Hospital food is a minefield of unhealthy options. From fast food restaurants to vending machines filled with sugary treats and artificial flavours, hospital eateries are a hive of ill-health.
Poor hospital food choices are contributing to rising health care costs and chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease. But many hospitals are taking steps to make their cafeterias healthier by eliminating soda, providing more fresh fruits and vegetables, promoting healthy snacks and beverages, and reducing food waste.
The American Medical Association (AMA) calls on hospitals to serve a variety of healthful foods that are low in sodium, fat and added sugars and free of processed meats. The AMA also advocates for plant-based diets to reduce the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
In addition to providing the best medical treatment, hospitals have a responsibility to serve healthy meals that help patients recover and stay well. Hospitals have long recognized that nutritional support is an important part of the recovery process, and that the right food choices can play a role in reducing readmission rates after a procedure or surgery.
Until recently, standard hospital fare typically included meat, potatoes, and some type of vegetable — sometimes even served in gravy (chips and juice included).
However, hospitals have been changing their food choices as part of a growing movement to provide a more nutritious and delicious menu. Some of these changes include removing deep-fried items from their menus, increasing fruit and vegetable offerings, partnering with local farmers to use locally grown produce, and offering healthier take-out options.
Aside from making a difference in the health of their patients, a hospital’s food choices can have an impact on HCAHPS scores, employee engagement and morale. When patients and their families experience a shoddy retail cafeteria, they are much more likely to speak negatively about the hospital as a whole.
Some hospitals have turned to more wholesome alternatives for the cafeteria, including a cafe that serves dishes reminiscent of fine dining. The Remedies Café in Vail Valley Medical Center offers dishes such as tarragon chicken breast with pasta and pesto cream sauce, or chicken smothered in tomato sauce and provolone cheese.
According to Vail Daily, employees at the center love it because it’s a more casual and relaxed environment than the traditional hospital cafeteria. That’s a welcome change for a place that often can be cold and dark, especially in winter.
Another way that hospitals can improve their food service is by working with caterers who focus on healthy foods and produce. This can be an excellent option for many hospitals, as it helps them save money and time while still delivering healthy foods to patients.
Despite these improvements, many people still have difficulty finding the right food when they’re in the hospital. They’re often unable to choose a menu with a wide range of options, which can be difficult for them and their family members. If this is the case, they may be better off ordering food from a nearby restaurant.