A recent documentary ranked the nutritional value of the food in the average American hospital on the same level as fast food at restaurants such as McDonalds.
While jokes abound about bad hospital food (who hasn’t complained about it in the same breath as airline food), a real shift in the quality – in terms of both taste and nutritional value – started between 2002 and 2005 as a result of some key surveys and reports that suggested what many have long-suspected: Good quality hospital food helps patients heal faster.
That year (2005), the Washington DC-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine commissioned a study entitled A survey and analysis of food served at hospitals by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and ADinfinitum, Inc which showed that the majority of the 40 U.S. hospitals surveyed were starting to try to offer some sort of health-promoting food choices, though “substantial opportunities for improvement remain.”
Fast food on the road to recovery??
17% of the hospitals surveyed had a fast-food establishment operating on the premises and many entrées described as “healthful” by hospitals were actually quite high in fat: In 62% of these “healthy entrées” more than 30% of the calories in some of these offerings were fat… a few were more than 50%.
In many hospitals surveyed, despite claims to the contrary, patients reported that it was tough-to-impossible for them to find a low-fat, low-cholesterol meal anywhere in the building.
More encouragingly, the study also found that 80% of surveyed hospitals reported that they offer whole-grain products, sugar-free snacks, fresh fruit, and a daily offering of a low-fat entrée or side dish.
But the mission is far from accomplished:
The campaign to get real food into hospitals
Just last year, June Copeman, head of nutrition and dietetics at Leeds Metropolitan University in the UK suggested to the web site Apitito that patients who are encouraged to eat and drink appropriately are more likely to heal at a faster rate than those who don’t consume healthy food while in the hospital.
She explained that it’s especially crucial for older people to eat all the hospital food they are given for the life-sustaining, aiment-fighting energy the meals provide.
Hospital Food: The Documentary
Further to this, UK journalist Mark Sparrow has produced a well-researched and eye-opening documentary on hospital food in the Western World, based on the 10 weeks he spent in traction in 2010.
He claims that the food in some such institutions has less nutritional value and higher levels of fat and refined sugar than those found in nearby prisons.
Though largely balanced, his claims skew a tad in favor of taking the system to task (and is based on examples largely from the UK, through American hospitals are cited both the documentary and his blog), it’s interesting to consider and well-worth taking note of.
If of interest, check out the blog at: http://www.hospitalnotes.blogspot.com
You can watch the documentary here (be warned this is geoblocked for those not presenting a UK IP address): http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/articles/hospital-food-video-interview
So what do you think about how your local hospital is doing when it comes to nutrition? Weigh-in below…
The full PCRM survey results: http://www.pcrm.org/health/reports/hospital_food05/tables.html#1
Another hospital food study (albeit another one out of the UK) http://www.bapen.org.uk/res_bhfi_treatment.html
Imagery of hospital food from 11 different countries
A look at some hospitals serving up home-cooked food from scratch in one of our previous blogs: