Should hospital dining be a five-star experience? Truth be told, hospital food doesn’t have a stellar reputation. There are far too many horror stories of patients eating less-than-appetizing meals during their stays. These anecdotes, while entertaining, are not the norm. Most hospitals go above and beyond to ensure patients have access to healthy, tasty meals.

Food plays a vital role in medical facilities across the country, and it’s time to change the preconceptions many people have about hospital meals. After all, food is more than a tasty treat. It’s also medicine. The nutrients found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and meats give patients the energy needed to begin the healing process. Here’s why Food Service Companies are critical during the treatment and care of all patients.

Prevents Malnutrition

At home, most people eat enough to maintain a healthy balance of vitamin and minerals. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said in hospitals. Malnutrition affects over 30 percent of hospitalized patients in the United States. There are many reasons this happens. For instance, some patients struggle to maintain an appetite because of certain medications. Others deplete nutrients due to underlying conditions. Regardless of the cause, feeding everyone nutrient-dense foods are crucial.

Malnourished patients tend to stay admitted longer than others. A limited diet may exacerbate a person’s pre-existing conditions. Some individuals even notice a decrease in wound healing, cognitive decline, or muscle atrophy. In some cases, malnutrition may also increase a patient’s overall mortality risk.

Hospitals should serve well-balanced meals to ensure patients consume an adequate number of calories and vitamin each day. However, if the food doesn’t look appealing or taste great, it may get pushed to the side. That’s why hospitals should partner with food services that consistently deliver healthy and delicious meals.

Improves Mental Health

Hospitalization can have a devastating effect on a person’s mental health. After all, dealing with an unexpected health crisis is frightening. Patients find themselves worrying about upcoming test results, and some feel overwhelmed with grief. According to a Cedars-Sinai study, nearly one in three hospitalized patients report symptoms of depression. They may experience sleep disruptions, a lack of motivation, or feel a sense of hopelessness.

Eating healthy foods may help reduce these feelings. Essential vitamin, such as B-12, C, and D, help to boost dopamine and serotonin levels. These “feel-good” hormones help regulate chemicals in the brain. People with higher levels of dopamine and serotonin are less likely to show signs of depression. That’s why hospitals should serve patients plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.

Encourages Diversity

Patients come from all walks of life. They have different stories and come from varying places. Hospitals need to embrace these cultural differences. Recognizing diversity makes patients feel more at ease and gives them a better chance of healing. Food is a great place to start.

Medical facilities should be culturally sensitive when choosing menu items. For example, some cultures may avoid certain foods, such as meat or dairy products. Others may have dietary restrictions due to religious beliefs. Familiar meals help people feel more at home even in a hospital setting. Selecting a range of foods to meet the needs of a diverse patient population reduces food waste and improves overall patient satisfaction.

Promotes Patient Safety

Patients trust medical professionals with their life. Doctors perform lengthy surgeries and provide state-of-the-art medications. However, patient safety is also critical outside the operating room. There are many reasons a patient might hurt themselves. Perhaps the most notable culprits are slippery floors and sharp objects, but even some foods can sometimes cause physical harm. Hospital meal providers can reduce this risk.

Allergies are a primary concern in medical environments. Offering patients, a variety of allergen-free foods is a must. These include foods that are free from nuts, milk, shellfish, soy, and eggs. Some people may have difficulty chewing or swallowing. Incorporating a menu that has nutritious liquid options will ensure these patients meet the FDA-recommended daily intake requirements. Catering to a variety of dietary needs will help keep patients safe while they heal.

Offers a Custom Experience

Hospital directors know the eternal struggle of getting positive patient reviews. These polls typically reflect overall value, care, cost, and outcomes. Negative surveys indicate there is room for improvement. Too many negative reviews may also reduce Medicare reimbursement. Bad food remains a top complaint among patients, but it’s also one of the easiest issues to correct.

The patient’s dining experience begins with the menu, and a food service company can create a varied menu to meet the needs of all patients. Letting individuals select from a list of options ensures they receive foods they enjoy. A menu system gives patients a custom experience, which may be what it takes to earn a five-star satisfaction rating.

Saves Money

Hospitals operate on a tight budget. Small profit margins mean there isn’t much wiggle room when it comes to luxury items. In order to meet financial restraints and provide a high level of care, directors often have to cut money from other departments. Food services are often among the first to take a direct hit.

Tracking food costs and waste is a difficult task. Medical facilities that handle meals entirely in-house often throw the most money in the trash. If a patient doesn’t like a meal, they just won’t eat it. All that food ends up in the garbage. Further, ordering too many ingredients also increases the budget. Utilizing a food service program will help to prevent these scenarios.

How much does hospital food cost? Medical centers usually need to feed patients for under ten dollars a day. Outsourcing meals to another entity is one way to stick to a strict food budget. These companies create varied meal plans without overspending. They will even monitor consumption versus waste to ensure patients eat more than they toss.

Great Food for Every Patient

The road to recovery starts with delicious, healthy meals. Instead of serving generic, lackluster foods, hospitals should consider revamping their menu options. Giving a patient access to nutritious ingredients will give their body the boost it needs to begin the healing process. Hospitals that adopt better food options report reduced hospital stays, a cost reduction, and improved patient satisfaction scores.