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Food for non Patients during hospital stay

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Dear Hubby(of 48 years) will be having heart bypass surgery next week. He will be well fed, but then there are our 3 adult children and I who have to eat too.
I am planning to make a quiche the day before he goes to bring in slices to warm in the family kitchenette. I need some good ideas for snacks, and alternatives to sandwiches for lunches. Dinners I am planning out.
Thanks for all ideas.

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  1. Can you be more specific?
    Are your children adults? Living at home or independently? From out of town and staying with you?
    What is this family kitchenette?

    For better or worse, I have experience with these surgeries, along with the hospital visits and subsequent care once home, so I'd love to help.

    1. A frittata would be much easier than quiche, and can be eaten at room temperature. Throw in almost any kind of vegetable and/or cheese.

      For snacks, maybe some kind of grain salad with vegetables...

      Good luck to husband. Good friend just had this surgery, as an emergency, a month or so ago and is doing fine!

      1. In a similar situation I have found teabags or the little paper pipes of instant coffee and little envelopes of sugar nice to have so I could get a hot drink without having to leave the patient to go to the cafeteria. You mention a family kitchen---nice!---but in the absence of one an immersion heater that you just immerse in any mug of water and plug in, works fine. Just don't use it in anything but plain water. I tried it once in a cup of milk and set off the hospital's fire alarm system. Immersion heaters are sold in travel equipment stores.

        1. Unless it's about the expense, don't rule out the hospital cafeteria. Several of the hospitals in my area have done major overhauls of their dining options to provide tasty and healthy options. In fact, one of the hospitals has people coming there specifically to eat in their cafeteria as it's actually better than any of the restaurant options in the immediate area. They use locally sourced ingredients when possible and have their own small herb and greens garden on the roof. It's sort of the "put up or shut up" model of "we can't lecture you about healthy eating if we serve our staff and guests sodium laden processed crap." So check out the cafeteria instead of adding meal planning to your worries.

          Otherwise, make your own granola or trail mix, hit up a good butcher shop and buy some beef sticks, beef jerky, or turkey jerky to snack on, buy a big thermos if you don't have one and make chili or soup to bring with you, make a bowl of pasta or quinoa salad with a vinaigrette based dressing.

          2 Replies
          1. re: amishangst

            If you are planning to eat in the patient's room rather than go to the cafeteria, consider that a patient feeling a little queasy (for instance, from pain medication) may be thrust over the edge into vomiting by smelling food. I spent eons in hospital rooms with my husband and I honestly would recommend going to the cafeteria, especially if you have other family members who can take your place at bedside for a while. Also, you will have enough on your mind without having to plan picnics. But if you must bring food from home because of cost or other reasons like dietary or religious obligations, try to eat it somewhere other than in the patient's room.

            1. re: Querencia

              I'd like to add that small cafeteria breaks can restore your sanity if you are sitting at your husband's bedside for hours on end. You will need to be strong, in good spirits and rational when faced with any difficult situation that could possibly arise during the hospital stay. Escape for a few minutes when you can.

              That said, the less worry about heating of food carried in, the better. The hotter the food, the more odor it may give off (with exceptions, of course). Opt for low-odor producing items (apples, yogurt, simple sandwiches and salads with vinaigrette-style dressings). As suggested by others, smelly food can make the patient, and others nearby, queasy. I'd avoid all egg-based dishes, personally.

              Anything you place in the communal fridge or freezer should be tied in a bag with your name on it. Things go "missing" when others are peckish and suddenly unclear about basic rules of etiquette.

          2. Been there, done that.

            Many hospitals have edible, some even nice cafeterias. Ask the nurse. Don't feed the patient. If there is a fridge that can handle complete dinners, I would buy frozen ones and use as needed.

            Remember, the patient needs a break from the family also. So be good and be gone during potty breaks.

