Health Team

Tastier, healthier hospital food winning over patients and visitors

Posted November 8, 2012 6:00 p.m. EST
Updated November 8, 2012 6:57 p.m. EST

Hospital food has had a bad rap - most of it earned. But many hospitals are trying to turn that reputation around with more restaurant-quality food. At UNC Hospitals, chefs are providing more tasty and healthy options for visitors and patients.

The word “cafeteria” isn't heard around UNC Hospitals anymore. Their new menus offer customers and patients a variety of different restaurant concepts.

“We really tried to put a lot of healthier concepts in and bring more variety to people,” said Angelo Mojica, director of nutrition and food services for UNC Hospitals. “So we have a healthy salad bar here. We serve fresh scratch-made soups.”

Mojica said customers will always want burgers and pizza, and Chef Ryan Miller knows the secret to New York style pizza is in the hand-tossed dough.

“There you go,” Mojica said, demonstrating his technique.

With all the cheese, it's fine for healthy customers. But when patients order, the staff helps them with their diet restrictions.

“I'm on a heart healthy diet, so I have to be careful what I order,” said Beth Ledford, who has been a patient for 10 days. “But they have plenty of choices.”

She ordered the shrimp and grits, which was heart healthy and full of wonderful flavor.

The kitchen uses Sous Vide cooking for proteins like chicken, beef or salmon. They items are cooked in vacuum-sealed bags.

“It's safer for our patients,” Mojica said. “It's been produced to its final temperature, so we know that the bacteria has been killed in it.”

The center is never rare, and the outside is never burned. When needed - the chef just pops them on the grill for some color.

“It’s like ordering from different restaurants” Ledford said. “And it's like four- or five-star.”

While the multi-restaurant concept at UNC Hospitals was original and developed in house, more hospitals have made major changes in their food programs. With healthier items that have more flavor, they have seen their satisfaction rates skyrocket.