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Hospital Food Begins To Resemble What The Doctor Ordered

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More than half of New York City's hospitals have pledged to make the food they serve to patients, employees and visitors healthier, and Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx is one of the hospitals that has earned gold-status recognition from the city Department Of Health for healthier food options. NY1's Health reporter Erin Billups filed the following report.

It seems like common sense that hospitals -- a place where people go to improve their health -- would serve nutritious food. But that not always so in Montefiore Medical Center in the Norwood section of the Bronx.

"When I first started working here, there was a lot more greasy hot foods," says a secretary in the Montefiore Neurology Department.

Having a popular menu, with fun bar-like snacks, is not uncommon at hospitals around the City.

"As a physician, we often council our patients to eat a healthy diet and then you go to the cafeteria and you find sugary drinks and high-salt content," says Dr. Shlomo Kuperman, a Montefiore medical resident.

That has all changed at Montefiore Medical Center. It is one of 35 hospitals to take part in the city Department Of Health's "Healthy Hospital Food Initiative."

"Diet-related diseases right now in New York City are one of the leading causes of death and that's why it's so important that we create healthy food environments, and hospitals have really taken on this charge," says Dr. Susan Kansagra, an assistant commissioner of the Department Of Health.

The Department Of Health has given three of Montefiore's campuses "gold star" recognition -- the highest level -- for revamping the food served in the cafeteria, beverage and food vending machines and patient meals.

"We've reduced the salt, we took away our 'munchie bar,' which was popular at the time. It was fried buffalo wings, fried potato skins, you know, a lot of fried food, and we've introduced a vegetable bar," says Nancy Gruber, an assistant site director of Montefiore Medical Center Moses Campus. "We've introduced a noodle bar as well that has a lot of vegetables in there and a sauté station and that's been very popular."

Also, the snacks in all of Montefiore's vending machines have no more than 200 calories each.

"Changing the food environment to make the choice easier, that's really the most important way to create a healthier food access," says Kansagra.

The changes at Montefiore have been a hit.

"My weight has come down about 10 pounds lighter than last year," the Neurology Department secretary says.

It's also helped Emily Flores, a cashier at the hospital, manage her high blood pressure.

"Oh, it's wonderful, because you don't really find it on the street that easily," Flores says. "I've lost weight, I have more energy, I feel healthier. My skin has changed. My skin has more pumped up, less wrinkles. Love it."

Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn and Queens Hospital Center are also being recognized as "gold star" hospitals.

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