University Maternity Hospital Limerick Strikes Gold For Healthy Eating: June 2016

With some studies estimating the rate of cardiovascular disease in Ireland could double by 2030, the Irish Heart Foundation has introduced the Healthy Eating Awards in workplaces around the country to reduce the risks of unhealthy eating habits.

And at UMHL, the benefits are also shared by expectant mothers and visitors whose meals are prepared in the same kitchen.

It was a calorie posting initiative that recently resulted in UMHL becoming the first hospital in the country to receive a Gold Award from the Irish Heart Foundation.

“Displaying calorie counts was the final piece in the jigsaw to get a gold award. Every day we put up calorie and allergen information on the blackboard we have effectively painted on to the wall in the canteen. But a lot of work involving all the staff had already gone in to achieving this gold award,” said Angela Holton, Catering Officer, UMHL.

“That could involve offering fresh fish on the counter four out of seven days in the week; or ensuring that only 25% of the salads we offer are dressed; or that we have platters of fresh unsweetened fruit every day. There are various things you are required to do to get bronze, silver and gold awards,” explained Ms Holton.

Visitors also eat in the canteen while patients at the hospital are also receiving the benefits of the healthy eating commitments at UMHL.

“Everything we make here is freshly cooked or prepared, with no processed foods. Every day, for example, we have beans, peas or lentil options to provide a protein alternative for vegans. We don’t offer muffins or croissants. A lot of hard work goes into getting it right, you might even say finicky, like weighing eggs before putting them into the mix for scones. But that is what we are committed to doing,” Ms Holton said.

The Gold Award was recently confirmed following an audit by the Irish Heart Foundation in April. And it comes at a time when UL Hospitals Group has launched its Healthy Ireland Implementation Plan, which details some 60 actions the group is taking to improve the health and wellbeing of the population it serves and the staff it employs. That plan also notes the higher than average rates of cardiovascular disease in the MidWest region.

Included in the plan are measures around healthy eating for staff and patients, including the promotion of good maternal nutrition in order to address risk factors for long-term chronic disease and the promotion of protective factors at the pre-natal stage.

Said Noreen Spillane, Chief Operations Officer, UL Hospitals Group: “We are delighted at the success of the canteen team at University Maternity Hospital Limerick for winning the award from the Irish Heart Foundation and we draw huge inspiration from them as we set about implementing the group’s Healthy Ireland Plan. Those of us working in hospitals have a huge responsibility to show leadership in healthy eating and that is what the team at UMHL have done. Calorie posting initiatives are already underway at other hospitals around the group.”

Janis Morrissey, dietitian with the Irish Heart Foundation, stated: “Ireland faces significant challenges in tackling obesity and people working in the health service see the effects of this every day with increasing numbers presenting with stroke and heart disease. It is hugely encouraging to see hospitals participating and succeeding in this workplace healthy eating initiative.

“This is the highest level of the Healthy Eating Award and recognises workplaces that have achieved a particularly high standard in heart healthy catering practices and menu options. I would like to commend everyone involved at University Maternity Hospital Limerick.”

For more on the award programme, visit

For more on UL Hospitals Healthy Ireland Implementation Plan, see here

University Maternity Hospital Limerick Strikes Gold for Health Eating

Picture caption: Canteen staff at UMHL with the Irish Heart Foundation Happy Heart Healthy Eating Award: Back row left to right Dora Flynn, Terese Halpin, Helen Hanrahan, Angela Holton, Christina Davis and, in front, Brenda Doohan, Maureen Power and Antoinette Mullane

Last updated on: 29 / 06 / 2016