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Hospital Food--not as bad as I thought...


zora
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winesonoma, your real-time reports are giving me little post-traumatic stress fits.  Glad to hear you got some real produce, though, and good luck with the new joint.

Luck I'm gonna need. I'm afraid it's kinda serious and I'm in for a long haul.

:shock:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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I've had 2 adult hospitalizations (was hospitalized for tonsillectomy at age 4 -- don't remember food, and likely only had liquids anyway), both for c-sections. I came somewhat prepared for the food the second time.

After surgery, I was only allowed clear liquids until I had "good bowel sounds". This is probably the only time in my life I've been excited about eating Jello. Closest thing I got to solid food for almost 24 hours. Lots of super-salty "broth" from concentrate. Lots of not-100% juice in plastic cups with foil lids.

A nurse puts a stethoscope up to my still swollen belly and says, "oh you've got great bowel sounds." Thanks, I guess. Onward to solids! Crackers at first. Maybe some milk. I think my first "meal" was the following morning.

God bless eggs even if they are over cooked! I was in serious need of protein! Something I'd learned the first time was to avoid the super sugary and fat laden muffin and cereal cart. If you get a menu, choose the protein for breakfast!

Dinner and lunch were in the lame, not nutritious, but still somewhat edible category. I chucked desserts -- too icky sweet for me -- like cherry pie and such. My faves were egg-salad on wheat (not whole, of course), chicken caesar salad, and manicotti. "Pizza" was horrid stale bread topped with dried out cheese product.

Next time, I think I'll feign vegetarianism as I do on airlines, in hopes of getting more fruits and veggies, and maybe even something fresh.

Bridget Avila

My Blog

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Two hospital stays... one baby and one gall bladder.

When I had the baby I couldn't have anything but water, ice, and popcicles for 19 hours. When I got to the final stage of labor, I instructed my brother in law to get to the nearest McDonalds and fetch me some Chicken McNuggets... STAT. :laugh: The meals that followed were pretty pedestrian. Plain iceburg salads with shredded red cabbage and carrots, instant mashed potatoes with yellow gravy (both of which are a secret shame of mine), sliced "turkey" (you know the stuff... half dark, half white, perfectly round), applesauce, etc. Breakfast was instant scrambled eggs, oatmeal, toast, and bacon. The rest of my meals were taken in the hospital cafe, which were actually really good.

When I had my gallbladder removed they gave me a full meal, which I thought was a little strange, but I have no idea what it was. I do remember that it came with some kind of nutritional dessert thing that was in a little cup. Not quite ice cream, richer than sherbet, unnaturally pink, and apparently chock full of nutrition. I LOVED it. It was so tasty to me. When the nurse came back in she looked at my tray and said, "I don't think I've ever seen anyone actually eat that!" I told her that it was awesome and she brought me two more. I wish I would have written down what they were.

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I wish I would have written down what they were.

Soylent pink. It's the Registered Dietician's Best Friend . Now with reduced Trans Fats©.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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More fruit salad and cottage cheese, chocolate cake. Apple juice. Gettin slim at the same time, who can beat it.

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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I learned my lesson re: hospital food during my first ever hospital meal. Background: I went into labor with my oldest child in the wee hours of the morning, and arrived at the hospital around four a.m. (Note to those expecting for the first time: If you're not sure whether you're "really" in labor, here's a handy checklist. If you left a sinkful of dishes last night because you were too tired to wash up, you might be in labor. If hubby was too tired to gas up the car after work that same evening, the likelihood is even stronger. If it's starting to snow? Start timing those contractions! And if your midwife is out of town for one single night, put the suitcase in the fuel-free car and pray for an open gas station!)

At any rate, baby arrived healthy and beautiful around 10:30 am, but I spent a couple more hours getting Vitamin K shots and contemplating blood transfusions, thanks to a low clotting factor. Finally, by the time I had quit hemmorhaging, it was well past lunch time, and I hadn't eaten since around 7 the previous night. The nice nurse asked whether she could get anything for me, and I asked whether a meal might be possible. It took a half-hour or so, but finally someone found a lovely plate of cold, congealed lasagne, left over from lunch a couple of hours earlier. Bless my mother, she took one look at the plate and knew perfectly well that I couldn't/wouldn't eat something that looked so much like the bodily fluids I'd been losing for the previous two hours. Even after spending most of the wee hours following snowplows into Atlanta to be there for the birth of her first grandchild, she volunteered to go find me something edible!

