Many hospitals across the United States are now offering healthier food and more environmentally sound food options.
Some hospitals have created onsite farmers' markets, while others have hired professional chefs to run their kitchens.
Hospitals have traditionally served processed, institutional food as a result of cost demands, but a number are changing their approach, ridding their foods of such unhealthy ingredients as trans fats.
The California-based Kaiser Permanente health system launched a farmers' market at one of its hospitals in 2003, and it proved so successful that there are now markets at 31 Kaiser Permanente medical sites.
Other hospitals have begun growing their own produce, composting food waste on site, or switching to biodegradable containers instead of Styrofoam.
Although many of America's teaching hospitals still serve branded fast foods -- from Pizza Hut to McDonald's -- a few institutions, like Good Shepherd Medical Center in Portland, OR, have finally accepted the role nutrition plays in maintaining optimal health, and are now preparing meals from scratch, made from organic foods.
It only took the Portland hospital a single year to make the switch away from foods chock full of unhealthy additives and trans fats.
And internal changes such as these have made it possible for hospitals to save money in some unexpected ways -- for example, they can cease offering modified patient meals based on sodium or fat restrictions; when all the food is healthy, they can serve it to every patient.
These are welcome changes, and I only hope they spread further. The general state of food at most hospitals is appalling. They don't let patients smoke in the hospital, yet they continue allowing them to eat the same food that got them into the hospital in the first place!
It is my long-standing assertion that sugar causes more health problems than tobacco. It would definitely make sense to eliminate fast food from a hospital environment where people are seeking to recover from serious disease. People might actually come out of the hospital healthier than when they went in.
What a concept!
Even if your hospital serves healthy food, however, once you leave the hospital, the responsibility is on you to maintain a healthier diet. Fortunately, I have a great many tools on my Web site to get you started.
Probably the best place to begin: Learn about your body's unique nutritional type. For the last 20 years nutrition has been a major focus of my medical practice and I made many mistakes before I realized that there simply is not one perfect diet for everyone.
nutritional typing helps you identify which foods are best for your unique and individual biochemistry. It is, without a doubt, the most important nutritional tool I have ever learned.