Sponsored by AdvancePierre® Foods
Sometimes burgers make good medicine.
Hospital foodservice operators have been making improvements across the board in the quality and variety of foods which they offer to their patients, and incorporating burgers of various types can be an important part of that effort.
The expanding availability of room service from hospital cafeterias has also helped to put more burgers into the hands and mouths of patients who appreciate having some control over their routines in what are otherwise often unpleasant circumstances.
Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, for example, sometimes offers burgers to patients from the cafeteria through a room service program, says Robin Aufdenkampe, food and nutrition services director.
The company, which has a self-operated foodservice program serving 22 hospital facilities, began in January to limit sandwiches and entrées, including burgers, to 400 calories and 400 grams of sodium, as well as to adhere to USDA recommendations for fat and saturated fat.
“We’re not serving bacon burgers or burgers with sautéed onions or a cheesy mushroom sauce, like you might find in fast-food restaurants,” says Aufdenkampe. “If we’re serving a burger, it’s going to be high quality beef, without the cheese, on a whole wheat bun.”
Sauk Prairie Healthcare, a 30-bed facility in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, offers a low-fat, locally produced burger on its café menu as a permanent menu item available to patients via room service, says Stacy Midthun, nutrition services team leader. The burger comes with a choice of sides, including fruit, a salad or baked French fries.
“We rate pretty high on our food with our patients,” says Midthun. “All of our patients have room service, so they have a pretty nice menu to pick from.”
As consumers’ attitudes toward health have shifted and as they have been increasingly exposed to higher-quality burgers through “better burger” restaurant formats, they have come to embrace burgers as part of a well-rounded diet.
Research from Mintel found that 82 percent of consumers agreed that burgers can be a good source of nutrients. They also have strong interest in non-beef burgers that they perceive as healthier, the report found. Forty-six percent of respondents in Mintel’s The State of the Burger U.S. 2016 report said they would like to see more chicken burgers on menus, and 42 percent said they were interested in more turkey burgers. About a third — 34 percent — said they are interested in seeing more bison/buffalo burgers on menus.
“Non-beef burgers appeal to diners for a number of reasons,” says Caleb Bryant, foodservice analyst at Mintel. “Beyond offering less fatty, more nutritious alternatives, non-beef burgers tend to have a ‘wow’ factor as they are new and different to many consumers.”
Increasingly, vendors are offering a variety of burgers that meet the nutritional guidelines of health care foodservice providers. AdvancePierre® Foods, which supplies burgers and other products for the health care foodservice channel, carries a range of burger options for operators, including clean-label beef and turkey patties and a blended burger made with 30 percent white mushrooms. The 3-ounce blended burger patties each add only 200 calories, 7 grams of fat and 230 milligrams of sodium to allow for the creation of a burger which offers both nutrition and great taste.
Some health care foodservice operators have found success with blended and alternative burgers as well.
Foodservice management company Unidine offers burgers made from ground beef with mushroom duxelles, ground chicken with avocado and fresh herbs blended in, chickpea burgers and black bean chimichurri burgers on patient menus, says Chris Garrand, district manager and a chef in Unidine’s health care/hospital operations.
“The options are endless, and we are able to educate our patients on how these better-for-you options are packed with flavor,” he says. “It will often begin a discussion about how a patient can begin to eat healthier with items they love.”
Garrand says patients have had a positive response to the healthier burger options.
“It really just proves that if you make the food taste great, the fact that it's healthy just becomes one of the added benefits,” he says.
At Adrian Dominican Sisters Motherhouse in Adrian, Michigan, which includes a long-term care facility for about 220 residents, Maureen Brooker, chef/assistant manager, mixes in traditional beef burgers and cheeseburgers, beef sliders, turkey burgers and veggie burgers as part of a rotating menu. Some form of burger appears on the menu about once a week, she says.
“Burgers are a fan favorite,” says Brooker, who usually doesn’t dress up her burgers with any exotic sauces or toppings.
The residents appreciate having familiar comfort foods on the menu, she says. “If it’s a menu item they are comfortable with, that they grew up eating — maybe it was the way their mother made it, or the way they made it — they are going to eat it.”
Brooker recently added a veggie burger made with quinoa and roasted vegetables as part of a new Meatless Monday program, which has been well-received. Although residents — most of whom are in their 80s — are sometimes wary of such unfamiliar menu items, Brooker says positive word-of-mouth tends to encourage trial.
Garrand of Unidine says one of the keys to success with better-for-you burgers is having the right positioning.
“Using adjectives like flavorful, juicy and delicious helps to pique interest,” he says. “Unfortunately, healthier food often comes with a stigma that it is dry, flavorless or has an unpleasant texture. In order to meet this challenge head on, we develop recipes that are on-trend and taste great. Only then do they make it onto our menus.”