Do you think the picture above should be products offered to an elderly woman that just had a heart attack and is in ICU on breathing treatments? I didn’t think so either! The picture above is an example of what my grandmother was being fed to help nourish her body in the hospital last week after being put in ICU from a heart attack, as well as having severe pulmonary issues. I was shocked and felt that I truly didn’t have a voice with the nurses or staff. When I asked if there were any other “healthy” options, they looked at me like I was crazy! I understand that the nurses don’t really have much control over the dietary department, but how can anyone think that soda, pudding with whip cream and a drink full of artificial everything could help someone that is already so weak?
It’s a well-known fact that hospital food has never really been very nutritious and delicious, but why? Why wouldn’t hospitals have the best, most nutrient dense food to get patients feeling strong and building health back into their bodies? It makes no sense to me that we spend the most on health care here in America, yet we are the most sick and diseased nation in the world! Our cells regenerate by the foods we put into our bodies. We truly are what we eat. So, again, I ask the question, “why on earth would the hospital feed my dying grandmother in ICU soda, pudding and a drink that has no nutritional value? Why?”
Hospitals often use frozen, processed food due to their cost and convenience – food that is missing proper nutrients and filled with unhealthy preservatives and additives. It’s edible, but it’s not good for you – especially while you’re battling illness, disease, or whatever got you to a hospital bed.
The vegetables are often frozen and so waterlogged that the nutrients have disappeared before the food even hits the plate. The vegetables may look like vegetables – sometimes very wet vegetables, but their just empty versions of themselves. Also, some food may have lower levels of important nutrients like vitamin C, because the food is heated to a high temperature in order to retain temperature when delivered to patient rooms at a later time.
The issue goes back to cost. Hospitals allot most of their budget towards treating patients medically. However, they fail to address the fact that most issues begin and end with nutrition. Food CAN be used as medicine. Just as much as bad foods cause problems, nutrient dense foods can HEAL the problems. Paule Bernier, a registered dietician at Montreal’s Jewish General Hospital, found that most hospitals put aside around 1 percent of their budget — or $8 per day — for food.
Malnutrition puts patients at the risk of infections and longer recuperation after treatments and surgeries. It’s important that patients receive the right nutrients to sustain them through a speedier recovery. For example, my grandmother didn’t need a sugar-laden beverage, a processed pudding topped with fake hydrogenated oil, and a meal replacement shake that is far from an actual nutrient dense meal. An even better example would be a very close friend of the family was just hospitalized after a stroke and was fed biscuits and gravy, bacon, and toast for breakfast and pot roast, potatoes, and cookies for lunch. Hospitals should serve as a model for what proper nutrition should look like.
If you’re wondering if your local hospital is serving up this bad of nutrition, call and speak to a dietitian or food service director about the menu and what is offered. Also, see if your hospital has signed the Healthy Food in Healthcare Pledge sponsored by Health Care Without Harm, a global coalition dedicated to transforming the health care sector. Institutions who take the pledge promise to increase the availability of fresh, locally grown produce, reduce their use of processed foods, trans fats and artificial sweeteners, and educate patients, healthcare workers, and the community about healthy food. You can find out if your local hospital has taken part in this pledge at NoHarm.org.