You can get a Reuben sandwich in the cafeteria at Hinsdale (Ill.) Hospital in suburban Chicago, but it won't be made with real corned beef.
The "meat" on this sandwich is a soy-based vegetarian alternative.
That's because 339-bed Hinsdale is part of 32-hospital Adventist Health System based in Winter Park, Fla., and vegetarianism is a strongly held belief in the Adventist faith.
"We believe that the body is the temple of God and a vegetarian diet contributes to care of the body temple and a healthy lifestyle," says Benjamin Reaves, vice president of mission and ministry at Adventist.
While vegetarianism isn't required by the Adventist faith, it's strongly recommended.
Worldwide there are almost 11 million Adventists, although it is unknown how many follow a vegetarian diet. However, a random study of 35,000 Adventists in California found that 30% ate no meat, 30% ate meat occasionally and 40% ate meat regularly, according to the General Conference of Seventh Day Adventists, the world headquarters of the Adventist faith in Silver Springs, Md.
The principles of a vegetarian diet are reflected in how the Florida Adventist Health System runs its hospitals' cafeterias.
The dietary philosophy can create management issues Adventist must deal with when new hospitals are brought into the system.
Of the system's 32 hospitals, 15 have purely vegetarian cafeterias, while the remaining 17 serve what are referred to as "clean meats," a system spokeswoman says.
The concept of clean meats has its roots in the Bible, in the 11th chapter of the book of Leviticus.
Clean meats come from those animals that chew their cud and have cleft hooves, and from fish that have fins and scales. That mainly rules out pork and shellfish in the Adventist diet.
"Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you," the Bible admonishes.
Typically, cafeterias in the historically Adventist hospitals serve strictly vegetarian fare.
"We feel consideration can be given to the use of the clean meat," Reaves says. That way, the dietary desires of non-Adventists can be met without compromising strongly held religious beliefs.
"The position has been to try to present, as best we can, an atmosphere and openness to consideration for others and their perspectives . . . within the confines of what we hold to be mandatory," Reaves says.
Adventist facilities aren't the only hospitals that observe dietary restrictions.
Some Jewish-sponsored hospitals, such as 436-bed Sinai Hospital of Baltimore and 668-bed Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., follow kosher dietary laws, which are similar to the rules the Adventists follow.
For example, Sinai Hospital has two cafeterias, one kosher and one not, and two kitchens, one to prepare the kosher meals and one to prepare the non-Kosher items, says Jill Bloom, Sinai's director of marketing and corporate communications.
Like the Adventists, pork and shellfish aren't served in Sinai's kosher cafeteria, Cafe Shalom. In addition, meat and dairy products are never served together.
Sinai Hospital serves 36,500 kosher meals to patients each year and another 24,000 kosher meals from its Cafe Shalom, Bloom says. Combined, the kosher meals account for about 20% of all the meals served at the hospital.
Unlike Sinai, Maimonides serves only kosher food to its patients and in its cafeteria.
Reaves says some people are curious about the Adventist's dietary restrictions.
"Once people see it in light of our holistic sense of healthcare, there is an acceptance," Reaves says. "I won't say there is a rush to join in, but there is an acceptance and an understanding."
For example, the cafeteria at 175-bed La Grange (Ill.) Memorial Hospital, which Adventist bought from Nashville-based Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. last year, now serves only clean meats. Pork and shellfish were removed from the cafeteria menu after Adventist took control, says Elizabeth Lively, regional director of government relations for
Adventist's Midwest region.
But the dietary rules don't apply at hospitals where Adventist lacks a controlling interest.
That's the case at 443-bed General Health System in Baton Rouge, La., where Adventist has had a management contract for two years.
No changes were made in the cafeterias at the system's two acute-care hospitals, says Milton Siepman, president and chief executive officer of the system, commonly known as "the General."
Consequently, seafood, such as shrimp and crawfish--Louisiana favorites--are served in the General's cafeterias.
Regardless of whether a hospital's cafeteria is strictly vegetarian or not, a selection of clean meats is available for patients at all Adventist hospitals, as long as the foods conform with dietary restrictions spelled out by their doctors.
But you don't have to be a patient or employee at an Adventist hospital to enjoy the food or take advantage of the healthy menu.
Ruth and John Klos of Hinsdale, Ill., eat at the Hinsdale Hospital cafeteria a couple times each week. Besides offering reasonable prices, eating at the cafeteria is a healthy option for Ruth Klos, who is under doctor's orders to keep an eye on her salt intake.
At the hospital cafeteria that's easy to do because weekly menus detail how many calories, how much fat, protein and sodium, and how many carbohydrates are in each item.
Ruth Klos is aghast at how much salt can be found in 8 ounces of creamy soup: 1,460 milligrams.
John Klos favors the hospital's impressive salad bar. "I have a spoon of everything on the bar," he says.
In addition to soups and salads, the cafeteria menu also offers a pasta bar and a variety of hot entrees, including "buffalo-like" wings, macaroni and cheese, potato pancakes and spinach lasagna. The meat-like items are made using soy-based products or other vegetarian alternatives.