Hospital Food

I was quite inspired yesterday when I saw an article in the New York Times about healthy hospital food.  Healthy hospital food?  Yes, this term need not be an oxymoron.

You may want to take a look at the entire article as it is filled with detail and solutions (on a small level, though it’s a start) to our national health crisis.  What health crisis?  One-third of Americans are diabetic or pre-diabetic which in the coming years could cost our system billions of dollars, along with other diseases related to lifestyle.

Last week I discussed Mark Bittman’s proposed soda tax as a possible idea for dealing with this looming crisis.  The response?  Most comments were not in favor of such a tax.  I want to thank all who left comments on the soda tax post –they were informative and I enjoyed the lively debate.

Today, I want to take a different approach by looking at examples of individuals and institutions that are changing our food landscape through innovation and new ideas.

Here’s a great example.  More than two years ago, in the wake of dismal patient food ratings, New Milford Hospital revamped its food service operation.  It also instituted an “aggressive healthy-food initiative.”  Some of the changes included eliminating the cafeteria’s deep fryer, as well as no longer using canned or processed foods.

“The hospital’s food service rating soared,” said Marydale Debor, a former vice president of external affairs at New Milford Hospital and a co-founder of the web site Plow to Plate, a grass-roots effort to bring local food and agriculture to the hospital and the community. Ms. Debor also established the cafe’s daily Senior Suppers, which became so popular with senior citizens that a second sitting was added.

The program has its costs and the chef explains how he has dealt with increased costs:

Buying local is expensive and labor intensive, Mr. Gold said, so he offsets the increased cost by buying less red meat and serving low-cost alternatives: protein-rich quinoa citrus salad and portobello burgers, for example. With help from community volunteers, Mr. Gold also installed a rooftop garden.

My father works at a university hospital and growing up I used to go to work with him on the weekends, so growing up I spent my fair share of time in a hospital cafeteria. I don’t recall great offerings back then, though happily, he says things have changed, “in previous decades the choices in my hospital cafeteria were limited, now, however, there is a full array of  healthy food.”

So, here’s a new topic for us to chew on: hospital food.  Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts on the type of program the New Milford Hospital has implemented.  Do you think programs such as this can have an impact around the country?  Do you have other ideas?  Better ideas?  Let us know!


87 responses to “Hospital Food”

  1. As a nurse, I observe pts eating horribly- prior to admission and during the admission to the hospital. Healthy, nutritious food is necessary for proper healing. Certain diets are required for certain illnesses. I agree with no junk food and natural or low sugar dessesrts. However, pts will refuse to eat if it is too “foreign”, ie. They will sneak food from home or raid the vending machines if you substitute cauliflower for potatoes. Vending machines and fast food courts in the hospital need to be eliminated and 24 hour healthy snacks could be offered when hot meals aren’t available.
    Specialty diets or healthy diets should be a menu option for the pt and the cafeteria visitors. The hospital I work at will give a dish a fancy name and charge more for it, but it isn’t worth the price and usually doesn’t taste good.
    The argument has been and will continue to be the same as public school meals– it costs too much and not easy to prepare. I do not believe this. Health care costs are hi enough to teach people how to eat properly. In the long run, it could keep pts out of the hospital. Also, some cafeteria workers aren’t even trained in food prep as much as in a local restaurant. Education is needed in this area as well. Bans and taxes don’t work, as evidenced by the sales of cigarettes and alcohol, so I am against taxing soda or junk food. People have to take personal responsibility and the healthy choices must be available for those when they are confined to the hospital.

    • I am a cardiac survivor of 21 years from my first of 9 heart attacks. I am also diabetic for the last 10 years triggered by a cabg surgery.
      Here are my thoughts on hospital food and the AMA approved cardiac diet.
      They suck badly.
      First of all, I did adhere to the “cardiac” diet. It didn’t work. I still had arteries block and most recently as of october i was 100% blocked on all native arteries plus the 6 grafts from 2 cabg surgeries. My cholesterol has always been around 135 -155. So its not cholesterol causing this. I’ve eaten the Heart healthy diet and that diet is primarily the cause of blockages. WHY? because it says to use canola and other zero transfat oils on the market. THose oils cause inflamation in the arteries which cause cholesterol to do its job and coat the inflamation. Secondly heart health is a diabetic holocaust. ITs high in carbs and low in fat. That translates to out of control diabetes.
      It has taken me 10 years to get my diabetes under control. I would never have gotten it under control if i had not stopped eating the carbs and oils that are on the approved heart healthy diets. Diabetes requires fat, protein and low carbs to keep under control. DUring the 10 years i gained 100+ pounds and had to continually increase my insulin to keep it below 150glucose level. I finally could not get the insulin and quit taking it. I think i went 2 years without insulin. But low and behold i found out that insulin resistance is caused by fat and fat is put on the body by insulin through the conversion of sugar which is manufactured by high carb diets like the heart healthy diet.

