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.


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 Also, follow Tri-County Health Care on social media for regular updates.

Nutrition Month 2022: A message from our dietitians

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Nutrition month is upon us! Take this month to assess the food going in your body. Registered Dietitian Shelby Hunke shines a light on diabetes management during this month of nutritional awareness.

Understanding diabetes

There are multiple forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is purely genetic and occurs when the body cannot produce insulin, a hormone crucial in converting blood glucose into energy. Type 2 diabetes is also genetic but heavily influenced by lifestyle choices. With type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t utilize insulin properly, so medical intervention is necessary. Diet, exercise and proper management with the help of a care team are essential components of living with diabetes.

The third form of diabetes is gestational diabetes. This kind of diabetes occurs in some individuals during pregnancy. It can be dangerous for the mother and baby, so it’s important to monitor sugar levels while regularly meeting with a doctor.


Prediabetes refers to the time before a person develops type 2 diabetes. Many people are prediabetic and don’t realize it. Some of the signs and symptoms may exist, like elevated sugar levels. Being diagnosed with prediabetes can often lead to a significant turning point in nutritional behaviors. By following a plan, it is possible to prevent diabetes.

A message from Shelby

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, don’t panic. I’m here to help! For starters, it’s important to work with your provider and a dietitian to craft a plan that works for you. For many people, I will recommend the “Diabetes Plate Method,” promoted by the American Diabetes Association. Its sometimes referred to as the Mediterranean Diet. This diet involves making half your plate non-starchy vegetables, ¼ protein and ¼ carbohydrate foods. Also, try really hard to avoid sweet drinks. Choose water and low calories drinks as much as possible.

I’ve been digging through my recipes and found a really fun one for you to try during Nutrition Month. Having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy good food; it means you have to get a little creative. Happy nutrition month, and stay healthy!

Soppy JanesDiet is a crucial part of managing diabetes.

Source: Sloppy Janes (

Required items:

  • nonstick cooking pan
  • a diced medium onion
  • 1 seeded and diced medium red bell pepper
  • 1 clove of minced garlic
  • a pound of lean ground turkey
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of hot sauce
  • 2 cups of canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • ½ teaspoon of black pepper
  • 8 whole-wheat hamburger buns


  • Apply cooking spray to the nonstick pan over medium-high heat
  • Put the onion, red bell pepper and garlic into the pan. Sauté for 5 minutes while stirring regularly.
  • Add the turkey and continue to sauté for 5-7 minutes. Stir regularly until the turkey is cooked.
  • Add the tomato paste, Dijon mustard, hot sauce, tomatoes, and black pepper. Let it simmer for 5 minutes and stir frequently.
  • Fill each bun with the mix and enjoy. This recipe should make around 8 Sloppy Janes.

About the author

Shelby Hunke RD, LD, CDCES, lives in Wadena with her husband and kids. She is passionate about nutrition and spreading her knowledge and experience with others to make healthier lifestyle choices. She works in the dietary department at Tri-County Health Care and sees patients at the Wadena clinic location.

Top tips to planning a balanced diet

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We’ve spent the last year inside and unfortunately eating habits have suffered and trips to the gym have been replaced with Netflix binging. The snow is melting and the cold of winter is quickly being replaced with spring fever. Now is the perfect time to start rethinking the foods we put into our bodies. So, drop that donut and use these tips to build a balanced diet that can easily be the platform for overall better living.

The great restock

Every fitness guru out there usually starts a new diet and exercise routine by clearing out the kitchen. Grab a donation box and fill it with soda, candy, and various other junk food classics. You don’t need them anymore, instead replace them with eggs, canned beans, frozen vegetables, rice, and oats. Packing your cupboards and fridge with healthy choices is the first step to healthier living. Another great tip is to vary your produce. Buy produce that lasts longer like carrots and potatoes. Then supplement these staples items with faster-spoiling items bananas and grapes. This cuts down on waste and gives you a range of choices for snack time.

Before you run out the door to buy a plethora of greens and grapes, take the time to make a list. The list should be composed of primarily healthy items. The aimless exploring of the grocery store is how cookies and ice cream find their way into your cart.

Having a varied diet is a great way of maintaining body weight.

Respect the food groups!

Just like we learned in elementary school. The food pyramid is an excellent guide for developing a balanced diet. Make sure to have a generous portion of whole-grain starches along with fruits and vegetables. Make sure your diet has a lot of color! Low-fat dairy and lean proteins come next. These vital food groups build your muscles and bones so don’t forget them. Don’t worry, the occasional bit of sugar isn’t that end of the world but remember to enjoy it in moderation. is an excellent resource for choosing healthy food and understanding portion sizes.

Processed carbohydrates

Refined sugar has been the downfall of many diets and meal plans. A life without pizza and candy sounds terrifying to some so we don’t want you to give up all your surgery treats but societally we need to eat less processed carbohydrates. Sugary beverages like soda and energy drinks are especially harmful and are a contributing factor to rising obesity numbers. Water should always be your main choice of hydration.

Tri-County Health Care Registered Dietitian Shelby Hunke. recommends having carbohydrate-based snacks rarely, around one to two times a week.

Registered Dietitian Tri-County Health Care Balanced Diet

Shelby Hunke, Tri-County Health Care Registered Dietitian

It’s a lifestyle change

The very idea of a diet chills some to the bone. Don’t look at it as an arbitrary set of eating rules but instead a lifestyle change. Go on the adventure of better living and find healthy foods you enjoy eating; they do exist. Then get support from family and friends. You don’t have to go it alone and finding someone to try that new kale smoothie with can help a great deal. If you need further assistance consider setting up an appointment with a dietitian. They have the professional expertise to get you started right.

Tri-County Health Care hosts a diabetes prevention class and in the most recent meeting, participants lost a total of 125 pounds. The nine participants lost this massive amount of weight over the course of 16 classes. These classes work on strategies to eat better while increasing physical activity.

Try something new

Get your new balanced diet kicked off right! Try this garlic parmesan asparagus recipe hand-picked by Shelby! Use the link below for step-by-step instructions:

Garlic Parmesan Asparagus Recipe: How to Make It | Taste of Home

Don’t give up!

People get burned out on a new diet and expect immediate success. It’s the journey, not necessarily the destination. Crash dieting is often the pitfall people fall into. Set attainable goals and cut back rather than going cold turkey. Cut down to one energy drink a week instead of cutting them out completely. Take it slow and steady to avoid intense cravings and binging. Set mini-goals, meet them, then set new goals.

Use March to revaluate your lifestyle and eating habits. If you need help, please schedule an appointment with a dietitian at Tri-County Health Care by calling 218-632-7115