Food as Medicine

August 1st, 2018

Recovering from an illness or injury takes more than skilled care of doctors and nurses. Ensuring that patients at John Peter Smith Hospital are eating nutritious and tasty meals is an important part of health and healing.

Meals for JPS patients are planned by an experienced chef and a team of registered dietitians. Patients can choose their meals from a daily menu, in accordance with the diet specified by their healthcare team to meet their medical needs.

The opportunity to choose menu options is important. When patients are offered foods they prefer, they are more likely to eat them. Getting adequate protein and calories helps patients heal and recover more quickly, reducing the length of time patients have to stay in the hospital, says Meradith Harris, JPS clinical nutrition manager.

“Giving a choice gives the patient the opportunity to choose foods they find comfort and joy in eating,” she said.

Dining Service Associate Symone Buckles, from left, and Nutritional Services Supervisor Jessica Contreras load trays of lunches for patients

Dining Service Associate Symone Buckles, from left, and Nutritional Services Supervisor Jessica Contreras load trays of lunches for patients

The ability to select their meals is one of the few choices patients have while they are in the hospital, so menu options provide a greater sense of what's happening in their life, says JPS Executive Chef Chris Gilbert.

“When we give them a little bit of choice, it does give them a little bit of control,” Gilbert said. “They can’t choose what is happening to them but they can decide what to have for lunch.”

The menu rotates every seven days and includes dishes such as chicken fajitas, meatloaf and beef tips. Some items such as hamburgers, grilled chicken and chicken tenders are always available.

Carne guisada -- beef stew in a rich gravy -- was added to the menu in July. It is served on a bed of seasoned potatoes with a side of Southwestern street corn. The stew has an ancho pepper base that provides the flavor of the chipotle pepper without the heat, the chef says.

One of the most popular meals is roasted turkey served with green beans and scratch-made cornbread dressing, offered for lunch every Thursday. 

“We want to give them foods that are familiar to them,” Gilbert says. “It gives them a point of reference on what can be a very difficult experience. It’s a reminder of better times.”

The most popular meals requested by patients at John Peter Smith Hospital: turkey and dressing, beef tips and chicken fajitas

By the Numbers:

On a recent weekday, JPS served 449 portions of chicken fajitas to patients hospitalized at John Peter Smith Hospital.

To make the meal it took:

  • 140 pounds of marinated grilled chicken
  • 120 pounds of black beans
  • 120 pounds of cilantro rice

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