Study: half of patients dissatisfied with hospital food


Only half?


Well in my limited experience of being in a hospital, I spent the last five day stay on clears, the beef consume was better then the chicken. The Cranberry juice was epic. The pain meds were nice too.

So I suppose does that half include the people who won’t be allowed to eat while they are there.

My problems with hospital food weren’t quality or quantity, but:

  1. They give you a menu. It isn’t marked even with hints about what will and won’t be approved. You can order whatever you like, but what you actually get will be arbitrarily changed by the dietician. They really should be able to custom-print menus to suit the official diets, to avoid this bait-and-switch.

  2. Delivery time is utterly, completely unpredictable. I understand that this is partly because the folks doing the delivery are walking routes through the hotel to drop off many meals. But it SHOULD be possible to come up with at least an approximation.


They always got my clears to me within 15 mins of 6am, noon, and 6pm. At least when your on clears they don’t even bother with the cruel joke of a menu.

And the other half were comatose or required feeding through a tube?

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I would assume it’s the dietitians that screw the system up. They decide the patient is only allowed to have X number of calories, Y milligrams of sodium, and Z grams of protein, and the patient is not allowed to have any fats at all. Finally the kitchen is required to precisely adhere to this prescription. I mean, it’s a hospital. You need precision with everything, right?

End result: you can’t get any cooks that have any interest in doing a good job, and even if they were interested, they aren’t allowed to actually prepare any of the food in an interesting way.

Unfortunately food by its nature is imprecise. Sometimes it needs a pinch of this or a dash of that to come out looking proper, which is anathema in a hospital.

Rob’s gone all literary on us.

Are you feeling an urge to write a novel?

This sounds like a setup for a Catskills joke. “Maybe I have six months to live, but I’d rather die right now, so give me some hospital food.”

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Last week in the hospital following gastrointestinal surgery as part of my gluten free liquid post-op diet, I was presented with—wait for it—cream of wheat cereal. When the error was pointed out, it was all sodium-bomb broth and ice cream truck “shakes” with a zillion ingredients. Truly motivation to get the hell out of there a.s.a.p.

I always check off nearly every choice on the menu sheet. At least four different drinks, three entrees, a half-dozen sides… way too much food. I tell 'em I’m really hungry, and anyway I never eat snacks or breakfast, if they give me any hassle about it.

Then when the food comes I only eat the best third of it. Wasteful and anti-social, I know, but hospital is inutterably boring and I get stir-crazy.

Tangentially related:

Some schools drop out of healthy lunch program because kids are just not interested in eating healthy lunches:

Ship the leftovers to a local hospital . . . two problems solved1

Exactly my planned comment.

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It’s worth mentioning that hospital food varies immensely from one hospital to the next, as does the patient’s ability to have some say in what they eat.

I know people who picked their hospital based on the food issue.

MD perspective: Whenever possible I always tell patients (and write an order) that it’s ok for family to bring outside food. Most of the stuff we do isn’t so terribly precise that when you’re allowed to eat the precise quantity or quality of what you’re eating is going to dramatically change our plan. That implies a degree of precision we frankly don’t have.

Obviously there are many exceptions: Surgeries, diagnostic procedures, difficulties with swallowing, malnutrition, etc. There are some liability issues to allowing patients to eat whatever they like. However, I am totally fine with family feeding their 90-year-old grandmother with swallowing trouble her favorite food, provided they understand (and I’ve documented) that she may choke on it and possibly deteriorate or die.

But you know, we all die of something, and the hospital’s job isn’t always to eliminate every last potential risk factor, no matter what our lawyers say. On the few occasions I’ve been admitted as a patient myself, I’ve ordered takeout.

TL;DR: Hospitals aren’t prisons. Give both some of the autonomy and risk back to the patient, and give Grandma her homemade meatloaf.


That baked potato looks delicious.

No, really, that’s the way I like them. Overbaked/twice-baked, where the potato flesh, not just the skin, is starting to brown and caramelize. Now if only the hospital would provide an actual stick of butter, rather than just a spoonful of second-rate flavor-deficient margarine, I’d be fine with it.

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I had to re-read the post a couple of times before the pronouns finally made sense.

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my thoughts exactly. and in no less than three different posts. guess he’s gotta do something to spice up the old grind.

And if they disapprove of your body size, they arbitrarily restrict your calories, even though your body may badly need extra calories for the work of healing.

I have worked at a hospital for 11 years, and our food has gotten progressively better over the years. The biggest improvements were when the head of the kitchen that was hired was an actual chef that ran a restaurant that didn’t make it in town. It was a fine dining establishment that just didn’t work out for whatever reason. Now, most dishes use local ingredients, and most vegetables are fresh instead of canned. They also got rid of the fryers, and everything that would have been fried is baked (not always a good thing, but lower fat). Also, depending on the diet, all the rooms have room service. If at 2am you want a burger, just call down and they will bring you one.