Hospital Food

Have you missed me? I've been out of commission for the last five weeks! On May 12th, just a couple hours after I posted the recipe for my food processor salsa, my husband rushed me to the emergency room. I was having waves of extreme pulsating headaches coupled with chest pain and very high blood pressure. It turns out, I was in Pheo Crisis from a large Pheochromocytoma (an adrenal tumor) that had previously gone undetected (though in retrospect, I had a lot of the symptoms). What a shock to be diagnosed with a rare tumor, and what a change to go from my regular full life to days of just laying between four walls (or more accurately, 3 walls and a curtain). I was in the hospital for three weeks before surgery to remove the tumor and my adrenal gland, and one additional week afterwards. Let me tell you...that's a lot of hospital food! I can divide my hospital stay into two parts: before speaking with the dietitian & after speaking with the dietitian. Those two parts look something like this:

Before speaking with dietitian:
(Trust me, it was much worse than it looks)

After speaking with the dietitian:

Take my word for it...if you are going to be in the hospital for more than a day or two, you want to ask for a consult with a dietitian. She gave me some great alternative menu ideas that served me well over my extended stay. She provided me with a list of daily soups and sandwiches that were available as an alternative to the standard meal, and informed me of options that were always available to be written on my menu (from fresh fruit, to yogurt, to salad options). For local folks who would like specific information about the Saint John Regional Hospital, I'd be happy to talk to you about it more specifically.

Aside from what the hospital serves, most of us rely on friends and family to bring us some "real food." I am so grateful for all our friends and family who brought me food (and to all the folks who brought meals to my husband and children, who in turn brought a serving to me). After this experience, I have a few tips and suggestions to offer to anyone who wants to bring food to someone in hospital.
  • Know the facilities: My unit had a small kitchen with a fridge and microwave, but for the first few days (and then again for several days following surgery), I wasn't able to walk there alone. Since it wasn't easy for me to chill or reheat things for those few days, fruit, nuts, and crackers were a life saver. Be mindful of what tools are available to the patient before you make your delivery.
  • Early mornings & late nights: I was often up very early in the morning, long before the breakfast trays would be delivered. Thankfully, I had a few lovely people who brought me homemade scones and muffins. They were a lifesaver in those early mornings! My late nights were fueled by a friend who made my favourite oatcake recipe for me.
  • Keep it versatile: I found that I grazed more at the hospital than I ever do at home - partially because I didn't have a big appetite for meals, and partially because I was bored. Having healthy filling snacks was ideal. My favourites were:
    • Hummus and veggies 
    • Yogurt and granola
    • Cheese and crackers
    • Sliced apples and peanut butter
  • Something that lasts: Sometimes I already had dinner in the fridge, and I also had several rounds of tests that required fasting. Being given meals that could sit in the fridge for a day or two was ideal for those situations.
  • Don't forget about drinks: I drank ice water all day and all night while in hospital. I've always been a big water drinker, but even I got a bit bored of it. I was delighted to be brought Perrier and smoothies from kind friends! My parents also brought a jar of sliced lemons to perk up my water. A refreshing addition!
  • A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down: Friends who brought me chocolate lifted my spirits in a big way. Who wouldn't feel better after a Lindt bar or some Mini Eggs?! 
  • Fresh is king: When you are accustomed eating lots of shelf stable snacks and reheated meals, there is nothing as satisfying as a bowl of fresh berries or some juicy grape tomatoes. Think fresh and your friend will thank you!

I hope those few bits of advice serve you well when you want to serve a loved one in the hospital. After being on the receiving end of such an outpouring of love and generosity, I am eager to repay the favours once I am back on my feet.


  1. Take care. I hope you recover quickly and have a great summer with your kids (and husband.)

    1. Thanks Bridget! I've been blessed with lots of help from friends, family, and neighbours.

  2. The main advantage of using a private hospital or associated services is that waiting times are reduced significantly. While the NHS undoubtedly performs high quality health care duties, the shear weight of the British population on the system means that serious operations can sometimes take much longer than would otherwise be desired.

  3. I spent 5 months in hospital, 3 of which I could eat. Having a meeting with the dietitian was the best thing to happen there.