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Food served in children's hospitals rated largely unhealthy
Date:11/30/2011

Given the obesity epidemic among the nation's young, one would hope that children's hospitals would serve as a role model for healthy eating. But hospitals in California fall short, with only 7 percent of entrees classified as "healthy" according to a new study published in Academic Pediatrics.

Researchers from UCLA and the RAND Corporation assessed 14 food venues at the state's 12 major children's hospitals and found there was a lot of room for improvement in their offerings and practices.

"As health professionals, we understand the connection between healthy eating and good health, and our hospitals should be role models in this regard," said Dr. Lenard Lesser, primary investigator and a physician in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program in the Department of Family Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "Unfortunately, the food in many hospitals is no better and in some cases worse than what you would find in a fast food restaurant."

The study authors developed a modified version of the Nutrition Environment Measures Scale for Restaurants (NEMS-R) as an assessment tool for rating the food offerings in hospital cafeterias. This measurement system takes into account pricing, availability of vegetables, nutrition labeling, combo promotions and healthy beverages.

Overall the average score for the 14 hospital food venues was 19.1, out of a range of 0 (least healthy) to 37 (most healthy). Of the total 359 entrees the hospitals served, only 7 percent were classified as healthy according to the NEMS criteria. And while nearly all the hospitals offered healthy alternatives such as fruit, less than one third had nutrition information at the point of sale or signs to promote healthy eating.

Among the other key findings:

  • All 14 food venues offered low-fat or skim milk and diet soda
  • 81 percent offered high-calorie, high-sugar items such as cookies and
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Contact: Enrique Rivero
erivero@mednet.ucla.edu
310-794-2273
University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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