Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My Hospital Food Theory

You know how everyone complains about how bad hospital food is? My hospital food theory goes like this:

- The average length of a hospital stay is something like three days.

- On a minimal budget, food preparation has to take into account allergies and dietary preferences for hundreds of people.

- Therefore, food preparation is kept as simple as possible, and is not nutritionally optimized because it is cheaper and the patients, on average, will only eat it for a short period of time.

So...this poses a problem for longer term patients. Like those in a psych ward.

I personally had no issue with the food when I was hospitalized. I was hungry all the time, and probably would have eaten kibble if someone had served it to me. I barely ate any of my desserts - I saved those for my seven-year-old son when he came to visit. It was the only special thing I could do for him.

After sampling food at several hospitals, I've noticed some things that make me raise my eyebrows (thank god they grew back). These are the questions I would like someday to ask a hospital administrator:

1. Why do you serve white bread instead of whole wheat?

2. Why is the rice always white?

3. Why are salads made with iceberg lettuce with high calorie dressing, and not a selection of dark, leafy greens with a vinaigrette?

4. Why serve reheated, battered fish sticks instead of plain fish?

5.  Do you know that mashed potatoes, while technically a vegetable, are really a carb?

You know what's funny? While I was hospitalized I met the hospital dietician (when I was trying to convince her that I was not a cardiac patient). I asked her for recommendations for my diet at home when I was discharged. She said (I'm not making this up), "Stay away from starches like white bread, white rice and mashed potatoes - opt for versions with more fibre, like whole wheat bread and brown rice. Stay away from fried and battered foods. Finally, make sure you eat lots of vegetables. An easy way to get variety is to buy a package of the dark greens at the supermaket, and have that as your salad."

If you do (and I hope you don't) have to spend any significant amount of time in a hospital, make sure you have a friend who will "run food" for you. Like drugs and therapy, fresh fruit and vegetables will make a big difference in your recovery.

Whoops - got to go. I've got a bunch of tater-tots cooking in the oven, and the toast has popped.

I'm making a bacon sandwich.

Mmmmmm...dairy product...


Unknown said...

I had to laugh at loud at "bacon sandwich" after your post.

I had the same problem with hospital food. Long-term, it doesn't have enough fruit or veg. I was 3 wks in the high-risk maternity ward, on "maternity diet" and found it crazy-wanting. Prenatal vitamins only go so far.
If you're careful in purchasing, they're even cheaper than what they were serving.

D'Arcy said...

Amen, Jenn!

Kiki said...


Unknown said...

I seem to recall liking my hospital food when I was recovering, except for the fact that my mouth was so dry I couldn't always eat it. I was happy to discover that I like turnips, at least.

D'Arcy said...

That's always a good thing - to discover a liking for a new vegetable!

I think some hospitals are different - it's bad to generalize, but I enjoy doing it, apparently ;) I know Teresa has had mixed experiences, but found it generally bad nutrition-wise.

I liked a lot of my hospital food, but recognized it wasn't healthy for me - like the white bread and white rice. I could eat a ton of that - but I knew that brown rice and whole grain bread would have been better for me.