I just posted about my recent hospital stay and my ten survival tips. Now, I just have to indulge myself in a rant about the food.
Why, why, why is hospital food sooooo bad??? Why do they feed patients high-fat/high-sugar dishes?
My illness was an indeterminate virus with a very high fever, and my prescribed diet in the hospital was “normal”. I want to tell you, folks, that there was nothing normal about the food that was delivered to my bedside.
Examples of the Meals
Check out this Jello. There are pears trapped inside of it, and that’s REAL whipped cream on top. Really? And it was served for lunch. Not dinner. Why do hospital patients need dessert at lunch??? That’s not a “normal” diet? Who eats dessert at lunch, except on vacation or at a fancy restaurant? And why not just serve the pears instead of encasing them in green gelatin and topping them with whipped cream like it’s Thanksgiving or something? And finally, why, why, why put it on a bed of lettuce? It made the whole thing laughable (to me, anyway). I freely admit I’m a food snob. If you think I’m being too harsh, please leave a comment on this post.
And then there was the one-dish main course for dinner one night, which I “think” was beef stew. My husband posted a picture of it on Facebook and someone close to us commented: “Alpo”. Dog food, that’s what it looked like. I couldn’t make myself take even one bite.
This was the best-looking mystery-meat meal, because of the carrots. I actually ate them. And I forced myself to take two bites of the meat because I figured I needed the protein. I believe it was pork. Check out the dessert on this tray – real whipped cream again, and some kind of pudding. NOT healthy.
My balance must have been off, because my photo of this meal was sideways. You can barely see the broccoli but I promise I ate every bite. That was all. I think that meat was Salisbury Steak, but it smelled yucky.
Putting the quality of the food and selections aside (if we can), there were also worrisome little inconsistencies. Sometimes there was a roll, but no butter. Sometimes there was butter, but nothing to put it on. (Not a big deal for me because I didn’t eat the rolls anyway, but why??) Sometimes the meal had a drink with it, sometimes not. The meat always had some kind of icky sauce, but there was never a lemon for the broccoli or other vegetables. Why??
Sing It, Sister! (What I Told the Nutritionist)
After I had spent six days in the hospital, the nutritionist came to see me, with a nutritionist intern in tow to learn all about how to interact with patients. They were very friendly and wanted to know what I thought about the food and how I was eating. Wow, what an opportunity! Like my TripAdvisor reviews, only in person.
I stammered at first in response to the questions because I have a bedrock philosophy that you must be nice to people who work in hospitals; my Mom was a registered nurse and told me some horror stories about how folks could sometimes misbehave and mistreat their caregivers. But then the nutritionist asked me a series of specific questions – I think it was six – and said that folks who answer “yes” to three or more of these questions about nutrition and digestion are at risk of “hospital malnutrition”. I answered “yes” to four of them.
That’s when I knew I had to share my thoughts about the food. I apologized first for what I was about to say and then went on a rant. I got all worked up. I was speechifying like Al Sharpton; I was the Hospital Food Truth Teller. “Why trap innocent little pears in green jello? Why top them with whipped cream? Why not just serve them as they are? Why have dessert at every lunch and dinner? What is normal about that??”
The nutritionist and her eager intern told me about alternate meal selections like a fruit and cheese plate and a chef’s salad, which were apparently always available. Who knew? Why did I not know this? I probably should have complained sooner, and perhaps I would have, except for my husband’s frequent meal deliveries.
The Best Solution
The Glover Gardens Grill-Meister (my husband) brought me coffee he had made at home every day that I was in the hospital, with the exception of two days when I had an early morning MRI or other procedure. That coffee was the best I’ve ever had. It tasted and smelled of home, and continuing our morning routine helped me start every day with a positive attitude, regardless of how bad I felt.
He also brought me some meals, not every meal or even every day, but often enough to break the horrible monotony of the unappealing hospital food. His deliveries were diverse and included a spinach and bacon salad from a local Italian restaurant, a small original Schlotzsky’s sandwich, his homemade egg salad (yum!) and even the ingredients for a PB&J that I made myself right there in the hospital bed.
For the do-it-myself PB&J, the Grill-Meister brought my specified choice of peanut butter and three options for the “jelly” (they were actually jams). I’ve blogged before about my general affection for buying local and farmers’ markets and about my specific admiration for the jams from Just Pure Flavors, and you can see below that I had some wonderful flavors to pick from.
That hospital PB&J was my first one in years, and it was so good that I had it for my first meal when I got home. A super-thick layer of of creamy peanut better spread on half a piece of very fresh wheat bread, with the sweet-yet-tangy Cherry Amaretto jam spread on the other half, and then a fold-over. Heaven on a plate (or actually, on a paper towel when I was in the hospital).
I Survived It
I know that having to eat bad hospital food is a first-world problem, and I’m not at all sad about the six pounds I lost. I didn’t suffer from malnutrition with the marvelous food deliveries from the Grill-Meister, and I have a renewed appreciation for the little things, like coffee from home and a good PB&J.
But I still wonder: why is hospital food soooo bad? They are so smart with other things at hospitals, but are years and years behind when it comes to feeding people. I trust them to heal me, but not to feed me.
- Other posts referencing Just Pure Flavors’ jams (I really believe in these products, and you can order them online)
- My other post about hospitals: Ten Tips for Surviving a Hospital Stay
Copyright 2016, Glover Gardens Cookbook.