            9 Replies
            1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

              Great point. The nurses need room to groove and prefer that you get out of their hair. There's a lot of hardware in the room post op.
              I also recommend seeing what the cafeteria options are. My experience is that the food is inexpensive.

              1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                Patients are kept in the hospital in order to rest and recover. Stay about 15 minutes and leave. Then you can go to dinner or go home to dinner.

                1. re: c oliver

                  I understand what you are saying but when my husband was in the hospital, I stayed with him every day from start of visiting hours until the end of them. Rabid dogs couldn't keep me away. I brought a book and magazines and kept busy while he slept. Being hospitalized can be depressing and lonely for the patient. I'd go as far to say a spouse is an exception to the visitor rule.

                  1. re: c oliver

                    My husband was in the hospital for three months and I was there pretty much all the time except when I went home to sleep. And even then, he begged me to stay. I could have too but I needed my time alone, not him.

                    It's best to be there as much as you can, to communicate with the doctors when they randomly pop in, and to spell the aides, unless you can afford 24 hour private care.

                    I brought peanut butter and jelly sandwiches most days, and took bites of it driving in the car, coming and going. Food wasn't on my mind, for the first time in my life. The only food I ate in the room were the leftovers from his meal trays.

                    1. re: coll

                      Every family dynamic is different.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        Right, and it sounds as if the OP is dealing with something new, at least at this level.
                        It's really scary for all involved, and you have no idea what exactly to expect.

                  2. re: c oliver

                    For major surgery, having a family member there during the day is smart. For one thing, you might not ever see the surgeon, unless you stay there most of the day. For another, the family member should be paying attention! Mistakes are often made with meds after surgery. However, the job can be rotated between family members, and people should be able to go eat in the cafeteria.

                    I have experienced this situation myself, and I don't think there is a great need to bring meals, unless you are on a difficult diet regimen.

                    1. re: sueatmo

                      I have seen first hand how true this is. Mistakes happen. A family member can often spot issues in the patients behavior and responses that medical staff doesn't. Plus your observations help with future billing errors.

                      I have found the food has improved greatly at many hospitals.
                      Although the last hospital I visited had fast food options only which were prepared worse than their usual renditions.

                      Yohgurt, fruit, cheese & crackers, nuts, energy bars are my go to options. I usually need a break and prefer a meal away from the patient area.

                      1. re: meatn3

                        My husband's last hospital stay, I was fighting him for the food on his tray. It was Chinese, Pakistani, all kinds of spicy. My neighbor works there and said how many compliments they get about their chef.

                        My husband has ongoing issues and all medical staff will tell you, they depend on the caregiver to be the first in line to notice anything unusual. How are they supposed to know the subtle changes that pop up out of nowhere?

                2. For snacks: easy-peel clementines, grapes, bananas.
                  Baby Bell cheese, Laughing Cow, crackers and pretzels.
                  Hard boiled eggs in shell to peel when needed.

                  Consider taking with you wet wipes for frequent hand sanitizing (or just plain soap and water).

                  Good tip about the cafeteria.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: nemo

                    There should be Purell (or similar) stations everywhere in the patient area.
                    Look for them and feel free to use.

                    1. re: monavano

                      Thanks, monavano. Good to know.

                      1. re: nemo

                        The wipes are still a good suggestion. monavano is right that Purell is great for sanitizing but it's not so good for cleaning if you need that (especially after clementines, for example).

                        1. re: ccbweb

                          True and it cakes on after a while.

                    2. re: nemo

                      When my dad was in the hospital for brain surgery, I did a lot of this (similar to what I do for work travel): Babybel and crackers, those hummus/pretzel combos, hard-boiled eggs and LOTS of fresh fruits (esp. berries) and cut-up veggies. My dad didn't mind me eating these in his room and I really didn't want to be away from him often. Also I was not worried about germs.

                      Think picnic. Add a salami to the above, maybe some olives, and you are good to go.

