When someone is sick and in the hospital, it’s not exactly a place to look forward to. The needles, the shared rooms, the backside-baring gowns, the sight of things you wished you never saw — it’s enough to put anyone into a bad mood. But that’s before you even start thinking about the food.
It seems like there’s wide agreement that hospital food is abysmal. Many hospital cafeterias and patient meal plans are filled with foods that aren’t good for you – and they’re working directly against the health of patients. That’s because foods high in salt, hidden sugar, processed vegetable oils, additives and preservatives are all working against the health of a patient.
Thankfully, hospitals are starting to take steps to improve their dining options for their patients and staff. They’re focusing on improving the quality of their food and showing that the food they serve is healthy for people and for our planet.
In some cases, this means creating a dining experience that looks more like a restaurant than a hospital. One example of this is the Remedies Café at Vail Valley Medical Center in Colorado. The food isn’t fine-dining, but the atmosphere and menu are a welcome change from typical hospital fare.
Aside from the more gourmet food, many hospitals are taking steps to improve their food offerings to make sure that the meals they do serve are healthy for the people eating them. They’re focusing on adding more vegetables and whole grains to their menus and removing the high-sugar foods. They’re also putting more emphasis on offering vegan and vegetarian dishes as well as Meatless Mondays.
But it’s important to remember that every hospital is different and their menus are based on what the local community is used to. It’s also important to remember that not everyone is wealthy enough to stay at a five-star hospital, where the only thing served on their plates is risotto and rack of lamb.
Many hospitals have to rely on their catering company to provide their food, and it can be difficult for these companies to create a menu that’s both good for patients and affordable.
In these cases, it’s not uncommon to find that hospitals are served frozen entrees that are ready-to-eat. These meals usually include a protein, some sort of carbohydrate, a salad or other side dish, bread and a beverage. In order to rate the menus, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine gives hospitals a scorecard that includes points for items such as offering more vegetable and whole grain sides, offering low-sodium soup, having a farmer’s market or on-site garden, and serving soy milk.
In the end, it’s up to the individual patient and family members to make sure their loved ones eat healthy while in the hospital. That’s why it’s so important for hospitals to make their dining options as appealing as possible — after all, what’s better than a bowl of soup when you’re feeling under the weather?