Study: Good Children’s Hospital Food Rare

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LOS ANGELES, Dec. 2 (UPI) — Adults have long complained about hospital food, but a study of children’s hospitals in California indicates healthy food may be hard to find, researchers say.

Researchers at University of California, Los Angeles, and the Rand Corp. assessed 14 food venues at the state’s 12 major children’s hospitals, using a modified version of the Nutrition Environment Measures Scale for Restaurants as an assessment tool for rating the food offerings in hospital cafeterias.

Dr. Lenard Lesser — primary investigator and a physician in the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA — said the measurement tool takes into account pricing, availability of vegetables, nutrition labeling, combo promotions and healthy beverages.

The study, published in the journal Academic Pediatrics, found overall the average score for the 14 hospital food venues was 19.1 — using a range of 0 for least healthy to 37 for most healthy. Of the total 359 entrees the hospitals served, 7 percent were classified as healthy using the NEMS criteria.

Nearly all the hospitals offered healthy alternatives such as fruit, but less than one-third had nutrition information at the point of sale or signs to promote healthy eating.

“Unfortunately, the food in many hospitals is no better — and in some cases worse — than what you would find in a fast food restaurant,” Lesser said in a statement.

The study was conducted in July 2010. Some of the hospitals surveyed have taken steps either to improve their fare or reduce unhealthy offerings, the study authors said.

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