I think we can all agree that fresh vegetables are good for our bodies, right?
Whether you’re Paleo or vegan, a traditional foodie or even a Standard American Diet aficionado, everyone knows they should eat their vegetables.
Warning: Strap on your patient hat and try to keep your temper, because what I’m going to tell you next still has me seething days later.
My dad was just in a renowned hospital for heart surgery, and he had a craving after a few days. He just wanted something crunchy – carrot sticks, maybe raw cauliflower, or some sliced cucumbers.
Seems logical enough, right?
The man doesn’t even like dressing or dips, so there’s no fat or sodium risk.
But did the “heart healthy diet” he was on through the hospital cafeteria offer raw veggies?
No they did not.
Not. One. Option.
His tech tried to call in a special request, and he got absolutely livid on the phone:
“What do you mean I can’t get this patient carrot sticks? I can get raw veggies by the pound every day at the salad bar in this building. You can’t get some vegetables for this man? How are we preaching health, the Mediterranean diet or vegan, and not serve vegetables?!?”
I don’t think a vegan diet would be best for anyone, but otherwise, AMEN! We were so pleased with all of Dad’s support team advocating for him and cheering him on and he felt so cared for.
Our Hospital’s “Heart-Healthy” Diet
What was on the heart-healthy diet in the hospital, you ask?
My dad had unlimited access to:
I list the above because he was never denied any of these items.
The only salad options were main course, so if one wanted some fresh greens, you didn’t get any other main course. For my meat-and-potatoes Polish father, that would be the equivalent of skipping a meal or wasting away!
One time he tried to cut down on bread by ordering a grilled chicken sandwich, open face. He got a 2-bread sandwich with gravy on top.
He often ordered both ice cream and strawberry shortcake, which was white flour “angel food cake” by the looks of it with whipped cream on top (which was surely a cream-less “topping” of some sort so it was lower in fat). He had fresh fruit with every meal.
He had such a bad experience the first few days with the vegetable sides he ordered that he gave up. The day I was visiting during dinner, he just had a hot roast beef sandwich with plenty of gravy – I’m sure it was low sodium, but still – gravy?? Oh, and ice cream, strawberry shortcake, milk, and fruit.
Can you count the carbs? Not a veggie in sight.
What You Can’t Eat in the Hospital
There were a few things they denied him because they weren’t on the “heart healthy” diet:
- ham in his omelet (but he could have 2 slices of “low-sodium” bacon every day or turkey sausage, well-burnt and disgusting according to my dad, who usually eats everything)
- 2 fried eggs (but he could have 2 poached eggs and toast)
- an egg salad sandwich (but highly ironically, the day he missed dinner because of a procedure, they brought him food from the deli – egg salad sandwich and ice cream. Is the diet important enough to keep records throughout a patient’s stay or only in the daytime?????)
- butter – the meals could come with margarine of course (shudder)
Everything was obviously low fat and low sodium (no salt packets on the tray, ever). I actually sprinkled some of my Real Salt from the pocket shaker I always have in my purse on his stir fry before hugging him good-bye one evening. I believe salt is important to our health!
One example of the low fat effort was the milk. He ordered 2% milk the first day and got a tiny carton, “hardly two swigs!” he complained. The nurses let him in on the secret: if he ordered 1%, he’d get twice as much. My parents drink whole milk at home, switching to it from 1% ever since I started learning more about nutrition through writing KS.
Oh, and fresh veggies of course.
He couldn’t get those.
Because really, why would anyone trying to heal from surgery need vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, plant phenols, raw enzymes or fiber?!?
I’m sure all the new moms resting after childbirth don’t need any of those things either.
I just hope they are allowed to order breakfast or get some sort of sustenance earlier than he was, which was often 9:30 or 10 a.m. When that newborn wakes mama up at 5:30 in the morning for the day, she needs to eat within an hour or ELSE! Really, from everything I read, all people should eat within an hour of waking. Just not if you’re healing from something in the hospital, I guess. (Food was one real reason I chose homebirth for my 4th child after eating as many healthy pregnancy foods as I could!)
Did I mention that my dad had no artery blockages at all? He was in for a valve replacement, which is mostly genetic and probably expected for a heart that’s been hard at work for 79 years. Clearly his high meat, high fat, lotsa-eggs diet was terrible for him. Ahem.
The Bottom Line – Can we Make Change Happen?
I know this doesn’t apply to all hospitals. I’ve read articles about farm-to-table hospitals with gardens on the roof. But unfortunately, I’m quite sure it applies to many in this country.
When are the people trained to keep us healthy going to understand that food affects our health and get off the low-fat bandwagon?!?
Let’s all just shake our heads and scowl a bit about there being no access to fresh vegetables in a hospital.
And if you are in a position to do anything about this in your area, please do what you can!
Share this post. Tell everyone you talk to that the low-fat movement has been disproven and is NOT healthy. Leave constructive comments after your own hospital stays.
If you’re going to be in the hospital for anything coming up, ask plenty of questions, starting with, “May I bring my own food?” In most that I’ve encountered over the last 15 years, you may. And probably should!