Sunday, January 6, 2008

Hospital Food - An Opportunity Waiting?

A friend and colleague of mine, Vreni Gurd, a corrective exercise specialist, wrote an interesting piece on hospital food and her experience with it. If you have been following any of my blog updates (, read any of my articles, or been to one of my health and wellness seminars and believe in what I teach, you'll find this find this piece rather interesting yet somewhat troubling at the same time.

Hospital food - an opportunity waiting?

I probably should have written this a year ago when I had an intimate look at hospital food at Vancouver General Hospital. Ya gotta wonder whether this hospital at least, knows that there is any connection between food and health! From what I could tell, the food was largely highly processed, cooked to death, and they always served a sweet packaged dessert! What's with that??? We KNOW that sugar suppresses immune systems. So why is sugar fed to people that are trying to get well? And margarine and creamer/milker were on the menu each day. No butter or cream here! Important to get your daily dose of trans fats and hydrogenated oils, after all. Much better choice than saturated fat, which our bodies need to get the vitamins and minerals into our cells. Oh yeah. Food cooked to death so I guess there are no vitamins left to transport. No worries then - no transportation needed. By offering up trans fats, cell messaging will be blocked instead. That wi ll help people heal.

Okay. All sarcasm aside, what I am trying to say is that we should not be feeding sick people manufactured fats that the body mistakes for saturated fats, and we needn't be frightened about eating good quality saturated fats. Our body actually needs them to make our sex and stress hormones and vitamin D, transport vitamins and minerals into cells, create bile, stiffen our cell walls, and for cell communication among other things. On the good side, the hospital did offer eggs for breakfast. I enjoyed the actual menus and comments from Sarah Leavitt's blog, who stayed at the hospital in Nov. '06.

For a good laugh, take a look at these Heart Healthy Food Choices put out by Vancouver Coastal Health. Love the recommendation for low-fat hot dogs. Low-fat everything! If fat has been removed, it ain't a whole food. Is it logical to think that we can improve upon what nature intended? Have you noticed that since the influx of low-fat everything, we seem to be getting fatter? That's because fat doesn't make most people (most metabolic types) fat - starchy carbs, particularly processed ones, and sugar do. And it seems the nutrition pundits don't realize that so-called "non-hydrogenated margarine" either actually does have hydrogenated oils in it but at a level that is low enough that they can label it as trans-fat free, or it is another form of manufactured fat (inter-esterified fat) which is equally harmful. And notice all the processed food recommendations. Angel food cake? Ginger snap cookies? Low-fat yogurt? Pretzels? Boy, the food companies have the public health system wrapped around their little finger!!!

So, I cooked up a storm and brought in food made with home-made bone broths, grass-fed meats, free-range chicken, organic vegetables etc. and what wasn't eaten was stored in the fridge in the hospital. The next day when I went to get it, the containers were there, but the food was gone. Turns out homeless people know that to find good food, don't look at the hospital trays, but look in the fridge! Seems the hospital has a security problem too.

Hospital food doesn't have to be this way. It can be nutritious, delicious and sustainable. It is starting to happen in Oregon, for example, where some hospitals are offering hotel-style room service with delicious, healthy foods on the menu, cooked to order. Less food is wasted because it is actually eaten, and surprisingly, they have not increased their food budget. Food profits from cafeterias have gone up, due to the more food being served. Imagine patients asking for recipes! Imagine calling your hospital and then swinging by to pick up a take-out order! London England is also doing much to put healthier food into hospitals. Hospitals can and should be taking the lead on nutritious, sustainable food, and I'm glad to see it beginning to happen. VGH, please take heed!

Please feel free to comment on this tip at my blog.

I am teaching Diane Lee and LJ Lee's Connecting to Your Core course in Vancouver BC at the end of the month. If you have low-back pain, hip pain or pelvic pain, click here for more info and how to register.

Related Tips
Sugar - the disease generator
Saturated fat - the misunderstood nutrient
Processed food is taking over our supermarkets
Nutrient-dense foods
Another "healthy heart" guide that got it wrong

Vancouver General Hospital VGH Patient & Family Handbook

Sarah Leavitt's blog Healing food at Vancouver General Hospital

Vancouver Coastal Health Experience of inpatient care Notice that "overall quality of food" was rated the lowest of everything.

Vancouver Coastal Health Healthy Heart Food Choices

British Columbia Conversation on Health Food Quality in Hospital

The Oregonian This is hospital food? March 2006

Hospital Food Project Getting more sustainable food into London's hospitals. Can it be done? And is it worth it? October 2005

Hospital Food Project Sustainable Development Commission

Suite 101 Hospital Food Interview

Copyright 2007 Vreni Gurd

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