When you think of hospital food, you rarely think “delicious!” but today, chefs around the country are working to change that. In fact, New York area hospitals and a Brooklyn hospital are trying to redefine the way patients think about their food as they work to make their offerings healthier and tastier.
Why Change the Food?
In addition to simply making hospital stays more pleasant, hospitals are improving their menus in hopes of helping improve their patients’ health. By providing healthier meals, they can help lower the rate of patient re-admittance. According to an article in JAMA, nearly half of the deaths caused by heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes actually stem from a poor diet. When hospitals serve more nutritious food, they help teach their patients about healthier eating. Doing so can also improve patients’ morale and speed recovery.
We all know we need to eat right, and the hospital meals of yesterday were not that nutritious. Doctors are learning to teach their patients to read food labels to better understand what they are putting into their bodies. In this same vein, hospitals are being educated to offer patients the same healthy food doctors are prescribing.
At some hospitals, doctors are even discharging patients and sending them home with nutritional food options and offering these low-income patients ways to return weekly for free meals. So as you can see, hospitals are trying to do more to help patients eat better in both the short- and long-term.
Some hospitals are even offering patients the opportunity to order what they want. No more one size fits all hospital food. You can order from a large menu of healthy, chef-prepared foods. In some cities, hospitals are even inviting local farmers to sell produce in their lobbies, so patients can buy farm fresh fruits and vegetables on their way home.
Medicare recently changed the way they pay hospitals, basing this pay partly on patient satisfaction scores. And, of course, a great deal of that satisfaction comes from how well the patients eat during their hospital stays. Better food helps take a patient’s mind off what’s ailing them and makes a long stay a little brighter.
Groups Calling for Change Across the Nation
Right now, only a few hospitals in the U.S. are changing their meals. But two major medical groups are calling upon all hospitals to provide healthier meals. The American Medical Association House of Delegates and The American College of Cardiology have released guidelines urging hospitals to offer patients healthy, plant-based meal options and healthy beverages (eliminating sugary sodas), and get rid of all processed meats—as processed meats are known carcinogens.
Switching to healthier options could even save hospitals money. In Detroit, one health system got rid of all deep-fried foods and increased their purchases of fruits and vegetables and saved nearly $30,000 a year. In Vermont, one health care system began sourcing their foods from local producers and farmers and saw their costs fall dramatically.
If you are in need of a Brooklyn hospital, take heart! Know that the food may be better than ever before. No more drab hospital meals in your future.