When my daughter was three, she had a severe respiratory infection that required overnight hospitalization. Our local hospital is medically cutting-edge, and I was confident she’d receive the best care. What shocked me was the food they served her. Similarly, my father-in-law, who passed away in 2011, spent the final four months of his life in and out of the hospital. Again, the daily fare was not only tasteless and vile from a culinary standpoint, but a nutritional mess. Medical science is advancing at an unprecedented speed. What is going on with the nutrition science that guides hospital food services? Is anybody home?
This is not exactly news. The Internet is littered with stories about such hospital meals as roast beef for cardiac patients, and wings and hotdogs for kids. Many, many hospitals have one or more fast food restaurants in their lobbies, or just take it upon themselves to offer such dishes to patients as chicken-fried steak. A British fellow photographed a series of meals and challenged people to identify the food—”hospital food bingo.” Over half of the respondents could not! Kids are loaded up with white bread, Jell-O, cookies, syrupy and slimy fruit, funky processed meats, and gray, lifeless vegetables that even a vegan would rather starve than eat. A study published in Academic Pediatrics found that in Californian hospitals only 7% of entrees classify as being “healthy.” The saturated fat and sodium levels in much hospital food could alone keep you as an inpatient. And try finding a healthy snack in the lobby shops. Chips, candy, soda—you might as well be at the gas station.