                      I would have loved a quiche but didn't have a way to cook anything because it was out of town for all of us. My mom was okay with the cafeteria but I didn't like it at all.

                      I went out sometimes to get takeout for lunch and bring it back for my mom and me and, once he could eat, my dad.

                      Hospitals are crappy places to be—for the families as well as the patient—and you may as well try to bring joy through food. You are lucky your three kids were with you. My brothers did not come and I envied the big families that converged for the long haul.

                    3. the smell and thought of all the germs in hospitals utterly kill my appetite. i also wouldn't feel right eating in front of somebody on a very restricted diet.

                      are you in a climate where you can be getting outside for fresh air? or even taking home-prepped meals to the caf?

                      crustless quiche and wraps come to mind. why no sandwiches?

                      if you have access to a micro: soups, stews, braises.

                      snacks: dried fruits, out-of-hand fruits like apples and bananas, nuts, yogurt.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        Where did the OP say she was planning to eat in the patient's room? I must have missed that part.

                        1. re: monavano

                          actually, the OP was kind of vague...I'm really not sure what she was describing....

                          1. re: monavano

                            the op didn't say where the eating would take place. i expressed my opinion. hope that isn't a problem?

                            op: best wishes.

                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                              Not a problem at all. I was just wondering if I was missing something obvious in the post.

                        2. Fresh fruit salad, muffins, cheese, yogurts.

                          1. I'm a bit confused... How long will he be in the hospital? Is it not possible to go home for meals? For snacks, I'd go non smelly if you're sharing space with other families :) Crackers and a mild cheese, nuts (assuming they're ok in the hospital), veggies and hummus or other dips, etc.

                            Hope your husband does well!

                            1. I just went through many months of this. #1, you are going to have other things to focus on rather than food. Just eat in the cafeteria. You should not bring yummy food into the patient's room that the patient cannot eat.

                              From reading your post, I assume that you have not ever dealt with a family member in the hospital who's going to have major surgery. It's stressful, and not a walk in the park. I suggest that you just lose the food issues and eat what you can find on-site or delivery.

                              10 Replies
                              1. re: pikawicca

                                I basically agree with this and I've spent an awful lot of time in the hospital as the patient both for long stays and for major surgical stuff. I'd add only that I'd suggest bringing some simple, packaged things in the granola bar vein (Luna and Lara bars are popular in my house) to have with the inevitable (in my experience) cafeteria coffee.

                                1. re: ccbweb

                                  And, I would add the following;
                                  Tell him it's okay to say he needs some "alone time" and respect it. Go find something to do for a few hours and then see if he's feeling like company.
                                  Having spent far too much time in hospital, I found that there are times you just want to be left alone.

                                  1. re: zippypinhead

                                    yep, I've had 3 joint replacements and I"m 58. They messed up the pain meds the first and third times and I was barfing a lot and couldn't handle smells. Family members, ask for anti nausea meds for the patient! They worked so well for me. Once they figured out the pain meds and anti nausea med schedule (anti nausea first, then pain med), I wanted iced espresso. And then I could eat anything I wanted. It can change from hour to hour depending on the interventions and the nausea and the low blood pressure from blood loss. Hospital kept bringing me tea when I was barfing even though I told them tea makes me barf when I'm well. For family members, go anywhere nearby to get whatever sustains you best, be it pizza, salads, fruit, coffee, beer, rowdy or quiet, and come back refreshed.

                                    1. re: zippypinhead

                                      Amen to that! A friend of my son suffered a major head injury and was in a coma for ~3 months. His mother spent nearly every minute at his bed-side. The first thing he said when he woke up was, "Please! Shut up!'

                                      1. re: gwill23

                                        I was 44 when I had my first joint replacement....that's easy compared to a TBI and coma....but if my parents had been around constantly, I would have hated it, and was glad I was a 1,000 miles away. Some people might really appreciate having family and friends around all the time, others can't handle it, especially while conscious and feeling all that sick after major surgery and blood loss and nausea, and the food smells are so horrible.

