Red and Yellow Cards Flag Off-Diet Patient Trays

Featured in Food Management: UNC Hospitals uses soccer-like card system to warn patients about inappropriate meal choices.

In soccer, the yellow card is a warning, while the red card means ejection. At the University of North Carolina Hospitals, both cards are warnings of different degrees to patients who order meals under the institution’s liberalized diet approach that are inappropriate for their conditions (no, they don’t get ejected if they don’t comply).

The cards are placed on patient trays ordered through UNCH’s Restaurant Delivery patient dining menu when the order conflicts with diet restrictions. It’s a way to dramatize warnings about meal selections while still leaving the choice in the patient’s hands.

“We had been talking about liberalizing diets here for years, but one of our dietitians suggested we try this instead,” says Angelo Mojica, director of dining and nutrition services. “I thought it was a great idea. When a patient on a heart-healthy diet orders fried chicken despite our warning about excessive fat and sodium, he gets a yellow card. If he does it again, he gets a red card and one of our dietitians goes and talks to him.”

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