Hospitals Using Traditional Foods to Heal Patients

Long-standing jokes regarding hospital food aside, the more we learn about how a healthy diet can help in the healing process, the more important meal preparation becomes.  Canadian hospitals across the country are adopting a new approach to feeding patients using locally sourced ingredients and culturally appropriate dishes.  Initial trials show great promise using healthy, fresh and traditional meals to reduce food waste and improve patient outcomes.

According to a recent CBC News report, the Nourish Health campaign brings together the expertise of dietitians, food service management and chefs to provide nourishing meals that help patients recover better after an injury or illness.   In the hospitals implementing the program, careful attention is paid to the cultural background of patients; on British Columbia’s west coast where half the population is Indigenous, traditional foods like wild salmon, cod, halibut and local vegetables are familiar to patients and can help promote healing. 

And when meals are appetizing to patients, less food is wasted. Fewer packaged foods and more freshly prepared meals provide patients with not only better nutrition but treating food as medicine has been found to improve the health of patients.  And elderly patients who are served food that is not only healthy and fresh but reminds them of what they ate in their youth are more likely to get the nutrition necessary to recover.  

Food offers not only nutrition but also comfort and when prepared with cultural sensitivity and environmental sustainability, healthy hospital meals can enhance patient recovery and provide opportunities for families to learn more about a healthy diet.  According to Nourish Health literature, malnourished patients stay an average 2-3 days longer in hospital, costing about $2,000 more than a well-nourished patient.  An investment in purchasing fresh, local food and providing food preparation training could save resources and improve patient care.

Learn more about Nourish Health by following this link to the campaign website.