California children’s hospitals rarely offer healthy food, study finds

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Only 7 percent of hospital entrees at California's 14 major children's hospitals were deemed healthy.

Researchers with the UCLA School of Medicine and RAND Corporation visited the cafeterias and food courts of California's 14 major children’s hospitals last year.

What they found was food that might land a person... back in the hospital.

According to their study published Thursday in Academic Pediatrics, only 7 percent of hospital entrees were determined to be healthy.

The study’s lead researcher is family doctor Lenard Lesser.

“Anybody who visits most hospitals knows hospitals are sometimes serving the same foods that fast food restaurants are serving," said Lesser.

"So burgers and fries are commonplace in a lot of hospitals. What we tried to do is analyze all the entrees there that they were serving and determine how many of them are healthy and how they were promoting those healthy and unhealthy items.”

"Healthy" in this case being items under 800 calories with labeled nutritional information. According to the study, many cafeterias didn’t offer whole-wheat bread or fat-free salad dressing-- but almost all offered ice cream or cookies within feet of the checkout.

Eleven venues were missing nutrition information at the point of purchase.

Lesser said that some children's hospitals have already begun responding to the researcher's findings. Since being e-mailed the results in June 2010, UCLA's Mattel Children’s Hospital has already eliminated fried food and trans fats completely from their menu.