October 30, 2012

CVPH offering healthier choices in cafeteria


---- — PLATTSBURGH — CVPH Medical Center has turned over a new spatula.

Officials at the hospital have initiated several new programs geared toward healthier lifestyles for staff, patients and visitors alike, and one of the most obvious adjustments can be found in the hospital’s food choices.

“In the past few months, we’ve focused on three main areas: employee services, retail services and patient services,” said Shea Schnell, director of Nutrition Services at CVPH. “We’ve concentrated on the overall benefits of healthier food choices.”

Working in conjunction with the hospital’s Center for Occupational Health and Wellness and Cardiac Rehabilitation services, Shea’s department has bought into the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes concept that promotes healthy decisions in diet, exercise and daily living.

“We’re concentrating on offering food that is lower in fat as well as offering more variety, more choices, more vegetables,” he said of the menus being offered to patients. Many of the options revolve around whole grains rather than the more traditional market potato, he said.

For employees, a lot of the emphasis has been directed toward education: promoting health and wellness through a person’s overall dietary choices.

Staff members have also been able to sign up for a Weight Watchers program that has had tremendous success.

“Since Jan. 4 (2012), our participants have lost 812 pounds,” said Greg Freeman, supervisor for the Center for Occupational Health and Wellness.

While the pounds have been dropping off participants, the popularity of the program has mushroomed with twice as many employees involved as when it first started, Freeman noted.

Employees will soon begin a walking-initiative program to promote an active lifestyle along with proper diet. Participants will be given a pedometer they can plug into a computer to analyze their daily activities.

The employees who show the greatest improvement in their daily activities will win a three-month membership to the CVPH Wellness Center on the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base.

Sixty-six employees have signed up thus far.

A lot of the focus on improved diet can be best seen in the hospital’s cafeteria, source of the Nutrition Department’s retail services.

“We made the decision to remove the deep fryer and avoid fried foods,” said Schnell, who pointed to the newly purchased charbroiler used for hamburgers and other choices.

“We offer grass-fed kilcoyn beef, mahi and salmon fillets, selections you would find in a top-level resort. For those customers who want to eat healthier, we want to provide them with options.”

Diners who enjoy potato or macaroni salads can still make those selections, but the cafeteria has moved more toward fresh vegetable selection in its salad bar.

In fact, Schnell noted that the hospital is working closely with local growers and is looking to expand the options available from local farmers and other growers in years to come.

Hospital employees make up about 85 percent of the cafeteria’s business, with visitors to the Medical Center filling out the rest of the customer base. However, Schnell is quick to point out that the cafeteria is open to the public and is not just for people visiting friends or loved ones in the hospital.

“Our pricing is comparable to other dining establishments in the area,” he said. “We offer a great variety of choices for our customers.”

Service is cafeteria style, but sandwiches and other menu items are prepared per customer’s order.

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