It’s time to stop serving your patients foods that are known to cause cancer.
As a hospital, you are committed to being a beacon of good health and providing healthful meals rather than those that are known to harm your patients. But did you know that processed meats, like bacon and sausage, are carcinogenic? They increase the rate of some cancers by approximately 20%. So why are they still served in hospitals? Perhaps you are concerned about what patients might think? A possible step is to use faux meats to help bridge the transition from unhealthy processed animal-derived products to nutritious plant-based options.
Look at the difference:
Typical pork sausage links (3.52 ounces) have 304 calories, 27 g of fat, 9 g of saturated fat, and 636 g of sodium.
A switch to Field Roast Smoked Apple links (3.2 ounces) trims these numbers to 220 calories, 8 g of fat, 0.5 g of saturated fat, and 560 g of sodium.
Adventist Health Howard Memorial Hospital in Willits, Calif., offers Italian Beyond Meat brats instead of pork sausage.
Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., offers a MorningStar plant-based sausage that can be added to an English muffin, bagel, or just as a side.
Hungry Planet provides curated products for your institution that not only provide alternatives for processed meats, such as sausage and chorizo, but can amplify your plant-based offerings with their chicken, beef, and crab cake alternatives. Available through many major food suppliers, including US Foods.
Using Replacements to Help Cut Sodium
Many meat alternatives are lower in sodium than meat-based sausage and bacon products, although products vary.
For example, a typical slice of bacon has 193 mg of sodium (https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/168322/nutrients). A strip of Lightlife Fakin’ Bacon tempeh or Smart Bacon has only 145 mg of sodium, and a strip of Benevolent Sweet Earth bacon has even less, at 60 mg.
A typical breakfast-sized sausage link has 168 mg of sodium (https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1098709/nutrients), while a Beyond sausage classic link has just 120 mg. Brands vary, so it pays to compare.
If choosing higher-sodium brands, it may be useful to reduce the amount of product used or add other low-sodium ingredients. For example, the pepperoni on a pizza could be replaced with half the amount of plant-based Happy Little Plants pepperoni in combination with mushrooms or spinach.
Plant-based foods vary in cost. Typical food items, such as beans and rice, are typically cheaper than the meaty products they replace, while faux meats are often somewhat higher in cost. It pays to compare brands. When choosing higher-cost items, it helps to note the markedly better nutritional profile of these foods, as well as the potential for reduced health care costs that healthier foods may bring.
Cancer-causing “processed meats” are very different from “processed” foods in general.
Any time foods are baked, prepared, or cooked, they become “processed.” Many foods that are considered healthy are processed, such as almond milk, whole-wheat bread, and roasted cauliflower. Processed meats, however, have been given a very specific definition by the World Health Organization. Meats such as hot dogs, sausages, deli meats, and bacon are processed meats, and are known to increase the risk of cancer.
Processed meat refers to meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation.
World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/cancer-carcinogenicity-of-the-consumption-of-red-meat-and-processed-meat
Another way to replace processed meats is with healthful food options that provide different tastes and textures:
For a hearty breakfast:
- Let patients choose their favorite toppings, including nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, for oatmeal and cream of wheat.
- A sweet potato, bean, and pepper hash would also complement a tofu breakfast scramble with whole-grain toast.
For a satisfying lunch:
- Instead of a bacon, lettuce, and tomato (BLT), go for a PLT: portobello, lettuce, and tomato.
- When replacing pepperoni on a pizza, consider sun-dried tomatoes and basil for flavor and texture.
- For an open-faced sandwich or flatbread, pan-fried mushrooms or shredded jackfruit and capers provide a meaty texture and add a layer of richness.
- When eliminating deli meats, try a hummus, sprouts, and avocado sandwich on whole-wheat pita, or consider an avocado and bean spread bagel. Marinated roasted eggplant, red pepper, and red onions in a wrap or on a wheat hoagie roll also make a satisfying meal.
- Need more sandwich options? Try chickpea salad or “eggless” salad made with tofu on whole-wheat bread with all the fixings!
There are many ways to approach eliminating processed meats from your menu, and we are happy to help. Reach out to nutrition [at] pcrm.org (nutrition[at]pcrm[dot]org).