Ok so getting a top 10 together of hospital foods is a bit strange, right? Just hear me out. When I saw that one of the Hearties in our Facebook group was going in for a procedure, it got me thinking – what kind of food is available in their hospital? Does it matter? Going to hospital usually brings two thoughts to mind – ice-cream and jelly or some strange coloured ‘mush’. Is there such thing as hospital food that could actually HELP you to feel better and start the healing process with antioxidants, high in proteins and actually be palatable? Does it matter so much if you’re only in for a few days? What if you’re there for weeks? Should you get your friends to sneak in green smoothies for you with fresh ginger? Or should you be making the most of the jelly and orange juice which you know is definitely not freshly squeezed but tastes SO good when your mouth is dry like a cardboard box?
Either way, here are my top 10 best and worst foods that have appeared on hospital menus. Feel free to add yours in the comments below.
10. Anything from the ‘soft’ food menu
Obviously there is a need for this menu. When you haven’t eaten for months and your gag reflex needs to be relearnt, when you’re so exhausted you can’t even chew, when the staff can’t find your dentures. Other than that this menu should be renamed ‘soulless, tasteless mush menu’. All flavour is left at the door. Nothing good to be said here. I don’t even know what the food actually is or how the flavour was removed. Baby food would be a better option.
Don’t get me wrong, I love porridge. However by the time your tray arrives it’s been through 17 hallways, 3 lift changes, 2 wrong rooms in error and was left outside your room as they didn’t want to disturb you. Which equals cold porridge. And there’s nothing good to say about that.
8. Boiled eggs
I love eggs. They are a powerhouse of nutrients. I recommend them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. However one way to kill all flavour and joy from an egg is to boil it for over 5 minutes. And if you want to make sure that patients don’t eat more than one you boil it for approximately 25 minutes just to make sure that the yolk is almost a tasteless powder in the middle that leaves your mouth so dry you can’t swallow. So be warned – you may get put on a soft diet if you complain about it (see #10 above).
When you’re a kid, broccoli is the enemy. It’s bitter, soggy and unloved. Even the dog won’t eat it for you and you will shudder every time you think of your parents trying to force it on you. Then as an adult you develop a new love for it. In stir-fries, baked, griddled with a sprinkle of chilli, you name it you now love it. However mass catering equals mass boiling. Which definitely brings back that childhood shudder.
The cheap, industrial, white bread kind. I know some of you love and miss the white bread days. But it’s never tasty on such a large scale and has very little nutritional value. Plus because of the fire risk they often aren’t allowed to use a toaster so it’s almost pointless ordering it for breakfast.
Possibly the weakest, most bitter drink you’ve ever tasted but you order it again and again because you are DESPERATE for coffee!
Soggy lettuce, one sad slice of tomato and a couple of shrivelled cucumber cubes. Your body NEEDS this though and you enjoy every mouthful because it tastes almost like REAL food…
3. Roast dinner
Now this has also made it onto the top 10 ‘best foods’ list. Why? Because it’s a VERY personal thing to ask someone’s opinion about how to cook a roast. Some love a soggy potato with weak, thin, gravy, overcooked meat and stale Yorkshire pudding. Others not so much…
Again, these can be hit or miss. If you’re in a hospital where the catering is of a fairly good standard, you could end up with a winner of a sandwich. Cheese and pickle is always good. Ham and cheese is fairly edible. If you’re really lucky you may even get some avocado in there. REALLY lucky. But most of the time, it’s just cheese, possibly with a scrape of margarine.Or anything with tomato, which is just dumb. And soggy.
1. Hospital stew
Ok so this could actually be REALLY healthy – good quality stock, chunks of slow cooked meat, carrots, onions, other random veg. However usually it’s an unrecognisable slop with a few chewy bits of cheap meat thrown in which may or may not be beef. Nine times out of ten disappointing.
10. Any type of soup
For some reason soup seems to work in a hospital. Carrots, potatoes, chicken, peas, stock. Throw it all in a pot and it can probably serve hundreds. Leek and potato also good. Tomato soup a winner if it’s not full of processed salt. Cheap, cheerful and healthy. As long as it’s warm by the time you get it.
9. Hot chocolate
Because you cannot go wrong. Can you?
You didn’t realise how much you loved bananas until you see one on your meal tray. Absolute gold. You don’t even care how many black dots it has.
7. Fruit salad
I am never a massive fan of fruit salad because it always contains too much melon for my liking but NOTHING tastes as good as fresh fruit when you’ve eaten nothing but mush and tasteless food for a few days.
6. Anything with custard
Yes it’s full of sugar and goes against what I’d recommend as a healthy meal. But apple crumble and custard is sooooo good. Actually, I just had a thought. Maybe the reason hospitals mostly serve food that is full of sugar is that it’s so much easier to make food taste good when it contains sugar. If you’re in hospital and need some fuel, dessert with custard is the way to go.
5. Shepherd’s pie
A good ‘ol favourite. I think because it can be made in such a large quantity it is done well. Reminds you of Grandma’s cooking and of being at home.
Surprisingly, hospitals do fish well. I think it may be because they poach it. It’s usually healthy and served with a pleasant mix of veggies.
3. Roast dinner
See #3 above. Could be the best roast you’ve ever tasted. Especially if those potatoes are just a little bit crunchy.
2. Jelly and ice cream
It’s cold, it’s sweet and it’s generally pretty tasty. Sure it’s full of sugar and colourings. But when you’ve had not much else for days it’s SUCH a welcome treat. I just wish that hospitals would stop purchasing those disposable throw away jello pots and make their own and serve a few scoops in a normal bowl. Thus saving millions per year. More than likely true.
Ok technically it’s not a food but it deserves the top spot. Nothing beats a hot cup of tea. And you can’t really make it badly. As long as they ask how much milk you want rather than make it how THEY would have it….
And there you have it. The top 10 best and worst foods in hospitals. What would yours be? Do you agree with me?