American Medical Association Urges Hospitals to Drop Processed Meats and Go Plant-Based

One of the great ironies of hospital care is that the food patients receive is often rather crummy. Admit it. If you’ve ever eaten a hospital meal, it probably left something to be desired. You got a sad cheeseburger, an unappetizing slab of meat loaf or maybe a greasy slice of pizza.

And heaven help you if you’re vegan. You probably received a wedge of lettuce, a pile of peas and some orange juice. Even if you’re a member of the hospital staff, your cafeteria food choices can be dietary nightmares. After all, doctors will grab a Big Mac as often as the next guy.

Hospital food and drinks generally live up to their depressing — and often downright unhealthy — reputation. But the American Medical Association (AMA) thinks that needs to change.

That’s why the AMA issued a resolution in June of 2017 calling for hospitals to reduce sugary beverages and processed meats. Instead, the AMA wants hospitals to increase the availability of healthy plant-based foods. The American College of Cardiology and the Medical Society of the District of Columbia co-sponsored the resolution.

The members of the AMA, which represents more than 200,000 doctors announced that they:

…hereby call on U.S. hospitals to improve the health of patients, staff, and visitors by (1) providing a variety of healthful food, including plant-based meals and meals that are low in fat, sodium, and added sugars, (2) eliminating processed meats from menus, and (3) providing and promoting healthful beverages.

The way to improve patient health is simple, according to the AMA:

The AMA’s House of Delegates believes this can be achieved by providing a variety of healthy food – including plant-based meals and meals that are low in fat, sodium, and added sugars, eliminating processed meats from menus, and providing and promoting healthy drinks.

I don't see any vegetables on this patient's plate, do you?

I don’t see any vegetables on this patient’s plate, do you?

Getting Unhealthy Food and Drink Out of Hospitals

An easy first step, says the AMA, would be to get rid of vending machines around the hospital that sell sodas and other sugar-loaded drinks. Instead, install machines that sell water, unflavored milk and unsweetened tea or coffee. Frankly, I’d add this suggestion: swap out that cow’s milk for plant-based milk.

Remember when hospitals banned smoking on their grounds? They should do that now for crappy food and drink.

The resolution calls for physicians and staff to advise patients about nutrition and the effects of a poor diet. To make that message really hit home, the AMA thinks the hospital ought to offer its own staff healthy options and feed patients that way as well.

Currently, if you visit most hospitals, you are served — or have easy food court access to — foods that contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer. If you’re actually in the hospital battling these very diseases, it doesn’t make much sense to feed you the very foods that hamper your recovery, does it? Yet that goes on in hospitals every single day.

Of 208 U.S. hospitals surveyed by the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine in 2015, a whopping 20 percent had contracted with fast food franchises. That means you’ll find McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Chik-fil-A, KFC, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and so many more purveyors of fast food in many hospital food courts. This is true even in children’s hospitals.

Meal tray of a hospital

What’s the Big Deal with Processed Meat?

Meat, especially red meat and processed meat, is getting a bad rap these days. But the negative press is astonishingly well-deserved.

Consumers love their hot dogs, bologna, ham, sausages, corned beef, beef jerky and canned meat. They love pepperoni on their pizzas. They yearn for Italian subs stuffed with salami. The adoration of bacon rises to almost religious fervor.

All these “foods” are processed meats. That means all of them are dangerous to consume, according to health experts. In fact, says the World Health Organization (WHO), all processed meats are “carcinogenic to humans.” WHO claims there is no amount that’s safe for consumption. Read that assertion again — there’s no amount of processed meat we can eat that’s safe.

Worldwide, an estimated 34,000 deaths annually can be attributed to processed meats, says the Global Burden of Disease Project.

Red meat is strongly linked to colon cancer and cardiovascular disease. One serving of red meat a day increases the risk of early death by 13 percent, according to a study by Harvard University. Even healthy people need to cut down or, preferably, stop eating red meat completely. That goes double for hospital patients.

This mess of meat and gravy over potatoes is a hospital meal.

This mess of meat and gravy over potatoes is a hospital meal.

Some Hospitals Get It

Thankfully, there are a few hospitals on the leading edge of dietary change for their patients and staff:

A transition to healthier plant-based meals can be done, if we have the will and desire to do it. Next time you’re visiting a friend or loved one who’s in the hospital, ask about its food policies. If you don’t like what you hear, urge it to comply with the AMA’s recommendation. Lives may depend on it.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

107 comments

Stephanie s
Stephanie Yabout a year ago

Thank you

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Stephanie s
Stephanie Yabout a year ago

Thank you

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Marie W
Marie Wabout a year ago

thank you for sharing

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Giannis K
Giannis Kabout a year ago

Great news !

However, can you please tell me why this information is not referred to the AMA's site ?

I have not found any relative link about this new resolution.

For example ADA has a relative link about vegan diets : http://www.eatrightpro.org/resource/practice/position-and-practice-papers/position-papers/vegetarian-diets

Why AMA does not do the same ?

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Paulo R
Paulo Reesonabout a year ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo Reesonabout a year ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo Reesonabout a year ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo Reesonabout a year ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo Reesonabout a year ago

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Kimberly Wallace
Kimberly Wallaceabout a year ago

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