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Hospital Nutrition Mirrors an Unhealthy Lifestyle, and Now an Unhealthy Economy

Thursday, November 06, 2008 by: Keith Heimpel
Tags: hospitals, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) Why is hospital food so soft? So it doesn't hurt anyone when you throw it out the window. Safety first! We've all heard jokes about hospital food. Unfortunately, the truth about hospital nutrition is no joke. It mirrors an unhealthy lifestyle and now it is aggravated by a struggling economy.

In addition to bland taste, pesticides, artificial preservatives and hormones, unnecessary antibiotics abound in the processed foods offered in hospitals. Since it is universally accepted that processed foods have a lower nutritive value than fresh foods; why would hospitals be feeding their patients food they know is not healthy? Most U.S. hospitals are in budgetary and service crises, therefore institutionalized foods are often easier to manage than meals prepared from scratch, a parallel to many household situations.

Recent inflationary activity in our economy may make processed foods a matter of financial survival for hospitals. In the year 2007, wheat prices rose 77 percent and rice 16 percent. These were some of the sharpest price hikes ever. But this year the speed of change has accelerated even further. Since January 2008, the price of rice has soared just over 140 percent. When you couple these statistics with sky rocketing fuel costs; it may make fresh foods out of reach for all but the wealthiest of hospitals.

"Like most food service, we've painted ourselves into a corner by focusing on the wrong issues." says John Turenne, who owns and operates a consulting and technical services company (Sustainable Food Systems, LLC) that helps institutions like hospitals, schools, universities and businesses make better decisions about food. "Everything has been 'bottom line' driven, with very little regard, if any, of the deeper impact the food has on all of us and our planet. Highly processed, cheap food, prepared by limited or unskilled staff has been the common result."

Jamie Harvie coordinates the healthy food in healthcare campaign for Health Care Without Harm, an international coalition dedicated to transforming the health care sector worldwide, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. His observation says it all, "the food in our hospitals is similar to the food we find in many homes, restaurants and hotels. Some is excellent and much is highly processed, nutritionally deplete, overcooked and the processes used to grow the food are having tremendous impacts on public health" (a broad term that includes health and safety, ecological integrity, socio-economic health of communities, etc).

How hospital food is prepared can further reduce its nutritional content. A study published in the Journal of Food Service in October 2006 states "the common practice of overheating hospital food served to patients can reduce levels of Vitamin C, an important marker of nutritional content, by up to 86 percent."

You should be given the option to eat a healthy diet when admitted to hospital care, even if you have to pay more. In fact the opposite is often true. Increased numbers of franchised fast food service operations are readily available as a replacement for standard hospital cafeteria fare. Patients have increasingly easy access to high-fat, high-calorie, less nutrient-dense foods. According to a report put out by the American Diabetes Association: "coffee carts, hospitality carts, and so forth abound in strategic, high-traffic areas in acute care environments. In some institutions, these carts are wheeled into patient care areas and snack foods and beverages are sold, making adherence to a structured carbohydrate and nutrient intake more difficult."

"About 30 hospitals have McDonald's restaurants in their lobbies," states Gary Cohen, co-founder of Health Care Without Harm, "Here we are with 60 million Americans who are obese and 120 million who are overweight and we're feeding people in hospitals food that contributes to obesity. Stuff like that just amazes me."

The idea of one stop shopping for consumers seems to have no limit in our society. While visiting your friend or relative in the hospital you can put yourself into the bed next to them by just super sizing in the lobby.

About the author

Keith Heimpel has had many jobs in the health and wellness industry from lifeguard (if you're drowning a lifeguard is paramount to your health and wellness), to nutraceutical direct marketing, to equine and equestrian massage therapy. He is currently waiting tables at a French Bistro (and if you ask - he's happy to counsel you as to what is healthiest to order.)
He's also an aspiring fiction writer. Keith recently received an honorable mention from Illinois Science Fiction in Chicago (ISFiC), for a short story entry to a contest for unpublished writers of science fiction and fantasy.
Learn more about Keith's upcoming work at KeithHeimpel.com
Follow Keith on Twitter @KeithHeimpel.

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