Παρασκευή, 4 Μαρτίου 2011

Food for Health? NOT in the hospital.

I had the need to stay with a friend overnight in a very nice private hospital here in Athens this week. The service and all of the healthcare staff were great and, thankfully, my friend is now home recovering from a small, scheduled surgery. I have experienced other hospitals, in and out of Greece, and there is a similar problem – the nutritional value of the food. It is about time for the hospital dieticians and doctors to step up and start looking at the bigger picture. I have heard of health coaches working with hospital dieticians, in America, to increase quality but hadn’t thought much of the problem until this experience.

If someone has the misfortune to need to be hospitalized (and this includes maternity hospitals) then the goal of the hospital is always (I assume) to help them to get strong and well, physically, mentally and emotionally. Healthcare facilities, like hospitals, share a similar responsibility as schools in educating and providing healthy role models in society. Unfortunately, these institutions exist within a misinformed system. Teachers and healthcare providers get the same messages from the food industry as everyone else … it is very effective marketing. What we are feeding our children at schools and our patients in the hospitals actually says a lot about where society is in terms of nutrition. What we eat has a large affect on our mental, physical and emotional capacity... You don’t have to look too far to see that, as a society, we are not functioning to our full potential.

While I waited for my friend to return after surgery, they brought me some white cake for a snack and coffee. I passed on this, because I was there to support my friend and I was sure that having a sugar fog would not serve that purpose. (I ate some almonds that I had brought with me) Back in the room, the food started to be delivered and I was truly saddened to see what the patients are being served. I am not talking about the old cliché of terrible hospital food, it was not the taste that was the problem. It was actually quite close to the Standard American Diet (SAD diet), and didn’t even come close to the old, outdated nutritional food pyramid. Lots of dairy at every meal, some starch, some protein, a bit of vegetable and some more starch in the form of potato, followed by some sugary jello and a fruit. In terms of nutrition and healing - this food was seriously lacking. A lost opportunity to teach people about nutrition.

I counted the dairy servings that were offered and they equalled about 6 to 8 servings per day. That is outrageous. Even by old standards, 2-3 servings a day of dairy would be enough. The most common allergy that we see in children is to cow milk protein, caused by overconsumption and over exposure to the protein. The most mucous forming food is dairy. Cheese is constipating and salty, and not really what you want to eat for recovery and healing. As many of you know, I am not a big fan of dairy products. There is no scientific evidence that the dairy good for the bones or the body (after weaning from our mothers). In fact, there are many experts around the world that are convinced by the scientific evidence that dairy has NO place in an adult’s diet. The argument “because they say it is good” or “it is a food group” don’t really stand up in the scientific research community. So why are we still convinced? Well, ask the milk companies, they know. Our children receive nutrition education in their schools that is sponsored by milk companies. Every second commercial on TV is for milk, cheese or yogurt. Those companies invest a lot of money to keep the myth going and it seems to be working. The problem is that our society gets sicker and sicker every year and most people have at least one chronic condition that requires medication. We must be doing something wrong!

The biggest disaster in the hospital was breakfast. It was an inflammation nightmare. All white flour, white sugar and dairy. If you or your doctor have been reading about nutrition in the past couple of years you will already know about the explosion of evidence that has linked simple carbohydrates with high insulin levels and … inflammation! So do we really want patients in the hospital dining on croissant, cake, jam, 3 servings of cheese and a pot of milk (already 4+ servings of dairy and we are just starting the day) just for breakfast? Honestly? Also, every afternoon meal was accompanied by white bread, white pasta and potatoes.

Okay, I know that some of you are wondering if the reason for the low fiber was the post anesthesia diet. Nope, it was an epidural and they brought me food also that was equally inedible- for anyone conscious of their nutrition. The classic postoperative ‘Jello’, which is basically sugar and colorings… is not really fuel for recovery. They noticed that we weren’t eating, so they brought us sugar-free jello. What is the point of eating sugar free jello, full of aspartame? Don’t we eat for nutrition, for fuel? What exactly does sugar-free jello provide for our bodies? Certainly, my friend’s liver had enough to deal with (the medications for pain and the antibiotics) without adding the burden of artificial sweeteners on top.

The bottom line is, we can not rely on the information or education on nutrition from institutions - until the institutions themselves get educated. If only there had been a hint of effort. A slice of whole wheat bread, some whole wheat pasta, some brown rice (ie-some complex carbohydrates) it would have been enough to blunt my irritation. Some fresh vegetable juice or freshly made broth (without the chemicals) for those patients that can’t yet handle fibre would be great alternative to jello. There are many nutrititionally packed vegetables that could be pureed in the place of the fake mashed potatoes. Are the patients leaving these hospitals going home and eating the same foods and feeling justified because the hospital serves them?

My point is not to eliminate croissants nor dairy from our lives, but I do think that brunch at the Hilton is not really what I am looking for in the hospital. Hospitals should be for healing, and just as hospitals are no place for tobacco and alcohol, they are no place for white flour and sugar and artificial sweeteners. And don’t even get me going on the 8 servings of dairy…

1 σχόλιο:

  1. the food I was served in hospital when I had Jackson was terrible...worse than a brunch it was white bread and a processed ham slice for a sandwich - when I ate grapes someone brought me I was warned against eating too many. Where do you start to effect change?