                                        So eat elsewhere...the nursing and house staff will have lots of suggestions for the delivery and take out foods they themselves get from local sources, and you can eat in family lounges, or ask the staff where they eat their take out. Don't munch on the health bars, slurp the drinks, or worst, crunch the ice if your loved one can't handle it. Assume he or she can't and take your food outside until you are sure otherwise.

                                        Hard for me was loved one taking me to surgery at 5 am, when I couldn't have any food, water, etc. And loved one decided to stop off to get himself a coffee and egg sandwich. Torture!

                                  2. re: pikawicca

                                    Some people feel better preparing in whatever way they can, even if they can't control the important part. I do much better at coping with life if l eat meals with decent protein content every few hours. I've also found people in hospital (when able to eat) and their family members are very grateful for good outside food. It's life-affirming. It may or may not be important to OP when the time comes, she'll figure that out for herself.

                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                      What if it's too expensive for them? Take out or hospital cafeterias can be expensive over the long term. Add on parking costs.

                                      1. re: Jerseygirl111

                                        Also hospital cafeterias can have awful food and hours, and expensive. I work at one of the biggest hospitals in America and the cafeteria is borderline, it's open 7a-4p and then the only option is subway or burgers. If OP plans to visit and then give the patient some quiet time while they go to the cafeteria just might want to check on the options and hours.

                                        1. re: fldhkybnva

                                          Where I am, cafeteria food stinks and it's expensive.
                                          When my grandfather had heart surgery, we brought a small cooler bag with cheese, apples, cut carrots, mini packs of peanut butter, crackers, and berries. I think someone brought some muffin size mini quiches and left them with us.
                                          The staff asked us not to eat in his room. Someone mentioned that there was an outdoor courtyard- it was really nice to sit for a few minutes and relax while eating something.

                                          To the OP- find out if there's a bagel shop or coffee shop near the hospital. When I had my daughter, my husband called up, mentioned I was a patient, and they had the food packed very quickly for him to pick up. They also offered to send a delivery guy (no charge) to meet him in the lobby

                                        2. re: Jerseygirl111

                                          If the cafeteria food cost is a hardship, the OP can ask about vouchers and coupons to assist.
                                          In the very least, the visitors can brown bag it in the cafeteria and buy a soft drink or whatever.

                                      2. Nanzi, I wish you and your husband good luck with a speedy recovery.

                                        I've spent time in hospitals too, as patient and as support team. So please take this as only my $.02.

                                        1.) I still remember my days of "nothing by mouth" when hospitalized while carrying my first child -- there was a particular pizza commercial I can see clearly after 33 years. I'm very glad none of my family were munching while visiting.
                                        2.) When my husband or parents/in-laws have been hospitalized and I was their primary companion, it was good for me to leave the room, maybe leave the hospital, and read a book, take a walk, or stare at the sky. Just go to the cafe and get a sandwich or a yogurt, and take a walk outside. While nice to have a couple of granola bars, I think it's way more important to have a good book to read.
                                        3.) Most hospitals have wi-fi nowadays. Amazing, right?
                                        4.) As so many have said, hospital food has improved in the last few decades.
                                        5.) It's still a nice idea to take a basket of fruit and muffins to the floor staff. And/or gum, mints, peanuts, granola bars, etc.

                                        2 Replies
                                          1. re: coll

                                            My husband brought a few dozen bagels and several types of cream cheese for the staff. They were grateful that it was "food" and not junk.

                                        1. Lots of good advice in here so I won't add anything. I just wanted to wish you, your husband, and your family the best of luck!

                                          1. Nanzi,

                                            First of all, wishing your husband nothing but good outcomes.

                                            You and your kids may wish to take turns sitting with your husband. His room is going to be abuzz with folks coming in and out to check this and that for some time. Perhaps you could each plan to take a "shift", looking big picture-wise, and share your observations at dinner together?

