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Stephanie Armstrong-Helton

St. Joseph Mercy Port Huron Celebrates National Nutrition Month by Launching Trans Fats Elimination Initiative
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Port Huron, MI…St. Joseph Mercy Port Huron (SJMPH) is pleased to announce that is has joined with the Michigan Hospital Association (MHA) in promoting a healthier community by eliminating trans fats from the hospital’s patient menu, cafeteria and vending area, beginning March 1, 2010.

Obesity is on the rise and, according to the MHA, is now estimated to account for between 9 percent and 11 percent of total U.S. health care expenditures. In response to this trend and in an effort to help elevate the health status of the community, SJMPH has joined in the statewide campaign to voluntarily eliminate industrial (also known as artificial) trans fats from the vending machines, cafeteria and patient nutrition programs.

“We thought the best time to launch this new initiative would be as we look to promote the month of March as National Nutrition Month, a nationwide awareness program of the American Dietetic Association (ADA),” comments Sue Colarossi, Registered Dietitian (RD), Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), and manager of the SJMPH Diabetes Education Center. This year’s theme for National Nutrition Month is ‘From the Ground Up’, and serving as a pivotal leader in promoting personal health, we felt this was an excellent time to announce that St. Joseph Mercy’s foods have become healthier.”

Artificial trans fats have been directly linked to obesity, increased levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, reduced levels of HDL (good) cholesterol and numerous other negative health outcomes. According to the American Heart Association artificial trans fats are known to contribute to: hypertension; osteoarthritis; type 2 diabetes; heart disease; stroke; gallbladder disease; sleep apnea and respiratory problems; and cancers of the endometrial, breast and colon.

Introduced in the late 19th century to lengthen the shelf life of foods and allow frying oil to last longer, artificial (also referred to as manufactured or industrial) trans fats start out as a liquid vegetable oil, which is then combined with hydrogen through the process of hydrogenation. In its solid form artificial trans fats are also known as partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Artificial trans fats are worse than saturated fats because they introduce an unnatural, manufactured substance into the body.

“Our work to eliminate artificial trans fats from our diet will greatly increase the health of everyone who enters St. Joseph Mercy Hospital,” continues Colarossi. “This effort continues the trend seen in other states to address this health hazard. We have been working with our food suppliers and vendors, including All Star Vending, for a number of months in order to meet the guidelines of this new initiative. We’ve been switching out the menu as well as ingredients to be able to present good, nutritious foods to all those who enter the hospital, including guests and staff who routinely utilize the Baggot Street Cafe. For example, beginning next month, turkey pot pie will no longer be available due to the trans fats in the pie crust, but an alternative is under development. In addition, shortening will no longer be used in cooking.”

“In addition to having a clear understanding of artificial trans fats and finding new ways to eliminate them from the diet, it’s common knowledge that a healthful diet is an important part of a healthful lifestyle, but most people have trouble figuring out what to do when planning a complete diet overhaul,” continues Colarossi. “During National Nutrition Month, individuals are finding a way to focus on eating better by starting with the basics.

“By starting slowly and giving yourself a good foundation,” continues Colarossi, “change doesn’t have to be dramatic to make a difference. You can start by focusing on just a few things.”

Focus on fruits and vegetables: Take a good look at your current diet and you’ll probably realize you’re not eating enough fruits or vegetables. Add a serving each day to one meal and increase it every few weeks.

Look locally: From farmer’s markets to community-supported agriculture, you have a number of options to find new, fresh foods.

Make calories count: Too often, people think of foods as good or bad and that only good foods are okay to eat. When you’re making a choice, focus on the one with the more vitamins and nutrients. Sometimes, foods with fewer calories aren’t always the healthiest option.

Focus on variety: Eat a variety of foods from all the food groups. Fruits and vegetables can be fresh, canned or frozen. Vary protein choices with more fish, beans and peas. Include at least three servings of whole grains every day.

Make the most of family meal time: Eating together as a family when possible provides and opportunity to help children develop a healthy attitude toward food. Introduce new foods and establish a regular meal schedule.

Balance physical activity and a healthy diet: By living a balanced lifestyle, you can manage weight and promote overall health and fitness.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to offer healthier food choices to the community and our patients,” comments Peter Karadjoff, President & CEO of St. Joseph Mercy Port Huron. “As a not-for-profit hospital, we work to improve the health of our communities by reinvesting our ‘profits’ back into the community through new programs, vital health services and access for all. Delivering safe, high-quality and compassionate care is one of our core principals and is exemplified through program and services such as those being offered in our nutrition center.”

To help guests and staff more fully understand the initiative, an informational display will be available in the hospital’s Baggot Street Café throughout the month of March. For more information regarding St. Joseph Mercy Port Huron, visit our website at: To find a St. Joseph Mercy physician near you, call toll-free 1-888-MERCYME.
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St. Joseph Mercy Port Huron | 2601 Electric Avenue, Port Huron, Michigan 48060 | 810-985-1500