Improving Hospital Food

If you’re sick or injured, a trip to the hospital is never fun. But one of the worst parts, according to patients, is having to eat hospital food. A recent study by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found that most hospitals serve meals that are high in fat, sugar, sodium, and cholesterol, and low in fiber. Moreover, many have in-house fast-food restaurants like Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s, which further add to the unhealthy diets of their patients.

Fortunately, some hospitals have begun to make changes. The best hospitals team up with nutritionists and classically trained chefs to slim down dishes and revamp menus. Whether it’s Stanford Hospital’s hi-tech ordering system through room TVs, Fauquier Hospital’s local organic menu, or coffee-crusted prime rib at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, it seems that hospital food is finally moving on from Jell-O and mush.

But other hospitals still have a long way to go. A recent survey of 500 hospitals by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that the richer a patient is, the better their meal. Hospitals catering to wealthy patients have started offering five-star menus with risotto, racks of lamb, and other gourmet fare.

While some hospitals are working to improve their food, most are still stuck in a cycle of purchasing frozen meals from large-scale catering companies. These meals are often high in fat, salt, and sugar—and low in dietary fiber—and all the staff has to do is reheat them and add some condiments. Hospitals also tend to buy from vendors who are only concerned with one thing: making money.

That’s why it’s important for hospitals to work with food suppliers who are committed to health-conscious practices and use fresh, healthy ingredients. This helps elevate hospital foods and supports the local economy. It’s also a great way to showcase hospitals as part of the community, which is another way to boost patient satisfaction.

If you’re a patient, you can do your part by eating only what’s on the menu. Try to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat proteins instead of fried foods and processed snacks. If your hospital hosts a fast-food restaurant, ask it to replace these items with more nutritious plant-based options. You can also sign this petition to encourage your hospital to make healthful changes. And if you’re a hospital administrator, join our campaign to Make Hospitals Healthy! We’ll provide you with a toolkit filled with helpful resources to help your hospital make the right choices for patients. Click here for more information. You can also follow our Food in Hospitals Facebook page for updates and ways to get involved!