Why Is Hospital Food So Bad? (11 Reasons Why)

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Maisie Hughes

Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

Being in the hospital is no picnic, nor would you take the food they provide on a picnic. Unfortunately, when you need to be fortified with nutritional foods, you are subjected to stale white bread and jello.

I investigated why hospital food is so bad, and I found 11 reasons why you should practice prevention and stay out of the hospital. I took a deep dive and found some interesting information to share.

Why Is Hospital Food So Bad?

1. They Just Do Not Cook

Most of the time, hospitals do not prepare fresh foods. They tend to order their food through food services or companies that prepare institutional foods.

The food comes in packages and trays, and they just heat it up. Many hospitals enter into relationships with catering companies, and the foods are of basically no nutritional value.

It is also not high-quality food to begin with. This solution is cheap, and neither one requires a gourmet chef, let alone a cook.

2. Cheap Ingredients

Institutional food also takes advantage of the bulk food costs. These are often supplied by government agencies, such as the United States Department of Agriculture.

Ingredients like corn and wheat are usually available for a low cost. Cheaper cuts of meat are also available, and hospitals take advantage of these low-cost ingredients.

Fresh fruits and vegetables have a tendency to cost more than lime jello and ice burg lettuce if ice burg is even available.

3. Family Members Cannot Bring Food

Sometimes the family wants to provide meals for the patients, but often family members are told not to bring food. It may be OSHA or just hospital policy, but the family often cannot bring food to the patient.

If the patient wants a nice piece of salmon or (heaven forbid) some natural fresh fruit instead of those nutritionally empty little fruit cups, they are out of luck. Fruit may as well be prohibited in favor of jello.

4. High In Sodium

Whether it comes from the vast array of soups that hospitals serve or even from the instant pudding, hospital food tends to be very high in sodium.

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The American Heart Association advises that 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily is the limit. Even so, 1,500 mg for adults should be your limit, and if you could keep it to 1,000 mg, even better.

Hospital food tends to go well over that limit. Most of the sodium from hospital food comes from packaged foods, as opposed to table salt. Some of the hospital foods high in sodium:

  • Canned vegetables
  • Canned soups
  • Instant potatoes
  • Cold-cut sandwich meats like turkey or ham
  • Salads with high sodium dressings
  • Breakfast meats like sausage or bacon

It simply is not good to take in excess sodium. Excess salt raises your blood pressure and can cause edema due to fluid retention, which can be a killer if you have congestive heart failure.

5. High In Saturated Fat

Hospital food is typically high in saturated fat. Saturated fat is bad for you in so many ways. It can increase your risk for heart disease, as it raises LDL, which is unsuitable for your cholesterol.

If your cholesterol is elevated, you are at risk of heart attack or stroke. Also, hospital food can trigger weight gain. If you have an extended stay in the hospital, watch out for the high-fat foods they serve.

Some of the high-fat foods a hospital may serve are:

  • Macaroni and cheese
  • French fries
  • Meats, like beef burgers or meatloaf
  • Fried chicken

If you are not vigilant, you may end up leaving the hospital with extra pounds. It is challenging to eat healthy in the hospital.

6. It Costs Too Much

It Costs Too Much

Historically, hospitals allocate one percent of their budget for patient food. That one percent equates to roughly eight dollars per day per patient for three meals.

You cannot even eat three meals at McDonald’s for eight dollars a day. However, apparently hospital food is that cheap. You cannot feed someone on that low budget with wholesome, nutritious food.

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You must also remember that you are paying people to heat and serve the food. Hospital food is no good because the funds are just not there.

7. No Nutritional Training

Most hospital staff members lack the necessary nutritional training to know about healthy food and what foods would be best for patients.

There is no excuse for not trying to help patients eat good food, considering the internet is available to everybody. Doctors and nurses do not need professional nutritional training to practice medicine.

8. Hospitals Serve Fast Food

Well, maybe not every hospital serves fast food, but many do. Fast food is responsible for many health problems in America. This list includes:

  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Heart disease
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Elevated cholesterol
  • Obesity

Fast food can even make you feel emotionally impaired, as it lacks adequate nutrition and does not keep your body and mind level. Of the 14,000 McDonald’s in America, there are 27 of them in hospitals.

Some hospitals have as many as five fast-food restaurants. You would think that hospitals would be opposed to serving fast food, considering the hospital is supposed to be a place you go to get healthy.

The sad truth is that hospitals are making money by pushing fast food. The contract is mutually beneficial.

9. Medicine Mix-Up

Some people who are on certain medicines have side effects, such as heart medicine can make blood potassium higher. With that in mind, a hospital may serve potassium-rich orange juice and a banana with breakfast.

If someone takes prescribed medication for a specific health issue that does not mix well with the hospital food, there could be problems.

If blood potassium rises too high, the hospital will need to take that life-sustaining medicine away until the issue is resolved.

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10. Heat And Reheat

Hospitals cook the food, and then it is put onto the cart. The cart keeps the food hot. Once the food is delivered to the right area, it is served, and who knows how long it sits there?

The food is not the same quality as when it came out of the oven, and it does not taste so good. It is the reason why the grilled cheese and tomato soup you get at the hospital is not like the one you make at home.

11. No Creativity

It is no secret that your local hospital does not have a gourmet chef on hand to make quality, creative meals. The meals you get at the hospital are bland and tasteless.

The cafeteria staff is not there with their spice rack adding onions, garlic, or other ingredients to your food to make it taste extraordinary.

In a hospital setting, the food is not prepared with love the way it is when you go for a home-cooked meal at your mother’s house. You are only getting as good as the prepared food in the packages will allow.

To learn more, you can also read our posts on why school food is so bad, why airplane food is so bad, and why British food is so bad.


Hospital food is basically institutional food, and the main goal of the hospital is to cut costs. However, some pioneers have real chefs who cook with nutritious whole foods.

Hospital food is bad because the food is bland and heated and reheated continuously, not to mention it is incredibly unhealthy for you.


  • Maisie Hughes

    Maisie Hughes is a 20-year veteran of the culinary world. She has worked as a chef in some of the most prestigious restaurants in the country, and she currently volunteers her time at local food banks.

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