Healthy Menu Changes Earn Praise

The criteria list, and effort to achieve it, was extensive:

  • All items labeled with calorie and nutrition information
  • Healthy options (only) placed within five feet of the checkout
  • Wellness meals offered daily (with 60 percent of entrees meeting nutritional guidelines)
  • Fryers and deep-fried foods removed

The nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) handed that list, and more, to Fairview’s nutrition services team less than a year ago. Since then, the team has been hard at work turning that checklist into a reality for our cafeterias, gift shops, coffee shops and even vending machines, across the system.

“We needed to have some guidelines around having healthier products in all of our hospitals,” says Trever Sterba, nutrition services director for University of Minnesota Medical Center. “We selected this partnership for several reasons, but they were a nonprofit and they also had criteria that seemed both realistic and focused on sensible solutions that involved things such as calories, saturated fat, sodium and whole grains.”

Across our system, more than 350 different menu selections are served or offered daily. Each one of those items needed to analyzed and adjusted, removed or added based on whether they met certain criteria standards.

Despite the amount of work involved in that process, the commitment to achieving 100 percent of the PHA criteria was met in less than a year, earning the team the Healthier Future Award for completing all elements of the PHA Hospital Healthier Food Initiative.

“It’s really unique just how quickly we implemented this across our system because it was a ton of work,” says Trever.

And Trever says making those switches was the right thing to do.

“We still offer choice, as 40 percent of our options don’t meet these criteria,” says Trever. “But this move fits into our mission statement as a health care facility. We want to be a role model for the patients and communities we serve.”

What can we expect next?

The commitment to the partnership criteria will continue and considerations are in place to improve other areas, as well, such as reducing the amount of sugar-sweetened beverages.

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