I've had three babies since that first experience with hospital food, and learned to order cereal/toast/fresh fruit for breakfast, hoard fruit for snacks and lunch, and make sure that all visitors know that edible gifts are much more welcome than balloons and flowers for a new mommy!

"Enchant, stay beautiful and graceful, but do this, eat well. Bring the same consideration to the preparation of your food as you devote to your appearance. Let your dinner be a poem, like your dress."

Charles Pierre Monselet, Letters to Emily

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The fruit salad was canned tonight and the tuna was cremated. My cat would have turned it down. Tomorrow's dinner will be Crab Cannelloni from a favorite restaurant and red wine. I must make some calls to get better food from my friends. :blink:

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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I do remember that it came with some kind of nutritional dessert thing that was in a little cup. Not quite ice cream, richer than sherbet, unnaturally pink, and apparently chock full of nutrition.

I wonder if it was Ensure pudding, or a fascimile thereof. I worked my way through college doing scutwork in a hospital kitchen. I can tell you now that you never want to have liver failure and have to live on Hepat Aid.

Regards,

Michael Lloyd

Mill Creek, Washington USA

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I do remember that it came with some kind of nutritional dessert thing that was in a little cup. Not quite ice cream, richer than sherbet, unnaturally pink, and apparently chock full of nutrition.

I wonder if it was Ensure pudding, or a fascimile thereof. I worked my way through college doing scutwork in a hospital kitchen. I can tell you now that you never want to have liver failure and have to live on Hepat Aid.

No no... if it would have said "Ensure", I wouldn't have eaten it. :biggrin:

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Now at UCSF on O2. Cannot eat due to mask, living on Chocolate Hi Protein shakes. Test then Hopefully the Procedure. I'll be back with reports as I can. Wish me well I need it. Bruce

Bruce Frigard

Quality control Taster, Château D'Eau Winery

"Free time is the engine of ingenuity, creativity and innovation"

111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321

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Now at UCSF on O2. Cannot eat due to mask, living on Chocolate Hi Protein shakes. Test then Hopefully the Procedure. I'll be back with reports as I can. Wish me well I need it. Bruce

Holy crap! This doesn't sound good! I do hope for the best for you and "the Procedure" and I hope you're back with us soon!

(I'm sending only but my purest positive vibes your way!)

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I hope things are going ok with you, winesonoma!

My most recent hospital incarceration ended 2 weeks ago (birth of 4th kidlet), and while there, I had 1 turkey sandwich (kidlet born after dinner), 1 decent breakfasts, and 1 lousy lunch and dinner each.

I made sure to order whatever fresh fruit was offered at each meal to horde for the middle of the night... I kept full on bananas, apples, apple juice and a lovely quiznos sub that the hubby smuggled in the last night I was there.

Cheryl

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Heh. I have only just now escaped from an eight-hour incarceration in my HMO's emergency room. The good news is that all the tests they ran on me turned out negative. The bad news was that, somewhere around 9pm, I began to seriously lose my cool, no doubt prompted by the fact that I hadn't eaten since noon. The potentially ugly news: in an attempt to mollify me, one of the nurses offered to bring me some dinner. At that point, I realized the only thing that could possibly make me feel worse about sitting for hours on a gurney in one of those charming backless gowns with IVs in both arms and electrodes all over my chest would be to confront a miserable hospital meal--especially when I figured out that, having duly fed me, the staff would feel they could keep me waiting another three or four hours with impunity. So I told them don't bother, just bring me a glass of water and get me the *%$# out of there before I started hollering bloody murder and scaring the other patients. Boy, did they ever pick up the pace after that! :laugh:

Winesonoma, I feel for you. Best wishes for a full recovery, and hope you get sprung from jail real soon now.

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A few thoughts from the other side (yes I run the food service dept for a Hospital!)

Most of the food is indeed pretty crappy. At the hospital where I work - in an effort to cut staff and costs they have moved to a retherm system. That's where the food is brought in cold and already prepared and heated on the plates.

