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Hospital Meals Inimical To Patients’ Healing Process, Say Chefs

By Joseph Okoghenun   |   07 November 2015   |   1:24 am  

Hospital-foodCHEFS have described hospital meals as inimical to the healing process of patients. Making the assertion in Lagos recently during an event to mark International Chef Day at Eko Hotel, Lagos, the chefs said although meals ought to complement drugs for patients, most hospitals don’t have provision for in-house food service.

The International Chef Day is aimed at raising awareness concerning the culinary profession, as well as to highlight the important roles chefs play in the development of societies worldwide. The theme of this year’s celebration is: ‘Healthy Kids, Healthy Future’, a theme that highlights the importance of food in moulding the future of children.

The Chief Operating Officer of Hotel, Restaurants, Café, Bakery and Beverage (HoReCaBB) Mentors, Mr Eric Mekwuye, a celebrity chef, said adequate nutrition should be viewed as important part of the healing process for patients seeking treatment in hospitals.
Mekwuye, who is a West African training partner in food service certification for the State University of New York – Global Foodservice Institute (SUNY-GFI), encouraged chefs across the federation to get certified in culinary nutrition to assist patients.

Mekwuye said: “Nutritious and healthy food intake is crucial to the wellbeing of people everywhere. It should be accessible especially within the food service chain, commercial or non-commercial. Tasty and well-presented meals do not necessarily mean they are healthy. On the other hand, using certain well-known health-benefit food material also does not mean the end menu product will be beneficial for the consumer. The desired result rather is achieved only when such food materials are properly used and with the intended consumer’s need in mind.

Chefs of today must rise above the basics of tasty and good presentations. Lots of people are becoming health conscious and chefs should be able to combine the art of excellent nutritious menu planning that meet the needs of all audience with great cooking and presentation.
“Hospital food has come into focus in recent time due to reports of under‐nutrition and at the same time, food service has undergone significant changes.  For instance, in many developing countries like Nigeria, a lot of people who are either on hospital admission or on regular medical appointments, live on medication for what simple change of life style and proper nutritious eating could solve. A well informed chef who understands the nutritional value, chemical composition and food safety risk of every food materials in his or her kitchen, may be just what is needed.

It is very important that food is attractive, appetising, palatable, and nutritious and meets the cultural and social needs of patients as well as their clinical needs. Adequate nutrition intake is an important part of healing the hospital patient. In general, under-nutrition is associated with loss of muscle strength and impaired immune function, which can lead to an increase in complication rates, infection rates, and mortality. Promoting optimal nutritional status through quality hospital foodservice can lead to faster recovery and decreased length of hospital stay which can have a large impact on hospital costs.

With the exception of very few, most hospitals do not have provision for in-house food service or properly set up food service and so patients live on food gotten from locations outside, where certain key issues like nutrition and food safety are relegated to the background. Others simply have an arrangement with a caterer whose business is to provide meals as scheduled without proper understanding of why certain food types should be served to certain patients or how to prepare certain meals that will taste the same and sometimes even better without using ingredients the patient’s body no longer tolerates so he could still be happy eating his favourite meal.

Tasty and well-presented meals do not necessarily mean they are healthy. On the other hand, using certain well-known health-benefit food material also does not mean the end menu product will be beneficial for the consumer. The desired result rather is achieved only when such food materials are properly used and with the intended consumer’s need in mind.

For instance, preparing certain menu item known to be high in sodium for a BP patient without salt, planning and preparing menu for cancer patients that is still colourful and appealing, planning and preparing menu for the elderly, and other low immune patients.

Chefs trained and certified in Culinary Nutrition, who can both read and interpret nutritional information, procure food materials, prepare and serve menu as per the needs of the intended consumers, will be in high demand for so many obvious reasons. These new crop of food service professionals will fill in this life-saving and cost-effective need.

Forward looking chefs and cooks alike are encouraged to learn what it takes, get certified in Culinary Nutrition and then project themselves on how they can work with hospitals to bring about this much desired change for a healthier nation of great people.”

On his part, Executive Chef of Metropolitan Club, Mr Nick Maaji, said hospital food service has become messy because “Nigerians do not believe in indigenous chefs,” adding that Nigerians used to view anyone “working in the kitchen as a laid-back person.”
Maaji, who called for a change of attitude towards chefs, said chefs should be conscious of food safety processes and procedures, even as he advised them “to undergo certification on food safety.”



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