Dubuque's Mercy Medical Center Cuts Out Fried Food

By Katie Wiedemann, Reporter

Mercy Medical Center cafeteria workers (left) Amber Studt and Amy Travagiakis, both of Cedar Rapids, tour the new Room Service Center at Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008. The free 24-hour Room Service Center will allow patents to call into one of four call stations and order their meal with the guidance of a nutrition assistant. The center will open Sept. 30, 2008. (Amanda LaRae Larkin/The Gazette)

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By Liz Blood

DUBUQUE, Iowa - A Dubuque hospital is now practicing what it preaches when it comes to making healthy choices. Most doctors don't allow patients to eat fried items while they're recuperating in the hospital. So in response Mercy Medical Center ripped out its deep fat friers.

The change also means hospital employees and visitors will also see a menu change.

A friendly smile and some quick comfort food serve up the escape many hospital visitors need when a loved one is sick and in the hospital.

But those greasy items come with consequences.

Mercy Nutrition Director Ryan Osterberger said, "patients could have a higher risk of cardiovascular problems, for sure. And weight gain."

Earlier this month, cafeteria employees at Mercy Medical Center in Dubuque got rid of the old fryers and started cooking everything in what's called a combination oven.

Osterberger said, "everything that went in the fryer, now is being cooked in the "comby", from french fries, to popcorn shrimp, to chicken nuggets."

The oven can bake, broil steam and smoke---but it doesn't use any oil.

Osterberger said, "a typical fried item will absorb about one tablespoon of fryer oil per item. That's about 15 grams of fat and 135 extra calories."

For example, Osterberger says when French Fries are baked they have 5 grams of fat, but when they are fried they have 18 grams of fat.

Hospital visitor Karen Langas said, "The fries were very crunchy. I never would have known they were baked."

Nutrition directors say you can't taste the difference, but say the change could be enough to keep visitors from becoming patients.

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