHS Chef Peter Tseng to learn how he and his team are impacting the health and wellbeing of the patients, staff, and guests at his facility with a program they rolled out called ‘Stealth Health.’

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The idea behind Stealth Health is to provide a selection of health-conscious meal options that appeal to customers’ tastes and interests. Tseng and his team aim to recreate the comfort foods that guests crave, while using fresher, higher quality ingredients that deliver more nutrients.

“As a food service operator within the healthcare sector, I find that my team and I have the ability to create menus that cater to the needs of the individuals we serve,” Tseng shares. Sourcing quality foods, adapting menu items, and providing healthier options allows healthcare facilities to help customers make better choices. Tseng continues, “As a chef, I’ve chosen to impact our guests’ decisions to choose healthier food by simply providing items that promote a healthy lifestyle, while also satisfying their palate.”

Chef Tseng’s facility in Petersburg, Virginia, began Stealth Health just under three years ago. Though it took time to gain traction, it has made a huge impact on the hospital and helped bring in more guests into the hospital cafe. The initiative started with a simple plan and grew into what the program is today. 

20181203_105904 (1)“The most integral part of a healthy food program is sourcing ingredients from the right places. Food is medicine, and the better the ingredients, the more nutrients and nourishment the food can supply. Implementing a food philosophy and dedicating the organization to sustainable practices had a large impact on the quality of the dishes being served,” suggests Tseng. “Once sustainability practices were in place, we met with local vendors and farmers who shared our values and began sourcing higher-caliber foods.”

Another consideration is how the facility can make healthier substitutions in the meals they provide. Tseng shares, “I reviewed the recipes and found ways to make substitutions without losing any flavor in the dishes we serve. Changes were small, like switching out ground beef for turkey, swapping heavy cream for skim milk, or making regular meat dishes vegetarian.” These small changes ensured that the facility was offering healthier options that were geared toward helping patients and guest make better decisions in their food choices. 

In healthcare food service, decisions should be based on the health and happiness of the patients and clientele. Changing menus to be more innovative and healthy, while still providing comfort and flavor, will help patients and guests make better choices without them even having to think about it.