Hospital Food, need I say more?

I was recently listening to a podcast from Dr. Mark Hyman on Spotify. He was discussing his stay in hospital, and he was horrified by what was on his breakfast tray. He ended up calling his partner to bring him some “real food”. Dr. Mark Hyman is a Functional Medicine Practitioner. Look him up, he’s awesome.

Like, Dr. Hyman, I am often horrified by hospital food. The amount of sugar on a hospital tray is disturbing. Without getting too detailed, I want to share a story from when I was a nursing student, and first became passionate about what my patients were eating. I had an elderly patient who had major surgery and massive non-healing wounds. I was told to encourage the patient to eat all of their meals, especially the Ensure because “all those vitamins are really important for wound healing”, we are taught. So, I took a look at the breakfast food tray, it was kiwi lime greek yogurt, 2 pancakes, syrup, fortified scrambled eggs, a fruit cup, chocolate ensure, and cup of coffee with cream and sugar. The amount of sugar was unreal! As a nursing student, I knew that sugar is not good for wound healing. I didn’t even want to encourage this patient to eat all of their food. I wanted to go home and make them a fruit smoothie with all natural ingredients, then crack some real eggs, add some veggies in there and make an omelet.

I felt like all of our work was in vain, if these patients were eating this much sugar.

Image sourced from Pinterest

Why is our hospital food like this? My guess is cost, cleanliness, and convenience. Its tough on a budget, although I see some expensive brand names in there sometimes, that makes me think that some of these companies make deals with the hospital (definitely free advertising for them).

If I struggle as a nurse to promote the food, I have to wonder how the hospital dietitians do it…I wonder if they cringe. I don’t think I could do their job, it already brings up a moral dilemma for me! Ha-ha! Same thing with tube feeding, like can I just blend up some whole foods in the med room??! So much better than that soy-filled-gloop we give them. I promise I will fortify it with select vitamins and minerals of your choosing. (Ah, one can dream! And before anyone gets preach-y , I realize that in some circumstances that nasty soy–filled-gloop is necessary for some medical conditions in their place and time)

Some time ago, my boyfriend mentioned to me, “Well, hun, what if all the restaurants in the city donated some food to the hospital? Wouldn’t that be great?” and “What if the grocery stores donated all their vegetables, and fruit that’s almost going bad to the hospital? They could make some really healthy soup!” and “The butchers could send bones and trimmings, and they could make bone broth!”. Oh, I just love him. I told him, “thats a pipe dream, babe”.

“But, why?” – he said.

Why? Such a loaded question, I would love to know why. Why is FOOD – something that is supposed to feed and nourish us – so complicated and warped in the western-medicine world?

Whats it like in other countries? Is there somewhere in Canada that is doing better? Does the family mostly bring in food? Does your hospital serve you excess amounts of sugar and soy? Is there raw fruit in its natural form on your trays? Do you know what kind of contracts hospitals have with food companies? How does this work, someone inform me! I want to know!

Here is a link to a Global News article about an organization looking to make a difference in Canada’s hospital food supply. (Yay!)

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