Bear with me, I’ve got a lot of ideas in here.
So, as you know, I am working in hospital food service this week and last week. I have basically worked every job there is to work in the kitchen, including serving food to the masses, which is my favorite part because I like interacting with people. You’d think that I would enjoy cooking, since it a favorite leisure time activity of mine, but I really much prefer to talk to people, smile at them, and serve up some carrot souffle.
Yesterday’s lunch included several main line items: grilled salmon, 3 different flavored quiches (x20) that I had made in the kitchen earlier (you can get a lot done between 5 and 11:00), and an item – by far the crowd favorite – called “Big Burgers”. You know that when an item is LABELED as big that it is going to be immense. Just to prove it to you, I took a picture of Alyssa with the day’s most popular meal option:
These babies were giant. Not as big as my face, but if I lined it up with my chin it would probably come to my eyes. Bigger than my hand. By far. I had seen a cook pre-grilling them on Wednesday and was curious about the nutrition info on such a gigantic hunk of fatty ground beef, so I checked it out. Each of these burgers is 8oz and packs in 650 calories, with 95% of your daily fat allotment, and 100% of your saturated fat for the day (based on a 2000-calorie diet). I. Was. Disgusted. That is almost three times what a normal meat serving is (3oz or the size of your palm – not a dinosaur’s), and that is a RIDICULOUS amount of fat to get from a single food item. I am considering the possibility that the food service department has worked out a deal with the hospital’s cardiologists because this food will kill you.
What astonished me most, though, is the way that people reacted in the cafeteria. So many people ordered the burger without the bun, as a means of saving calories and eating more “healthfully”. As a future dietitian, let me say: if you are going to eat a hamburger that adds up to about a half of your calories in a day, please do it right and get the bun too. Ordering sandwiches without the bread is a good idea for people who need to count carbs (diabetics), or if ordering without the bread is actually going to make a significant impact on the nutritional content of the meal. In this case, the bun was probably a maximum of 150 extra calories, which is negligible in comparison to the monstrous meat patty that all of these people had decided they were chowin down on for lunch. And honestly, what good is a cooked-to-hell, floating-in-a-pan-of-fat foodservice burger without the bun? I sure as hell don’t know, and that’s coming from a girl who can eat a burger. If you are splurging on a food item, make sure it’s exactly what you want.
These people have been brainwashed into believing that carbs are the enemy, and have managed to completely ignore the fact that SATURATED FAT will clog your arteries and kill you! The saturated fat content of your diet has the greatest influence on your lipid profile (LDL, HDL, total cholesterol, and triglycerides), and although we always say eating fat won’t make you fat, it gets you there a lot quicker. Facts are facts: 1g carbohydrate or protein = 4 calories; 1g fat = 9 calories. Those calories can either be burned, turned into muscle, or stored as fat depending on what you do with em after consumption. The more fat in your diet the more calories, and the more you need to burn in order to maintain your weight. The more saturated fat in your diet, the less favorable your lipid profile, and the higher your risk of atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke…the list goes on.
I don’t mean to make any one food the enemy, as I said I love myself a good burger every now and then, but people need to know what they are eating! A burger at home can be made with lean ground meat and be actually pretty healthy. These are not at all. I am almost positive that if I said to some of the people without the buns: “You know, you’re eating almost 1000 calories by getting just that patty alone, so if you want to be health conscious, I would recommend the salmon” a lot less people would have opted for the burger. The lack of nutrition education among highly educated people (nurses and doctors!!) continues to astound me. I urge you to LEARN about what you are putting into your body, or ask someone who knows. There are real consequences to these things.
On the other hand, I can see how people would assume that the food in a hospital’s cafeteria is relatively healthy, because isn’t health the business here? Eh, not so much. Making people not die is the business at a hospital. Health is something that is not delivered systematically in this country, and we need to do something about it. For starters, hospital cafeterias should probably try to put out better-for-you food. Here at St. Tammany, they will be posting the calories and fat in the menu items once the new year rolls around, and I think that will really help. Only time will tell!