Cincinnati Hospital and Local Restaurants Serve Up a Successful Heart Healthy Restaurant Program
by Diane Atwood
For people who try to eat a heart healthy diet, dining out can be a challenge. They rarely know exactly what ingredients are going into their meal or how it is really being cooked. In any case, many items on restaurant menus tend not to be heart healthy.
Three years ago, The Christ Hospital, a 555-bed acute care facility in Cincinnati, began a heart healthy restaurant program. The program is designed to make going out to eat a more enjoyable, healthier experience. Today, 32 local restaurants and catering companies have signed on. Items on their menus that meet dietary guidelines established by the American Heart Association are marked with The Christ Hospital’s symbol – a tower.
Lessons learned from past experience
Chris Thomson pitched the idea of the restaurant program when he became executive director of the hospital’s heart and vascular service line in late 2008. In February 2010, The Christ Hospital and 13 restaurants launched the new program with a tasting event. Thomson had developed a similar restaurant program in the late 1980s in Beaumont, TX, and went on to establish two more, in Dallas and in Peoria, IL.
“The origin of this [initiative],” explains Thomson, “is that patients have heart attacks and then they go to cardiac rehab and get education on diet and exercise. One of the big questions that comes up is, ‘Well, I eat out three or four times a week. Where can I eat and what can I do?”’