Most menus these days are constructed with the idea that people are in and out of the place so quickly that one or two meals is all they will get. There are also very strict food safety rules and regulations in place. That lovely steak that you got Bruce would have been brought to 75C and kept there for at least a minute. No bacteria, but no flavour either.

You dont even want to think about the minced and pureed foods. We do our best to make them taste good but there is only so many things you can do with puree peas, beef and potato.

More and more hospitals are offering butter as the dietitians are still arguing hydrogenated vs saturated fats. I prefer butter.

I don't know how it works in the States, but here in Canada you can request to speak to the food service supervisor and they will do all they can to make your meals work for you. We can even authorize Cafeteria vouchers. Sometimes all it takes to boost your mood is a trip to the cafe.

We try our best we really do. But we are constrained by bugets and staff cuts and the limits of our equipment.

That said I plan to have a few cans of fruit and some good Korean instant noodles with me if I ever end up in hospital.

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I don't think anyone thinks that the people working in food service are intentionally turning out crap. In huge institutions like that, food service is probably seen more as an irritating neccesity, rather than a point of quality. The economics of running a hospital, even a small one, would boggle the mind of most. Lots of Sysco/institutional/lower quality stuff is used because of the budget.

But I still think that, even if you can't do Coq Au Vin every night, most places could pick one area of the food service to do well in. For instance, bread. Budgetwise, it is more labor intensive, but is probably close to the same in price as buying frozen or premade. The hospitals I've dealt with have almost universally had at least somewhat better food in the cafeteria that the stuff served to patients. Realizing that many patients are on some sort of restricted diet, I still think a lot of things could be improved with a little work, and a little more budget. Homemade broths and soups are far more appetizing, lower in sodium, and have no preservatives compared to the stuff from a can. If the goal is to get the patient well, diet and appetite are crucial parts of that.

The "cafes" and "bistros" that a lot of hospitals have show that they are capable of making at least better food. I think that even if a premium were attached to the better items, many patients would order them, paying the difference between the "regular" and "gourmet" items out of pocket. Hospitals would still have the same bottom line on the food, and the patients would benefit. Unappetizing food + being sick is a rough and depressing combo. Long term exposure to it, in addition to the prodding, rehab, and tests can make people desperate. I know this first hand.

Better food can be done. There is a small 300 bed hospital in south Louisiana which has food on par with a lot of restaurants I've paid good money for. I still think it could scale up.

Screw it. It's a Butterball.
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http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=81308&hl=

I just read this very sad post from Carolyn Tillie about our dear Winesonoma's passing. Here's to Bruce, may he be eating a fine meal accompanied by fine wines, in the company of the great foodies in heaven. Or... may he be reincarnated into a family of loving, wine friendly foodies.

More Than Salt

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A religious friend once assured me that the afterlife hosts all have impeccable taste in food and wine.

I always attempt to have the ratio of my intelligence to weight ratio be greater than one. But, I am from the midwest. I am sure you can now understand my life's conundrum.

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  • 5 months later...

I have eaten at some of the worst 3 dollar buffets you can imagine, but they seem gourmet compared to the food being served at hospitals. I have had institutional food in the past and hospitals take the cake for the worse. Unidentifiable proteins, vegetables processed to point of having no nutritional value or identitiy, processed sugars, etc… not to mention that it is barely edible.

Obviously there are cost factors involved but would it not make sense that the body and mind would heal faster if people where being served nutritious edible food?

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I agree with everything you said. Not only are the cheapest ingredient used but the people preparing it are unskilled.

Nowadays food is rarely cooked on the premesis but outsourced to an outside purveyor. Of course the lowest bidder gets the contract.

We have a new hospital in our town. I was a patient there 1 1/2 years ago. Newly opened, the food was reasonably well prepared, bread was whole grain, vegetables were overcooked only once. I was pleasantly surprised.

I had occasion to spend the night again in April. Everything had gone down hill and was just as bad as most places. One of the aides told me they were now using a contractor. The only thing the kitchen staff prepares is the salad. At least they do use mixed greens.

My first cooking job was in a 25 bed privately owned hospital. The owner loved to cook and, especially, to eat so we served very good food.

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Obviously there are cost factors involved but would it not make sense that the body and mind would heal faster if people where being served nutritious edible food?

But who will pay for it?

SB :rolleyes:

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