How Hospitals Are Transforming Hospital Food

The hospital/care home environment is one of the few settings where undernutrition is a significant problem. That’s because people are under stress, unable to cook, and are often ill. It’s a combination of circumstances that, combined with low food budgets and the need to focus on patients’ health, can lead to substandard meals. But with a few simple steps, the situation could improve.

In this piece, we look at how hospitals are bringing in chefs and using their expertise to transform hospital food – with a focus on patient satisfaction and sustainability.

Many people think of hospital food as bland, institutionalized fare. But this isn’t always the case. A slew of hospitals are now recruiting chefs and using their skills to serve up delicious meals that meet nutritional standards. Some are even transforming their kitchens into a modern version of a restaurant, allowing patients to choose the meals they want rather than receive pre-packaged food from the ward.

As the popularity of farm-to-table dining grows, more hospitals are using their kitchens to support their community by sourcing ingredients locally. This helps reduce the carbon footprint of their food as well as promote healthy eating, and it can be a win-win for both local farmers and the patients they serve.

However, despite this good work, there is still much to be done when it comes to the food served in hospital/care homes. Among other things, more research is needed to understand the impact of undernutrition in hospital/care homes and what is contributing to this.

Hospitals need to be more open about the food they serve, including their sourcing practices, and they should encourage patients to make informed choices. They also need to give patients the tools they need to stay healthy once they’re discharged – including how to read labels and what a “serving size” actually means.

The final step is educating patients and their families about how to prepare healthier meals once they’re back at home. This can include teaching them to prepare easy-to-make freezer meals (see our list of recipes here). These are ideal for any household, but they’re especially useful for busy families with multiple caregivers and children.

It may be some time before the food in hospitals can rival the quality of a five-star restaurant, but some are getting close. As these 22 photos from around the world show, it’s possible to make meals that are both nutritious and tasty in a hospital setting. For example, in Cully, Spain, according to Sunbelt Staffing, hospital patients are served breakfast of chorizo and pepper rice, a quiche, fig and walnut salad, an eclair, milk, fruit and orange juice. They also get a dinner of sweet and sour pork, bok choy, rice, honeydew melon, a pear, and coffee. The most important thing is to be aware of the options available and don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t like something. And, of course, remember that your insurance might cover all or part of your meals while you’re in the hospital!