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Why hospital food is bad for your health

HOSPITAL food in Ireland leaves a bad taste in the fight against obesity, the Master of Holles Street Maternity Hospital said.

Dr Rhona Mahony said that every hospital strives to achieve well balanced meal options.

But with falling revenue, this poses a major difficulty.

"I think if we are going to talk about nutrition, then it is very important that the tray at the end of the bed contains food that is rich in good nutrition and the right kind of nutrients," she said.

"I think it will behove us all very well to think of food (at the top of the agenda) but that is quite expensive.

"I was fascinated, I took out the minutes from Holles Street meeting back in the late 1980s, because at that time they were undergoing similar problems in terms of their revenue and their difficulties," she added.

"There was a 1987 minute from the board meeting with the edict to start feeding patients with eggs because we couldn't afford to give them meat and fish.

"You would think that would come from 1887."

And she said that there was often a problem when patients' families introduce different food.

"Parents are inclined to bring in meals for kids -- pizza, chips, the comfort food," she said.



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"And when you add it all up together they discovered to their horror that children were being fed a really poor diet.

"We do look at our catering department and we do our best to provide nutritional food.

"We would like to feel in Holles Street that the food that we serve is of reasonable dietetic value.

"It is what patients bring in as well."

Dr Mahony was speaking at the recent Nutrition and Health Foundation conference.

Consultant dietician Sarah Keogh from EatWell Food and Nutrition Consultants, who was involved in the Department of Health writing a report on the malnutrition in hospitals, said that there is a tendency to focus on low fat foods in hospitals.

"The mistake that people make in hospitals is that they assume that all patients should be eating low fat, low calorie foods but a substantial number of patients in hospitals have much higher calorie needs," she said.

"If you have had a caesarean section, your metabolism has gone up by 25pc, you need the fat, you need the calories.

"I think we need to be very careful before we start saying that the hospitals are going to need to have the same healthy eating as everyone else has.

"You are not healthy in hospital. You are in hospital for a reason, it is a different nutritional balance so I think you need some caution before a decision."

clairemurphy@herald.ie


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