Hospital food
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Lessons Learned from Hospital Food

In a week full of the deepest and most profound of fears, I didn’t know whether to be proud of my son or worried for his health when he refused to eat the food at the hospital this week. Yes, the hospital. After three days of what we thought was a stomach flu, we ended up in the ER and then eventually Children’s Hospital where it was discovered that not only did he have appendicitis, but that his appendix had ruptured. All in all, a terrifying experience. I knew we had an additional challenge on ours hands when he took his first sip of the chicken broth he was allowed on a clear liquid diet and declared that he would stick to juice. I then offered him jello and popsicles, still no interest. To him, they all tasted “disgusting.” At first I thought that perhaps he was just not feeling up to the food, so I took a little taste of the broth and found that it was, in fact, disgusting. It didn’t taste real, it tasted like chemicals.

The other challenge we came across was feeding ourselves because, sadly, the food offerings for families were not that much better. To be fair, I did see signs of the hospital working to get better at it, but for the most part the offerings were pretty grim.

There’s a whole tirade here that I could go on about how I can’t understand how we expect people to heal in the hospital if we are not offering them good, nourishing foods, but, as you know, one of my goals on this blog is to offer up reasonable, manageable solutions that can help right now. So I wanted to share with you some of the work-arounds we came up with that helped all of us to get the nourishment we needed to take on the stress of what we were facing. These lessons would come in handy if, God forbid, you were to find yourself hanging out in a hospital, but they are also applicable to traveling, hanging out in a shopping mall, or just generally when you find yourself somewhere without the healthiest options.

First of all, and important note on being kind to yourself. These are the times when we just need to be at peace with the fact that the offerings aren’t ideal and that it is outside of our control. That being said, while the donut, hamburger, and fries, may sound awesomely comforting—and maybe you need that kind of comfort for one meal— in the interest of feeling your best and clearest that you can, seeking out the best options possible is worth it. So how did I do that?

When possible, bring from home. When my son wasn’t eating any of the hospital food, I called for reinforcements in the form of friends who cook and within two hours he was sipping homemade broth with a contented smile on his face. Similarly, my husband (who was the one going back and forth from home to the hospital to care for our younger son) put together meals from what we had at home and my in-laws brought a homemade dinner in one night as well.

In the cafeteria, look for color and compromise. Whenever I went down to the cafeteria I tried to look for options that were good enough, which often meant having one thing that was less than ideal, supplemented by extra fruit or vegetables. A bagel and cream cheese and some cut up pineapple. Pretzels, hummus, and a bowl of soup. To help me in my quest for healthier options, I tried to find options that had color (and by that I mean natural color not red #5), so fruit, vegetables, or foods made with fruits and vegetables, such as soup, veggie burgers, and veggie pizza. For my son, once he was allowed solid foods we tried a couple of different meals and he either wouldn’t touch them or would take a bite and then refuse to have more, but he was always willing to have fruit. So we let him focus on fruits and vegetables: apples, watermelon (from home), and green salad, and just trusted that once we got him home the carbs and protein would follow, and we were right! Within an hour of being home from the hospital he had eaten TWO homemade scones!

What it comes down to is that, for me, this experience was a lesson in letting go. In accepting that I can’t control it all and then doing the best I can with what I’ve got. And if, God forbid, I ever find myself having to spend lots of time in the hospital again, I will be sure make due with what I’ve got, ask for help, and bring food from home whenever possible.

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  1. Hi Jess, we are happy that the ordeal is over and you are all back home.
    I agree 100% with you. I don’t know how hospital can serve so much tasteless
    My brother in law once had to be in the hospital for four months. He refused to eat their food. Lost weight (he needed that) and cured this type 2 diabetes
    You gave good advises. Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Maria! Yes, it is really such a shame. I know that they are working on it, but I hope that things improve soon because good food is so important not only for the physical healing, but also for the mental well being of patients!

  2. So glad he is feeling better, and it’s so hard to believe how awful hospital food still is–it’s antiquated to not think that nourishing the patient with good food is an essential part of healing.

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