Crappy Hospital Food
Updated: Feb 17
It is almost a year since I was in Wellington Hospital after having almost succeeded in paralysing myself from the neck down. You can read about it here:
One thing that I did to amuse myself while confined to bed was to analyse the nutrient contents of the food that was being served. There was just one big problem: there were no nutrients. There were only empty carbs, sugars, a few bad fats and a tiny bit of poor-quality protein, doused in a serving of chemicals!
When we are serving crappy food like this in our hospitals, is there any hope at all that anyone will get better, then, if they survive, stay well for long?
(My apologies for the language, but there is no other way to describe this food in the context of our national health service which really should be providing the leadership when it comes to nutrition). The bar should be high - not low.
The photo above is for one of my meals (none of the other meals had any nutritional merits either):
White bread - in the end, it is nutrient-empty sugar and nothing more.
Margarine - inflammatory and of no nutritional value
Ham, possibly from Canada or China. This is meat that is sourced from stressed, inflamed animals that were kept alive in horrific living conditions with antibiotics and possibly fed hormones. Ham is usually soaked in cancer-causing nitrates.
Low-fat ice cream that is nothing more than a hit of sugar and flavourings. Oh! - and fat emulsifiers that remove the protective mucous lining of the intestines. Bring on more diseases of the gut!
Jelly with artificial flavourings and colourings and yet more sugar.
An environmentally wasteful cup of tea served in two disposable cups. More sugar, in most cases, low-fat dead milk that is an A-1 milk protein source (potentially inflammatory) and caffeine hit.
You'll note all of the plastic I was served that presumably ended up in the landfill. So much for our leadership setting a good example environmentally!
If I was a hospital nutritionist serving the sick and the injured, I would resign rather than be associated with this joke that is pretending to be nutrition.
When a patient is struggling to survive a life-threatening disease or injury, their need for thousands of different nutrients skyrockets. It does not reduce, as this hospital "food" would imply (I'm struggling to call this "food").
Luckily for me, I was not confined to the hospital for long and I quickly had Alofa making daily healthy food drops which I ravenously consumed. I also began some special nutritional supplements to help reduce the swelling of my spinal cord and to expedite the healing. I discretely consumed these supplements, so as not to cause a fuss with the medical staff. I was there to heal - not to start a fight with the health system which is religiously antagonistic to functional nutrition.
Three months later, I was sufficiently recovered to win the mountain biking age group world championships. What I did that was additional to the wonderful work of the doctors and nurses while in the hospital had a huge influence on how quickly and completely I recovered.
"Let food be thy medicine" Hippocrates
The four people in the beds in my cubicle were in for the long haul and were displaying all the signs of being malnourished. They were around my age or a little older but what was disturbing was how fragile they were, how heavily medicated they were and the complexity of their health issues. How does serving of jelly, ice cream, ham and white bread assist their recovery? It compromises their recovery.
Where are the vitamins, the minerals, the essential fatty acids? Where is the protein from varied sources? Of course, there is a little - somewhere - it just can't be found - not yet.
When a nutrient, such as a smidgeon of vitamin C, is finally found in this crappy food, does it meet the minimum daily requirement for that nutrient, as set by the World Health Organisation, to stave off malnutrition?
For years, I have argued that few people in New Zealand ever die from old age nowadays. They die from the combination of malnutrition, drugs side-effects and one surgery too many.
Our hospitals should be required to serve the most nutritious meals possible - not empty, chemical-laden crap. While a person is in hospital, this is the perfect opportunity to wean them off nutrient-poor, sugar and chemical-laden foods, to educate and to introduce nutrient-dense meals so that eating this way is the new habit by the time the patient is discharged.
This is what the hospital dieticians should be doing - feeding good food and educating. Not serving cheap crap. Talk about the "support" letting down the team of hard-working and brilliant emergency medicine professionals.
The people we elected to run our hospitals have opted to provide patients with food that is the cheapest they can find. It is then prepared and served in the cheapest way possible. They have done so with complete disregard of the fact that we are in the midst of a mostly food-driven health crisis that threatens to bankrupt our health system.
Things need to change.
By contrast, here is the meal my partner, Alofa, prepared while I am writing this:
Most of the vegetables were grown in our garden and greenhouse. The fish is red cod caught off the shores of Wellington and gently cooked in olive oil. All of the food was seasoned with a very generous sprinkling of multimineral salt, black pepper and Waihi Bush flax oil. And washed down with some home-made lemon water with a dash of NZ Fulvic.
Now, that is nutritious!
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