UPMC, Wyndham commit to healthy options

By Alexa Bakalarski / Staff Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Four UPMC hospitals and one hotel are pledging to slim portion sizes and eliminate tobacco from their establishments.

On Thursday morning, Dr. Karen Hacker, the Allegheny County Health Department director, announced that five Oakland eating establishments — four cafeterias within UPMC hospital branches and Bridges Restaurant and Lounge at the Wyndham Hotel — have made the commitment to offer healthier dining options for patrons as part of the Live Well Allegheny program. Health Department and Wyndham Hotel employees gathered in the Wyndham’s Bridges Restaurant and Lounge to watch Hacker present the eatery with a Live Well Restaurant logo for their doorway, new menus and new salad tongs.

“We’re really excited that the Wyndham jumped on to be the first,” Hacker said. “We hope that there will be many more [restaurants].”

Live Well — an Allegheny County Health Department initiative that began two years ago — aims to promote overall wellness with a focus on decreasing obesity and tobacco usage and increasing physical activity.

To gain Live Well restaurant status, the ownership of an eatery first needs to send a formal letter indicating interest to work with the Live Well program. In the letter, the eatery needs to commit to eliminating trans fat oils, being smoke-free, not selling tobacco products and a minimum of four action steps, smaller initiatives toward achieving healthier dining options. Possible action steps include providing calorie counts and other nutritional information — such as the amount of sodium — on menus or somewhere else for customers, offering half portions on some menu items and offering vegetarian/vegan options.

The program is active in five school districts, 22 communities in Allegheny County and, most recently, five dining establishments.

Food and Nutrition Departments of UPMC at Magee-Womens Hospital, UPMC Passavant, UPMC Mercy and UPMC St. Margaret also signed on to the program. The hospitals pledged to become smoke-free and to make their cafeterias “Live Well.”

UPMC Mercy and UPMC Passavant are tackling the problem of too many sugary drinks by increasing the amount of non-carbonated beverages at soda fountains and eliminating free refills, respectively.

Mercy is also serving low-calorie soups, while Passavant is hosting bi-weekly Farmer’s Markets June through September for visitors and staff.

Magee-Womens Hospital met the Live Well criteria by offering healthy sides, half portions and two low-calorie salad dressings on the salad bar as alternatives to less healthy options, such as French fries.

UPMC St. Margaret limited deep-fried options and began offering half portions on pastas and casseroles, as well as specialized diet options for vegans and vegetarians.

At Bridges, sodium levels are listed on their new menus, and the eatery has added veggie tacos and Italian fruit salad.

“It was a good opportunity to rethink what we do from a menu perspective,” Coleman Hughes, general manager of the Wyndham Hotel, said.

Since the program is voluntary, Hacker said they do not have a plan to ensure if the Live Well restaurants are following through with their commitment, but the Health Department will notify the county if any major changes occur during their regularly scheduled inspections.

Hacker hopes that the Wyndham and UPMC cafeteria designations inspire other Oakland restaurants to join the Live Well program.

“We know that a lot of people in Oakland are eating in restaurants and on the go, so our objective is to give them information on healthy options,” Hacker said.

Leave a comment.