How To: Eat from a Hospital Menu

This section is for everyone. It could happen to you!

Ironically one of the most risky places for a diabetic to eat is as an inpatient in a hospital.

Because you are a diabetic you will be told by nursing and dietetic staff that you must choose from the “Healthy Eating” section of the menu. This “Healthy Eating” section is specifically designed to be high in carbs, lowish in protein and very low in fat. I’m not at all sure what kind of metabolism is suitable for this sort of diet but it it’s certainly not a good idea if you have the sort of metabolism that cannot handle sugar and starch.  This is the situation for all those people with glucose intolerance or diabetes. Yes. You!

It is necessary for you and your relatives to be very firm at the outset that you must be able to choose from the whole menu, be able to choose large or small portions as you desire and to bring in supplementary food items if necessary.  This could include olive oil and vinegar to dress your salads, fresh temperate grown fruits, cheese, cooked meats, oatcakes and diet drinks.

For breakfast ignore the toast and cereals and porridge and go for the cooked breakfast and eggs in a large portion. Supplement this with a small portion of fresh fruit. Grapefruit and mandarin orange segments are often offered on hospital menus but they are usually tinned and sweetened with sugar so are best avoided.

Instead of digestive biscuits as a midmorning and midafternoon snack try some cheese and oatcake with butter.  Many hospitals routinely offer diabetics snacks as this used to be necessary with twice daily insulin regimes. You may not really need  a snack however. If you are hungry at a snack time you may not have eaten as much protein and fat as you really needed to at the previous meal. If you are insulin dependent you will need to have lucozade or gatorade or snacks available for low blood sugar treatment. A longer acting carb and some protein can work well provided you are not too low.

For lunch and dinner pick large portions of meat, fish, poultry, cheese and egg dishes with vegetables or salad. Ignore any potatoes, chips, rice, pasta or bread items. Avoid deep fried battered food if possible due to the high hydrogenated fat content and carb content of the batter.

Before bedtime toast and biscuits are about the only thing that is offered in hospital. These are likely to be too high glycaemic for you and cheese and cold meat or cheese and oatcakes usually work better to prevent a blood sugar spike or nightime lows.

Despite the difficulties in getting fed properly in hospital it is well worth the effort  to keep your sugars normal. Your infection rate is decreased and your recovery will be faster.


Quick Quiz:
1. Maintaining normal blood sugars by following a low carb diet in hospital results in three of these. What won’t happen?
a Less post operative infection.
b More chance of surviving a life threatening illness.
c Faster discharge from hospital.
d Getting on the dietetic staff’s Christmas card list.


2. In hospital suitable breakfasts for a diabetic are…
a Whatever the nurse thinks looks good from the healty eating section of the menu.
b Porridge, skimmed milk, fresh orange juice with cholesterol lowering margarine.
c Toast, butter, boiled eggs, tinned grapefruit and mandarin oranges.
d Bacon, scrambled eggs, tomato, half a grapefruit.

3. The most risky eating situation for a diabetic is…
a As an inpatient in hospital.
b As a passenger in an aeroplane.
c From a roadside snack shack.
d As a guest at a dinner party that includes Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Ellery Queen, Lord Peter Whimsey and Detective Columbo.

Have you got it?
1. ABC have been proven to result from good glycaemic control in hospital. Sadly D is something that is not as likely from low carbing in hospital. Well there is a first time for everything and sooner or later dieticians will come on board. If you are the first patient to get a card in these circumstances we MUST hear about it!

2. D is correct. The others are too high in sugar and starch. At least with option C you could eat the boiled eggs. Unfortunately the “Healthy Eating Menu in hospitals usually entails LOW FAT. The sugar content is usually high and the protein content is usually low. Most hospital dieticians and nurses will automatically dragoon you into choosing from this menu unless you make it very clear that you object.

3. These are all very risky eating situations. How do you choose between them? In hospitals and aeroplanes you have a very restricted choice of meal. Snack shacks may not be as hygeinic as you would wish. And someone always get poisoned when these super sleuths are near. The only way to deal with these risky situations is to plan ahead and that often means bringing your own meal.

Reference Info:
Acknowlegements for this section to John Gibson the first of my patients who stood up up to the dietetic staff in the hospital I work in. I am also grateful to hospital administrative staff who did their absolute best to bully me into backing down. I would never have believed what was necessary to secure a guarantee of freedom from the “Healthy Eating Plan.” To cut to the chase YOU MUST THREATEN TO SUE THEM. If they don’t back down. It’s okay. Call your lawyer and sue the pants off them.

Where to Next?
All of you need to know about the next topic. March this way to the How To: Take Care of Your Feet section.