      Soooo. I had to find a new approach. I read up and found that if i cut my carbs down to less than 15g a day preferrably zero grams a day, my body would burn fat. So i did that and low and behold I lost weight, a lot of weight.
      Secondly i stopped using HH approved oils. I Started using EEOV and i returned to using pure unpasturized butter from my cow. I also stopped the drinking of 1% 2% milk and went back to whole milk as 1% and 2% make you fat. We farmers feed bluejack which is 1% and 2% milk to the hogs to fatten them up. ITs mostly whey and water.
      Thirdly i started eating meat, unpasturized cheese (I make it myself i butcher my own beef pork and chicken), but most importantly i started growing my own produce.
      IN the last year i have found a new doctor that has experimented and i have my bs down to 120-140 through using janumet and 20 units of lantus and 4 units if needed per meal of humalog as opposed to the dosage i was taking of 100 units lantus and 35 units of humalog each meal.
      I also started fermenting my vegetables. I make kimchi, i make dilly beans, i make kimchi’d MU radish, anything i can ferment i do. I make my own yogurt as well and raise chickens and eat their eggs. I also raise my own catfish and perch in tanks that fertilize my vegetables.

      My cholesterol is 135 as i speak. MY Triglycerides at one point in the last 10 years was 3000. they are now at 265. This is caused by diabetes and genetics.

      When i am in the hospital, the food there is obscene. They bring a tray in and right away i can smell it. It turns my stomach and makes me nauseas as it is something i wouldn’t feed my pigs for slop. I have gotten fish if you can call it that, and it was spoiled yet they serve it anyeway. I have ordered a hamburger from the hospital and it was nothing but soy mix with very little beef in it if you can call it beef and if it was beef it was the worst quality beef that one could buy. Should have been thrown on a compost heap.
      The eggs in a hospital are fake eggs. You serve me those “egg Beaters” i’ll toss them right back at you cause i can smell the chemicals in them. I have to resort to ordering a hard fried egg so i can see the yolk in it and they won’t make it like i like them over medium. don’t know why they refuse to cook it that way. The eggs they use are pretty old eggs. They smell, they are pale in color not like my deep orange almost red yolks on my fresh eggs and they run all over the pan when you cook them.

      I’ve even tried to order chicken broth. That stuff is nasty. They also have never heard of seasoning. I carry a spice kit in my bag when i go into the hospital along with salt and pepper and a bottle of tobasco sauce. IF i have to eat it and its that bad, at least i can drown it in tobasco or franks hot or wingsauce.

      What i would like to see a hospital start serving is things like fresh produce, real fruit not fruit coctail, grapefruit, oranges, strawberries, grapes, anything fruit. AND kimchi. That is about as healthy as one can get since everything is raw. Real butter instead of that toxic stuff they call margerine, and olive oil to cook with.

      INstead of pushing the “heart healthy” diet which is based on 70 year old report done with zero oversight, and no testing or blind trials to prove it works, push eating fresh healthy vegetables bought from local farmers that will grow it with no chemicals used, no gmo, and delivered to the hospital daily. Source out fresh meat from local farmers who raise grass fed or grain fed beef poultry and pork. I would suggest keeping all meats fresh and stay away from cured meats as the nitrates are hell on water retention.

      We pay tons of money for proceedures done in a hospital. They charged me 100,000 dollars for a impella pump proceedure in october and you can’t tell me they can’t afford to serve good healthy food.
      I am alive today due to a top notch cardiologist and i have told him why are you putting me on these diets when the hospital kitchen serves piss poor food. He said its contracted out to a corporation and they are milking every dollar out they can. That he wouldn’t even suggest i eat it if i could avoid it.
      So I bring with me snacks, like peanuts crackers with cheese or peanut butter in them, and have someone bring me food from a decent restaurant outside the hospital. I’m going in for surgery in a couple days and i will be taking kimchi with me in a mason jar and some home made food to eat while i am there.

  2. My recent stay in my local hospital was an eyeopener. When I said no dairy the nutritionist offered me lactose free milk. When I told her I couldn’t have cow’s milk in any form, she offered me cheese.

    I think much of the problem could be solved with better trained nutritionist. Dairy free does not mean I don’t eat eggs. And the walnut allergy meant I had a “tree nut allergy” and I couldn’t get an almond snack that would give me protein mid morning.

    My food was ok, baked chicken for dinner with steamed spinach and mixed fruit. Breakfast was eggs, bacon and fresh fruit.

  3. So cool to see this.There is a handful of chefs that are changing the perception of hospital food.
    Check out my blog. To find out more!

    Chef Ryan
    Raleigh, NC

  4. I spent a couple days at the hospital for surgery on my knee once. The funny thing is that I didn’t even have any allergies to food but I still didn’t eat anything except snacks for the vending machine because their food was so over priced and terrible.

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