Kitchen caring! A day with Nutrition Services

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During a frantic lunch hour, nutrition workers scurried around a maze of stainless-steel cookware. They were short-staffed, and the cafeteria was slowly filling up. Soon a line formed, snaking around from the single cash register. This is business as usual for the folks that prepare meals at Tri-County Health Care. Every day they take on the daunting task of feeding an entire workforce and patients. Not just for one meal, but three. They are a prime example of kitchen caring!

Do you ever think about the people that prepare your food? To most, it’s simply a transaction, but a delicate system is in place on the other side of the cash register.

In the service of health

Angie Leehy has been working in the kitchen for 25 years. She started her career as a food service worker and eventually earned a degree in dietary management. She now serves as the Nutrition Services Supervisor. During the busy lunch hour, she directed staff and prepared for the rush. When she wasn’t in her office crunching numbers, she was speed walking from one end of the kitchen to another. All of this ensures a tasty meal for the staff and patients of Tri-County.

Kitchen caring is a main component of Angie's job!

Angie Leehy, Nutrition Services Supervisor

A typical day

During an average day, six to seven people work in the kitchen in various roles. They start early, with the first crew member coming in at around 5 a.m. That person is responsible for warming the ovens while preparing for breakfast. The next person arrives with the task of preparing cold items like fruit. At this point, the kitchen is in full swing, with staff members hustling upstairs to deliver meals to patients. This cycle repeats itself for lunch and dinner. Each member of the team has a job that is supported by the work of another. Without a cohesive strategy, the kitchen would fall apart.

“Teamwork and communication are a must in our department. Each day is different, and it takes a team to get everything done each day.” – Angie Leehy

Angie doesn’t arbitrarily choose food at random. Every item that ends up on your plate is carefully selected with the help of a dietitian. This process ensures a certain level of nutrition for each meal. The menu changes four times per year. During each new cycle, Angie tries to find new items based on customer trends. Each choice is delicate because she only has so much freezer space.

Misconceptions

Some people view food services as an unimportant aspect of patient care, but that isn’t true. The hospital sees a constant flux of patients who need food. Nutrition staff is essential, and the hospital wouldn’t function without them. “Honestly, we may be one of the only bright spots in a patient’s day. Food can be both nourishing and comforting. We are, after all, the keepers of the ice cream,” remarked Angie when asked how she felt her job impacts Tri-County Health Care.

Kitchen caring is a part of healthcare. For more information on services like this, please visit TCHC.org. Also, follow Tri-County Health Care on social media for regular updates.


Holiday health guide: Surviving the bulge

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Christmas is right around the corner, and so are cookies, eggnog, candy, a maybe even a glass of wine or two. The holidays are a time of indulgence, but stomach aches and perhaps a few added inches on the waistline come with it. This is a beautiful time of year filled with joyous gatherings and fun times, including the food and drink accompanying them. However, all good things should be enjoyed in moderation, so use this holiday health guide from Shelby Hunke, RD, LD, to navigate the health challenges of the holidays.

Sweet drinks and empty calories

Don’t drink your calories! It’s super easy to drink your entire caloric requirement from just a few drinks. Alcoholic beverages are a prime culprit, along with classic staples like hot chocolate and cider. Enjoy a festive beverage, just not a pitcher of it.

Moderation mode

Moderation is key. Eat that brownie, munch on those Christmas cookies, ’tis the season after all. This time of delightful treats only comes around once a year, so enjoy it but keep in mind portions. Try not to attend gatherings or parties with an empty stomach. Using mini portions can also be a great way to enjoy everything the season offers without going overboard.

Exercise in a winter wonderlandEmbrace holiday health with good exercise.

Exercise is a great way to beat the bulge. Going to the gym during the holidays seems a little meh. Exercise doesn’t always have to be a boring session on the elliptical. Put on some snowshoes and head out into the beautiful Minnesota wilderness. Something fun like ice skating can easily burn hundreds of calories.

Calories and Water retention

Avoid calorie overload and bloating. We want you to feel good for all of those long-held Christmas traditions. This year, focus on gift-giving and dodging the tummy aches. Try using a calorie tracker app or write down food items throughout the day. These apps are also good for tacking sodium intake, the main driver of bloating. Most people do enjoy dropping the dietary constraints around the holidays, and most only put on a little weight, but that weight does add up over the years. Unfortunately, calories do not disappear around December 25. Keep in mind that one pound is comprised of 3,500 calories. Remember to count those calories and not feel the need to be chained to arbitrary meal times.

Recipe: Homemade hot cocoa

Finding healthy alternatives to holiday staples requires foodie ingenuity. To send you off, let’s look at a wonderful recipe for homemade hot cocoa. This fun and easy recipe will give you all the blissful joy of premade cocoa mix, but without the extra calories.Holiday health and good recipes go hand and hand.

Things you’ll need

  • 3 cups of nonfat dry milk powder
  • 2 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 ½ cups of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ cups of white chocolate chips
  • Skim milk

Directions

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl—transfer half of the mixture into a food processor. Process the mixture until the chocolate is broken down. Then put the chocolate mixture into a sealed container. Repeat this process for the remaining mixture. This mix will hold up for around three months.

Tri-County Health Care wishes you a joyous holiday season. The holiday health guide in this blog is apart of a larger mission to improve the overall health of everyone in the communities we serve. Consider changing your eating habits this holiday season so you can live a happier, healthier life in 2022!