“Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.”
So goes the ancient instruction of Hippocrates, the Greek “Father of Medicine” who rejected the conventional wisdom of his time, which believed illness to be caused by angry gods or possession by evil spirits.
It was in the spirit of the ancient physician’s words that 11 chef teams from throughout the North Shore-LIJ Health System bustled at cooking stations set around a table piled high with fresh produce at on Thursday, competing within strict nutritional guidelines to create tasty, original dishes that could be served to patients or cooked at home.
In a modern country where obesity is an epidemic, disease kills millions each year and pharmaceutical companies push drugs in television commercials like any other consumer product, the movement toward healthy diet as a means of prevention and healing is growing.
So is the wellness aspect of treatment at Glen Cove Hospital and the rest of the North Shore LIJ system, according to Michael Kiley, director of food services at Glen Cove Hospital. He organized the event, which was three months in the making.
“It’s difficult when a small piece of beef is seven grams of fat, you know? That’s why restaurants, they think bigger is better - in America everything is ‘bigger is better’ – it’s affecting us,” said Kiley, who pulled a pedometer off his ankle as he added that he is overweight and trying to lose the pounds.
“Health care gets a bad rap when it comes to food. We’re compared to restaurants and whatnot that put in a lot of sodium and fat. This is an opportunity to show that we can create delicious, healthy food that has the same exact taste and flavor in it, but yet it’s still healthy,” he said.
In a large room filled with spectators, chefs hurried to whip together ingredients as they related each portion to dieticians standing by. Each ingredient and its amount were recorded and tallied, each dish required to come in at less than 500 calories, 600 milligrams of sodium and 15 grams of fat.
Many fell far below those limits, with gourmet dishes like “Hali Meets Thai,” a serving of halibut over salsa made from mango, kiwi, pineapple, tomato, lemon, arugula, turmeric, cumin, lime and a sweet Thai chili sauce with olive oil and vinaigrette.
Glen Cove Hospital chefs Lyndon Espiritu and Dalton Christopher created the meal.
“Eating in a restaurant and having good food doesn’t mean it’s healthy,” said Espiritu, who said no salt is used to cook patient meals and very little in the hospital’s cafeteria items.
“The fact is that putting this out to the community will alert them that healthy eating is the best thing,” he said.
Edward Cox, an assistant director of service excellence and nutrition in the system, said the focus on wellness and a room service style of patient care go hand-in-hand in driving hospitals to provide examples of excellent food that is great for your body.
The competition’s first-place winners were chefs from Forest Hills Hospital, with Lennox Hill and Syosset coming in second and third, respectively.
For more information from the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System on healthy eating, visit vivohealth.com.