March is National Nutrition Month and this year the theme – Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right – is kicking off in the kitchen of the Hillcrest South Café. The dietary staff prepares 1400 meals from scratch every day for patients, visitors and hospital employees. Highlighting health and nutrition on the menu is the goal of Sonja Stolfa, RD/LD, Hillcrest South Dietary Department Manager and chefs Louis Rois and Terriann Latouche. “Our goal is to try to introduce them to something that looks really good, which is also healthy,” explains Sonja Stolfa, RD/LD.
However, Sonja and her staff recognize the balance between having familiar comfort foods and more nutritious foods on the menu is not always easy. “It is challenging,” admits chef Louis Rois. “They were used to a lot of fried food, now we are trying to do it a more healthy, more fresh, more nutritious.”
It is both a department and personal passion for Louis. Three years ago a life-changing event put his own diet and nutrition under the microscope. “I’ve been in this business all my adult life, so I thought I knew everything about nutrition and what’s good for you and what’s not,” he says learning otherwise following having open-heart surgery. As part of his rehabilitation, Louis worked with nutritionists to better understand how to follow a heart-healthy diet. “They showed me ways to flavor your food without putting salt in it and without using substitutes.” The cravings for salty foods, he says, went away as his overall nutrition improved.
Hospital employees and guests will have many heart-healthy and high-fiber foods to choose from at the Café. “We will feature more whole grain pasta, more vegetables steamed on a daily basis and entrees that are lower in fat,” shares Sonja. Look for a twist on classic Mardi Gras dishes, including baked catfish, red beans and rice and low-fat jambalaya. “If we could marry the two – comfort food and heart-healthy foods – we would be true stars, so that’s our goal.”
Changing what’s on your plate may seem like a small step towards better health, but one chef Terriann Latouche knows first-hand can be life changing. “My father passed away from a heart attack,” she says. “He wasn’t educated on what’s really out there. If I could change that, I think I’m making a big difference and saving people’s lives.”