Hospital food has a reputation for being unappetizing. However, there are some dietary guidelines that hospitals must follow. For example, the food served to patients must be low in sodium and contain at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Sodium levels must be below 290 mg per serving. Frozen and canned fruit must be devoid of syrup. Likewise, pasta and bread must contain at least two grams of fiber per serving. Saturated fats can not account for more than ten percent of the total daily calorie allowance. In addition, deep frying is banned.
In the U.K., hospitals prefer to serve less healthy food to patients, as it costs them more money to serve more meals. Furthermore, relatives can buy junk food from the hospital’s cafeteria, which benefits the hospital twice over. Moreover, doctors may not be knowledgeable enough about nutrition, so they can’t offer healthier alternatives. Hence, hospital food suppliers don’t care about nutrition, they’re just interested in making more profit.
Hospitals are working on changing the perception of hospital food. There are special menus available to cater to religious and dietary restrictions. Many hospitals are launching new initiatives to offer healthier meals to patients. While these menus have improved, many patients still prefer traditional hospital food, which is high in fat and salt. The health benefits of healthier food include lower costs for the hospital, improved recovery for the patient and reduced health care costs for the staff. In addition to promoting good nutrition, healthy hospital food also helps hospitals stay competitive in the market.
In New York City, the Healthy Hospital Food Initiative (HHFI) has had significant success. More than a dozen hospitals have converted to HHFI standards. Despite this success, it’s important to note that not all hospitals have followed this initiative. This initiative is voluntary. However, five private hospitals have committed to HHFI’s standards. For example, a hospital in Lenox Hill, New York, incorporates rooftop garden produce into its meals.
The PCRM also published a list of hospitals that have fast food. In the United States, over twenty hospitals have Chick-fil-A restaurants within their walls. In addition, five hospitals have Wendy’s restaurants in their lobby. Many health experts have warned that this type of unhealthy food is the root of many of our nation’s major health problems. Many hospital meal trays include a variety of processed foods, including fried foods, preservative-filled fruit cups, artificial sweeteners, and saturated fats.
This program is part of Local Roots, a New York-based organization that connects small farmers with eaters. They set up CSA pick-ups at the hospital two years ago, but the number of signups was not as high as anticipated. Local Roots was unable to meet the promised volume because they did not have a buyer. The food was also too bland and tasteless. Hospitals should be mindful of this and strive to improve the quality of food provided to patients.