Several years ago a popular morning show aired a segment on The Healthy American Barbeque. It was an “eat this, not that” kind of piece with the newscaster and nutrition correspondent showing the American public the best choices for an all-American summer feast. This is what they offered…
Salad of iceberg lettuce with low fat dressing
Grilled vegetables marinated in low fat dressing
Low Fat hot dog
Jell-O (low fat)
Baked potatoes with butter
100% beef hamburger
Homemade apple pie
Contrary to popular belief, the “NOT THAT” choices are the way to go and the way that I would go. You wouldn’t catch me dead eating anything with low-fat dressing (the fat is replaced with sugar and fillers); hot dogs, in my educated opinion, are the bottom of the bottom of the food chain (though I do let my kids have the occasional Applegate weaner—that’s the moderationist in me); and Jello-O, where to begin…
Let’s first talk about what is involved in making this jiggly, colorful food-like substance. The foundation of this fabulous treat is gelatin, a protein produced from the collagen extracted from boiled bones, connective tissue and intestines of dead animals. Sounds yummy, right. Well add sugar or superficial sweetness, artificial flavoring, a risky rainbow of colors and you have some serious neon “nourishment”! Sorry, but there is nothing nourishing about Jell-O and how the heck did it get on hospital menus?
Coming onto the scene in the early 1900’s, Jell-O made its mark due to the perseverance of door-to-door salesmen who pushed this substance as a moldable dessert. Perfect timing as a charged group of women—the domestic scientists—were working hard to remove “drudgery” from cooking so anything that simplified food preparation and proved a meal visually perfect was embraced. Thus, Jello-O was revered as a simple treat or used to encase fruits, vegetables or anything that needed some measure of uniformity as true nourishment was officially taking a back seat to the appearance and convenience of food. So, in my opinion, Jell-O is one of the food products at the root of how American eating became notoriously American—a true fast food nation(and fake food nation).
Back to Jell-O and hospitals. I surmise (cause I couldn’t find any real data on this matter) that this food substance was given to the sick because it is easy to eat, easy to digest, offers some energy (in the form of sugar), is “tasty” and cheap. But, should sick people really be given something that is void of nutritional value and in fact has NEGATIVE VALUE. Sick people should be eating real food and believe it or not, there is plenty of real food that is easy to eat, digest, offers energy and is truly tasty. Take good old-fashioned applesauce for example or how about a fruit and vegetable smoothie. A little more expensive than Jell-O but your health is priceless and it if the American healthcare system really cares, your food trays wouldn’t be filled with trash. Remember, you are what you eat!
The good news is that the Jell-O days could be numbered as hospitals are seeking healthier ways to feed their patients. Yeah! Jell-O is HELL-O for your health. So to all hospitals that still subscribe to this American icon—get out of the time warp you are in and start serving up some better for you food!
Let’s keep this conversation going. Please feel free to share your thoughts and opinions. I would love to hear from you!
And, don’t forget to tune in to Stirring the Pot on WPPB 88.3 FM Thursdays at 5:30pm (with an encore Saturdays at 5pm) for A New Direction for Hospital Foodservice and surely check out the Weekly Yum Recipe.