New York City’s 11 public hospitals are now offering plant-based dishes as the primary dinner option for inpatients. In the program’s latest expansion, NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue, Harlem, and South Brooklyn Health joined the system’s other acute care sites serving 14 new meals inspired by the flavors of Latin America, Asia, and other places that represent the system’s diverse patient population.
The NYC Health + Hospitals system serves three million meals per year, and with this new rollout it expects to serve approximately 850,000 plant-based meals in 2023. In the coming months, NYC Health + Hospitals also plans to expand the plant-based menu options to its five post-acute care facilities. The default meals being served include:
- Garden Bolognese with Rotini and Spinach
- Pad Thai Noodle Bowl
- Moroccan Root Vegetable Tagine with Tricolor Couscous
- Southern Black-Eyed Pea Casserole with Plant-Based Cornbread Topped with Plant-Based Shredded Cheese
- Zesty Burrito Bowl with Jicama Slaw with a Broccoli and Flour Tortilla
- Spanish Vegetable Paella with Yellow Rice
- Red Curry Vegetables with Roasted Tofu
Alternate dinner options include:
- Moroccan Vegetable Tagine with Roasted Chickpeas and Brown Rice Pilaf
- Rigatoni Pasta al Forno with Plant-Based Ricotta Cheese
- Curried Kabocha Squash with Lima Beans, Dill, and White Rice
- Orange Cauliflower with Edamame and Brown Rice Pilaf
- Garden Bolognese with Rigatoni and Mixed Vegetables
- Fiesta Black Bean Burger on a Whole Wheat Bun with Cauliflower
- Whole Wheat Sicilian Pizza with Plant-Based Cheese
Non-plant-based options will only be available at the patient’s request and based on their prescribed diet.
Expanding on Meatless Mondays
The plant-based lunch and dinner programs at NYC Health + Hospitals expand on the health-care system’s successful Meatless Monday initiative launched in 2019, in collaboration with then-Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, which resulted in 1,500 patients opting for a meat-free meal on the first Monday of the program and a 95 percent satisfaction rate among eligible patients.
“Healthy food is medicine that all New Yorkers should have access to,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement. “This is personal to me—a plant-based lifestyle helped save my life, and I’m thrilled that now all NYC Health + Hospitals are now serving plant-based dinners as the primary option.”
“This nation-leading program means over 850,000 plant-based meals will be served annually at NYC Health + Hospitals, putting all of our patients on a path to a healthier life,” Adams said.
The plant-based meals program was implemented because scientific research has shown that plant-based eating patterns are linked to significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers. They can also be effective for weight management as well as treatment of hypertension and hyperlipidemia.
The NYC Health + Hospitals program teaches plant-based nutrition as a style of cooking and eating that emphasizes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, plant oils, herbs and spices, and reflects evidence-based principles of health and sustainability.
“Science shows that a plant-based diet helps fight off disease, something that’s critical as New Yorkers find themselves in the throes of a ‘tripledemic,’” Mitchell Katz, MD, NYC Health + Hospitals President and CEO, said in a statement. “Plant-based meals also help treat some of the chronic illnesses that cause many of our patients to wind up in the hospital. The expansion of our program will help get them on a healthier path.”
Educating patients about plant-based eating
As part of the program, NYC Health + Hospitals’ 140 food service associates meet with patients to educate them about the benefits of a plant-based diet and encourage them to choose the new meals as part of their healing and recovery plan of care. The same person records the patient’s meal selection on an iPad, delivers the tray to them, asks how they’re enjoying the food, and can replace the patient’s meal upon request.
If necessary, they can connect patients with a registered dietician who can provide them with more information and counsel them about nutrition. The food service associate assists patients until they are discharged from the hospital.
The new meals program builds upon a number of plant-based initiatives already underway at NYC Health + Hospitals. Just last month, the city rolled out a $44 million plant-based nutrition training program for all NYC healthcare professionals in an effort to raise the level of education across all medical and specialty areas, giving new tools to healthcare professionals and new hope to patients struggling with common chronic diseases.
“The implementation of the plant-forward menu as the primary choice for our patients is another important milestone in our journey to promoting high-quality, culturally appropriate, healthy, nutritious, and tasty food,” Mercedes Redwood, MS, RD, NYC Health + Hospitals Assistant Vice President for Management Services, said in a statement. “This is one of our most visible efforts to help patients transform their eating habits and enhance their health.”