                                            Remember too, to take care of yourself. Rest, stretch, stay hydrated and step out of the room to clear your head.

                                            As for snacks--what do you like? What do your kids like? Pack appealing nibbles, and take good care.

                                            Warmest thoughts to you all!

                                            1. first -- all the best to all of you....

                                              But having had several family members in the hospital in recent years, for the first few days I would pack some snacks (granola bars, juice or water) and books for the first few days and just take it as it comes. The first few days will be the most chaotic for everyone as they get your hubby back to a regular room and getting him stabilized and settled in. It will similarly be chaotic for you and your kids, too.

                                              Once things have settled into a routine, you'll have a good idea of what's available in the canteen, and what sort of restaurants and stores are around the hospital and your lodgings.

                                              THEN you can think about what you can make and take and what works best. Otherwise you just have a bunch of stuff sitting around and probably ending up in the trash.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                am wondering if op might be better off batch-cooking some items now, like soups and frittata "muffins" that can be individually-portioned and in the freezer, ready to go, when husband comes home? she still will have plenty on her plate looking after him in those first few days so at least meal-planning won't be one of them.

                                                1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                  Definitely couldn't hurt, especially for her and the kids....but his diet will depend entirely on the recommendations of the medical team.

                                                  With heart surgery, likely to be recommended to follow a Mediterranean diet (a couple family members were hospitalized for coronary issues).

                                                  But in the short term, family will likely not have much of an appetite, and it's absolutely crucial to make sure that the family stay strong and healthy, too.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    yup. a dear friend had a quadruple bypass a few years back so i realize there will be restrictions for the op's husband.

                                              2. I spent some time in hospitals lately and it would have made me crazy if people were eating in my room.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: magiesmom

                                                  I hate to say it but I have to agree. If I couldn't eat and every one else was noshing away I might get annoyed. I wouldn't mind if they left to go enjoy food but then again I'd probably want some quiet time anyway.

                                                  1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                    And ya know there are medical staff who are thinking "just leave the poor guy/gal alone for a while."

                                                  2. re: magiesmom

                                                    Especially as the pt is probably going to be on a low fat low sodium cardiac diet. And in a lot of pain. Getting some jello or a bit of soup in the OP's husband will be an accomplishment the first day or 3.

                                                    1. re: magiesmom

                                                      You are so right! When you can't eat, even though you are hydrated and nourished IV, the smell of food, watching someone eat, or that damn Pizza Hut commenrcial with the gorgeous gooey cheese just makes you mad!

                                                    2. I spent most of a month at the hospital when my mom had a stroke. The thing I had the hardest time finding to eat was protein. I also have food allergies, try finding anything without wheat or certain food additives at a hospital cafeteria. Neither of our regional hospitals have edible food in their cafeterias and neither had anything gluten free either by luck or on purpose other than some cookies.

                                                      I would look into the offerings at the hospital cafeteria even if you don't plan on using it so you know what you are up against in case you find yourself needing it. I found eating in the waiting rooms was more appropriate than on the wards. Most hospitals have pretty good sized waiting areas even where the rooms are.

                                                      1. Hopefully all went well and the OP and SO are comfortably back at home.

                                                        As another "longish-time in the hospital" patient, I would have to say I agree with the ideas to just plan on snacks (fruit, energy bars) and hydration (H2O!) while the patient is in hospital.

                                                        Relatives coming to visit? Have links to websites (and perhaps printed menus for the oldsters) to nearby restaurants that offer carry-out.

                                                        In my experience, the bigger challenges, food-wise, come later. Once the patient is discharged and home-meals commence.

                                                        1. My mother was once hospitalized for 39 days, the first 11 on a respirator in ICU. My father and I were there every day. We just ate in the cafeteria. The hospital was 3 and 5 miles from our homes. Boy were those days long. Good luck to your husband and your family.