Magazine article Vegetarian Times

Just Say No to Jell-O

Magazine article Vegetarian Times

Just Say No to Jell-O

Article excerpt

I will be having surgery this fall. How can I ensure that the hospital will serve me vegetarian food?-M .R. Phoenix, Ariz.

Ironically, hospitals are not known for having healthy cuisine. And they're certainly not recognized for serving haute cuisine, much less vegetarian food. But all that is changing now. "Some hospitals have taken steps to resuscitate hospital food's reputation," according to Theodore Tyberg, M.D., and Kenneth Rothaus, M.D., authors of Hospital Smarts (Prentice Hall, 1995). "They're using more fresh vegetables and whole grains."

Indeed, a 1997 study conducted by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit advocacy group, found that of the nation's top 30 hospitals, 22 offered cholesterol-free, low-fat, plant-based meals to their patients. The highest marks went to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore (cited for its 3-percent-fat veggie burger); Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia, S.C. (lauded for a lentil stew containing 4 percent fat); and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston (commended for its spaghetti with tomato sauce containing 5 percent fat).

Because the last thing you want to do when facing a medical procedure is debate your diet with the hospital staff, the following six tips can help ensure that your meals will be vegetarian. Use them even if you are going in for what is supposed to be out-patient surgery. In the case of an emergency admission, communicate your needs to the nurse. If you are unable to speak, a relative or friend should make the request for you. If the patient is a child, it will obviously be up to you to advocate for him or her. Remember that your doctor has the final word on what you eat, says Tricia Middaugh, R.D., manager of clinical nutrition services at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, so make sure he or she knows you are a vegetarian. …

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