Hospital food experiences & tips?
An amazing chowhound not only wrote a report of the hospital food served during a one day visit, she snapped a picture.
I like the touch of the menu having a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. You can't chew on scenery.
It led to an interesting discussion on the SF board about local hospital food.
I knew Kosher meals could be special-ordered, but never realized that some hospitals might cater to different ethnicities serving jook and stir-fries.
I'm not clear if this was hospital or SF specific but one tip is to order the diabetic chocolate pudding if it's made by Kozy Shack.
A few hospitals were noted for their food ..
"The best overall hospital food I've had is at CHOMP in Monterey and SVMH in Salinas. Salinas Valley Memorial bakes its own bread and makes it own low-fat ice cream without all the preservatives and gunk in it. The green salads on the meal trays are so fresh and lovely. The housemade coffee cake for breakfast is as good as anyone's. The SVMH vending machines are well-stocked --- you can get Its-Its."
I knew that a few hospitals offer gourmet cooking for a premium, not that I've stumbled across yet, but I've read about it.
I had a friend who, in the good old days, would always order the Kosher meal on an airplane because her feeling it was higher quality. I wonder if that applies to hospitals?
If ordering Kosher or Asian would get you a better quality, or at least, made-to-order meal? I wonder if the hospital would go for it if you are not Kosher or Asian?
Anyone had one of those premium meals? I wonder if VIP's get better food? At a local hospital, while waiting for a doctor conference, they had me wait in an empty VIP room. It was lush in terms of hospital standards. I wonder if the food is better for people in those rooms?
If not on a special diet, have you ordered food out during your stay? Bypassing the food and ordering pizza, or in a larger city, somethig like a meal from a restaurant delivery service like Waiter on Wheels.
So any hospitals that serve interesting food? Any serve organic meals? What if you are a vegitarian? How good or bad is that?
Any tips for getting better chow?
IMO, more people should snap hospital food. Make it public. Maybe the quality will improve.
I interned in a hospital for a while and got to know the kitchen system pretty well. At this particular hospital, there were no organic meals and the printed menu was basic - almost like diner food.
But there was actually another menu, kind of like weekly specials, of much more interesting food: mediterranean pasta salad, curried couscous, vegetarian wraps, etc. The veggie burgers were mighty tasty, and I still make a detour for the tea biscuits.
You could also just write in special requests on your menu, assuming it wasn't too diva-ish. For example, asking for an apple (a staple) or mashed potatoes (on the daily menu) was fine, but ordering fettucine alfredo (something that requires work and specific ingredients) would fail and get you hated.
Also, because so many patients need healthy food, most of the stuff was low-fat and relatively low-cal. Granted, not the mac 'n cheese or the fries, but the mashed potatoes were made with veggie broth and the soups were low-sodium.
not really on topic, but my mom did billing for a hospital, and it was always a treat for me to go to work with her and have mashed potatoes with brown gravy. I realize now that it was probably potato flakes and canned gravy, but they always tasted so delicious and special.
I was sick in April and had short stay in the hospital. The food was horrendous, very bland and boring... mushy pasta, tomato sauce that didn't taste seasoned at all, overcooked veggies. The fail safe options were to eat as much ice cream and jello as the nurse would allow.
Here's an earlier thread on the sugar-free Kozy Shack puddings.
And the old thread on Kaiser-Permanente's farmers markets in the SF Bay Area.
Also, the update on K-P's pilot project to bring food from small farms to the bedside -
re: Melanie Wong
Great info on Kaiser. Nice to see change happening. There have been a few studies on how good food helps the recovery process.
It's also interesting to note however, what makes up "good food" is relative. I can't find the study but Happy Meals, while bad in nutriional terms, have shown to be very good for a child patient's mental health while in the hospital. This concept can obviously be applied to ethnicity (like Jook at CPMC), so there are other elements to what is good.
Britain's National Health Service has a program for improving hospital food, and the results look very encouraging. A 24-page menu can be downloaded at
It offers more choice, more fresh food, ethnic dishes, and options for vegetarians and others with specialized diets.
Recipes (for 100 servings), a "flexi menu," a discussion of 24-hour catering, updates, etc. can be found at
While looking up the url for the menu (I refer to it at home as a guide to balanced meals) I found this quote: "At Royal Darwin Hospital in Australia, a bushtucker person has been employed, whose role is to gather and prepare food (“tucker”) from the Australian bush using traditional Aboriginal techniques, providing culturally appropriate food for Aboriginal patients." Who could ask for more?
I also found this interesting comparison of hospital diets in three countries:
Breakfast—fruit juice, cereal, toast (white or wholemeal bread) with butter, low fat spread, or jam
Mid-morning cup of tea, coffee, or fruit juice
Lunch—chicken and leek pie, creamed potatoes, green beans, dessert (banana, ice cream, yoghurt, or rhubarb crumble)
Dinner—celery and red pepper soup; jacket potato; salad of spinach, tuna, egg, and mung beans; bread roll with butter, dessert (hot stewed apple, yoghurt, fruit, or cheesecake)
Evening snack—cheese and crackers or fruitcake
Plus access to tap water throughout each day.
Breakfast—hot drink, bread, butter and jam, fruit juice
Lunch—carrot salad, beef bourguignon, pasta, Gouda cheese, fruit salad, baguette, hot drink
Dinner—vegetable soup, braised lamb, potato puree, cheese, baguette and butter
Plus one bottle of mineral water each day
Breakfast—cup of tea or Qahwa (salted tea), milk, bread, boiled egg
Lunch—rice, meat (two pieces), vegetables (type depends on the season)
Tea with bread at 4 pm
Dinner—rice, dhal (pureed lentils), vegetables, one piece of chicken
Along the lines of this thread -- how many nutriionalist are foodies?
I've met a few and they all seemed like genuinely nice people, working to help people and smart...and yet it seemed like the bulk of their work was dietary values and dietary restrictions. Of course this is their job but it always struck me as "logical" that if the food tasted good then the chances of success were higher. (Yes, I understand instituational and traditional patterns...just thinking out loud.)
More and more hospital kitchens are being managed by food service companies like ARAMark and Compass Group's Eurest.
The hospital closest to my home is run by ARAMark's Healthcare Div. and they put out some decent meals. Sometimes I stop in for dinner in the Hospital Cafe on Thursdays for the Lamb and Orzo special with salad for $5.95.
When I had my kids (Emerson Hospital in Concord, MA) they did room service type dining. When you were hungry, you picked up the phone and called in your order from an in-room menu. What a great idea! The food was of ok/good quality, but I loved the flexibilty. No more plates of mystery food delivered at inconvenient times just because. And if you had a visitor, you could order food up for them.
The best meal I had during my last hospital stay was takeout barbeque my sister picked up for me. Otherwise, make sure your doctor doesn't put any dietary restrictions in your chart. Then you at least get the widest array of food choices. The low sodium, restricted calorie, diabetic meals are bleak, to put it mildly.
I had "vegetarian" on my chart and I actually thought the food (at least lunch and dinner) was pretty decent when I was in the hospital after having my kids in the bay area. I was going to recommend specifying a special diet. I had some very well-prepared stir-fry for one of my meals. Breakfast was abysmal, though. You can't pretty up powdered eggs. It's...just...not...right.
Cedars-Sinai - the best warm chocolate chip cookies come in an aluminum tin to keep them warm
UCLA- really good bran muffins. The irony about UCLA is that it has one of the foremost eating disorder treatment facilities at NPI, and the same horrific food is served on the unit as in the hospital... You wonder how well recovery goes for those that won't eat and are served bad food.