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The Five Worst Children's Hospital Food Environments

Health & Wellness  (tags: children, hospitals, diet, cafeteria, junk food, health risk, obesity, diabetes, heart disease )

- 2349 days ago -
Children's hospitals are supposed to help fight disease But many also host fast-food restaurants and cafeterias that seem to go against the hospital's mission to keep kids healthy. Patient menus feature high-fat, meat-heavy items that put children at risk


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Angelika R (143)
Wednesday February 6, 2013, 4:41 pm
A Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine Report
Autumn 2012

Children’s hospitals are supposed to help fight disease. But many also host fast-food restaurants and cafeterias that seem to go against the hospital’s mission to keep kids healthy. Patient menus feature high-fat, meat-heavy items that put children at risk for obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic diseases now and into adulthood. Dietitians with the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) recently analyzed children’s hospitals in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and identified five serving the most unhealthful food. One of the hospitals on the list, in Gainesville, Fla., hosts at least five fast-food outlets.


PCRM dietitians found that many hospital cafeterias and patient menus are dominated by foods high in fat, cholesterol, calories, sugar, and sodium. Processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, and hot dogs, are also common and increase cancer and diabetes risk.

These five hospitals offer an especially unhealthful food environment for children and their families:

*** please view chart at visit site ****


Promoting unhealthful foods to adolescent patients and visitors is dangerous at a time when obesity and diabetes rates among children in the United States are skyrocketing. More than 12 million children and adolescents are obese. And a recent study found that nearly one in four American adolescents could have diabetes or prediabetes.

Even Disney has recognized the influence fast food has on children and will soon ban ads for junk food on its TV channels, radio stations, and websites. But a study of California’s children’s hospitals published in Academic Pediatrics found that almost 40 percent had signs encouraging unhealthy eating.

Pediatrics experts warn that the availability of unhealthful foods in children’s hospitals contradicts positive nutrition and health messages physicians and nurses give children.

A study in the journal Pediatrics found that the presence of a McDonald’s restaurant in a children’s hospital increased the purchase of food at the on-site McDonald’s. The location of a McDonald’s inside a hospital was also associated with a more positive perception of the healthfulness of its food.

McDonald’s says it has restaurants in 27 U.S. hospitals. Children's Hospital Los Angeles and Riley Hospital for Children, both on our list, host McDonald’s. Other children's hospitals with McDonald’s include Children's Minneapolis, Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville, Ky., Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., and Rady's Children's Hospital San Diego.

Even hospitals that made it into the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals house fast-food chains and cafeterias with menus dominated by foods that are high in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar.

Healthful plant-based options are available at some hospitals. Shands Hospital has veggie burgers and a hummus and vegetable plate. St. Louis Children's Hospital has a vegetable bar and a salad bar. The Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital website suggests that the menu is labeled for vegetarian and vegan items, but none are currently indicated.

Instead of promoting fast food and junk food, hospitals should lead the way in encouraging children to develop healthful eating habits early on. Meals rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help them establish eating patterns now that can result in decreased risk for heart disease, cancer, and other diet-related conditions later in life.

Review Process

In spring and summer 2012, PCRM dietitians reviewed foods served by U.S. children’s hospitals. PCRM obtained information by calling and visiting hospitals located in major cities in 50 states and the District of Columbia. They evaluated each hospital food environment based on the number of fast-food outlets in the hospital and the healthfulness of options offered on cafeteria and patient menus.

***** Please view detailed results at visit site **** >>>

Sheryl G (359)
Thursday February 7, 2013, 6:32 am
Hospital food has always amazed me in it's poor quality and choices in this Country. When I had surgery as a child and was laid up in a full body caste the first solid foods they gave me to place on my stomach was a greasy beef stew. The second was some type of meat I don't recall as I had to fight so hard with the peas and rice. I was not able to sit up, I couldn't bend my neck, so I had to reach over trying to see out of the corner of my eye and be balancing peas and rice on a fork. No one to help me. I'll tell you, getting the 12 inch rod in my back and surviving the surgery was bad enough they almost killed me afterwards with crappy food or food I couldn't get into my mouth as it fell off the fork. I finally had to just put my hands into it. One would think my being in a Childrens Hospital a bit more care would of been given. No food isn't a high priority over here in hospitals.

Angelika R (143)
Thursday February 7, 2013, 9:02 am
Poor Sheryl-what a horror story. The charts on website might serve you in case you have to hospitalise your kids at any time.

greenplanet e (155)
Thursday February 7, 2013, 4:15 pm
It's strange that healthy food is not made available in many hospitals.

DaleLovesOttawa O (198)
Thursday February 7, 2013, 10:24 pm
Hospitals these days tend to specialize in substandard 'food.' Back in the old days it was cooked on site and tasted like real food. Sad to see that there are fast food sites at some hospitals. It seems to be a contraindication of what hospitals are there for, but then many are at profit in some nations and I suppose creating health problems keeps the hospitals busy.

Ro H (0)
Friday February 8, 2013, 5:06 am

Justin M (2)
Friday February 8, 2013, 10:42 am

Gabriele R (26)
Monday February 11, 2013, 9:35 am
noted.Thank you for the intersting facts

Colleen Prinssen (14)
Sunday February 17, 2013, 5:47 am
oh good another one of these.

for one, yes it is our fault for not having a mini fridge full of healthful foods in my room. But when I was 13 I had neck surgery (duralactasia with kyfosis). I had been put on predisone. if it were not for the Burger King in the lobby of the hospital(for visitors) I would -not- be fed at 1 or 2 am when i would have "angry munchies". It makes me hungry and obcessed. The nurses do not have the job of feeding you crackers at 2 am.
and when I have this, I have a one-track mind on what I want to eat.

like I said. "yeah we could of had organic dehydrated fruit pulp snacks, or maybe granolia" but I needed the BK. I needed my family who over nighted with me to get me a cheese burger at midnight.

so, think of this with an open mind.
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