What To Do If Your Hospital Doesn’t Offer A Plant-Based Menu? Ask For It!

by Danielle Bussone

Last week I was hospitalized for a recurrent problem created years ago by an inept surgeon who cut the wrong body part. I was hooked up to IV antibiotics and given medication for pain. For me, the big question was, “What am I going to eat?” Hospitals vary in the quality of food offered. One of the most prestigious hospitals in the country where I once had the misfortune to become a resident has offered some of the worst food on the planet. I was not a vegan when I first had surgery but I was nevertheless shocked to see quality of the food served to me at each meal. Eggs and bacon, fatty sausage gravy and biscuits, red meat, fried chicken — foods which are more likely to send someone to the hospital rather than aid in recovery. We do not have to be stuck with these unhealthy food choices while our weakened immune systems are trying to recover.

 Green Beans, Grilled Yellow Squash and Cherry Tomatoes Over Rice, Fruit Cup and Whole Grain Roll


Green Beans, Grilled Yellow Squash and Cherry Tomatoes Over Rice, Fruit Cup and Whole Grain Roll

I remember during my initial hospitalization, 4 1/2 years ago, I couldn’t eat for five weeks. I literally could not touch food to my lips without heaving. A particularly dedicated nutritionist visited my room to discuss my inability to hold down food. She told me if there was anything at all I thought I might be able to hold down, she would go to the grocery story herself, buy the ingredients and prepare it for me. I never forgot how much that meant to me.

Veggie and Fruit Pizza

Veggie and Fruit Pizza

So, last week, when the food service staff called to see what I would like for dinner, I remembered how willing the last nutritionist had been to provide the food I needed to heal. I asked the current staff member if she could prepare a vegan meal for me. To my surprise, she immediately agreed. While they did not have a vegan menu per se, all I had to do was think of something I’d like and voila! They made it for me! I had dishes of grilled veggies with rice, pasta marinara, baked potato, oatmeal with fresh fruit and a veggie and fruit pizza! I won’t pretend it was gourmet fare, but it did the job and I never had to resort to unhealthy choices.

Pasta Primavera and Green Salad

Pasta Primavera and Green Salad

I’m home now on IV antibiotics and I expect to be back to normal in a few days. Rich is feeding me nutritious plant-based meals and I was thrilled to return home to find my fig trees are literally dripping with fresh figs. While recovering from this latest medical set-back, I am at least happy to know I don’t have to recover from poor dietary choices when at my most vulnerable state.

Raw Veggie Hoagie, Fresh Fruit and Baked Potato

Raw Veggie Hoagie, Fresh Fruit and Baked Potato

When we are sick we need food which will work for us, not against us. We don’t have to eat the standard hospital fare if we know it will not serve us in our recovery. Institutions make their decisions based on monetary considerations but the hospital staff sincerely want us to get well. If you find yourself at the mercy of a hospital’s dining facility which does not offer a plant-based menu, just ask. Chances are they will me more accommodating than you imagined. One of employees of the hospital told me that negative feedback from patients directly affect the hospital’s funding so they have a vested interest in making you happy with your stay. Food offerings figure heavily into a patient’s satisfaction with their hospitalization experience. So, just ask!! Chances are the hospital food service staff will be more than happy to take care of your plant-based needs.

Co-founder and editor of Veggin’ Out and About, Danielle writes restaurant reviews, profiles and interviews of people making a difference in the plant-based community. She is currently writing a cookbook for vegans called, “Time For Change: Whole Foods For Whole Health.”

Danielle’s region is SW Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina and anywhere she happens to stop for sustenance along the road. Contact Danielle  directly to share your restaurant finds, to make comments or just to say hello.

4 Comments

  1. harry.galer@gmail.com

    Sorry you wound up in the hospital! Hope you are on the mend. We are thinking of you and sending lots of love and healing energy your way.

    While I was in China, I found it pretty easy to remain plant based. Mongolia, on the other hand, was another story. :-O!!

    • Danielle Bussone

      This too shall pass! I’m fine and appreciate your kind sentiments. I hope you are doing well. I imagine you would have no problem staying plant-based in China!! No Mongolian Barbecue in Mongolia?? Any great restaurant finds in the Far East you’d like to share??

  2. I’m so glad you posted about this subject matter. I was shocked and appalled when I visited my father-in-law in a top hospital after open heart surgery, and the menu choices were bacon and eggs, steak, meat, meat, and more meat! I complained to the hospital’s nutritionist, and to the social worker who chuckled in my face.

    • Danielle Bussone

      I know!! It is shocking how little hospitals think about nutrition. It is changing, though. A friend was hospitalized in Salt Lake City a couple years back and his experience was fantastic. Organic fresh foods all around. Dr. Esselstyn of the Cleveland Clinic says they create the disease on the first floor of the hospital (McDonalds) and treat them on the upper floors (cardiac unit). As in all things financial, we can make our voices heard by voting with our wallets. If we refuse to eat at restaurants which serve genetically modified foods, the GMOs will simply go away. If we want healthy food in our hospitals, we have to insist on it. It’s all about the dollar and about making your thoughts known.

      I can only imagine how angry you were with the nutritionist and social worker who laughed in your face. I don’t think they would laugh a second time if you reported them to the hospital administration or wrote a letter to your editor. That kind of callousness is inexcusable. I was fortunate to find myself in a situation in which everyone I came in contact with had only my best interests at heart. From the doctors to the nurses to the aides to food service to housekeeping, they were wonderfully caring and responsive to my needs.

      I hope your father-in-law is well and I hope you never have a repeat of your frustrating experience. All the very best to you and yours, Danielle

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