Thursday 23 May 2019

Biscuits and full-fat butter are in as new hospital menus 'reflect how people eat'

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Custard creams and chocolate biscuits are in, but trendy fads such as avocado on toast have not made it to new hospital menus.

Patients will be served mostly traditional food with a typical three-course dinner of a bowl of soup, roast meat, mashed potato with butter, topped off with jelly and ice cream for dessert.

Snacks can include family favourites like ginger nut biscuits and cream crackers, while marmalade and full-fat butter can also feature in a patient's dining experience, depending on their health condition.

The updated food and hydration policy was launched in the Mater Hospital yesterday by Health Minister Simon Harris, who pointed out that in a survey of more than 13,000 patients, 71pc rated hospital food good or very good.

"It is essential we continue to improve this," he said.

Barbara Gillman, a clinical specialist renal dietitian who was in charge of developing the new policy, said patients should be screened on admission to hospital.

This is to assess if they are nutritionally well or at risk from conditions such as malnutrition, diabetes, allergies or swallowing issues, or if they need assistance with feeding or aids for eating and drinking.

Louise Reynolds, of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute, said the new policies are a "step in the right direction", even with the inclusion of biscuits and butter.

"People might think it should be all quinoa, chia seeds and avocado but that is not how people in Ireland eat. That is how the middle-class worried well eat," she said.

"People in hospital are from every socio-economic group and may have a condition where they have increased calorie requirements.

"We know 25pc of people in hospital are at risk of malnutrition. I understand why people might ask why jam is allowed. It is absolutely fine."

She said, however, that once people are screened, they should be seen by a dietitian and given a personal food plan. But there is still a shortage of dietitians.

The new plan also has vegetarian options and says that if a patient has missed a meal because they are away from ward having treatment, there needs to be a robust system in place to ensure they receive a replacement.

Water jugs should be replaced twice daily and a patient should have access to chilled water 24 hours a day.

Once a meal is cooked, it should not be held for more than 90 minutes, the guidelines stress.

Irish Independent

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