Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hospital Food - Vegan Options

I partake in some dangerous sports which land me in the hospital every so often and I thought I might address the lack of vegan foods in a hospital setting. I've been admitted to both domestic and foreign hospitals so I'd like to take a quick moment to address the challenges.

Scenario #1 -- you get admitted to a hospital that has vegan options already laid out on a separate menu. Sound too good to be true? Well, it's not. I encountered this at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. I won't go as far to say that the food was good, but at least I wasn't worried about going hungry. Praise Mercy Hospital and all that they do.

Scenario #2 -- you get admitted to a domestic hospital that doesn't have vegan options. This can be scary. You are confined to a bed and possibly awaiting surgery and are wondering how you will survive.  You feel powerless and wonder if they will even be truthful with what they are serving you. This was my latest experience.  What saved me was that I had several food bars with me along with a big bag of cherries. I never thought I'd be admitted to the hospital, but in hindsight, I should have thought this through. If you are heading to the emergency room with a manageable amount of pain -- I mean you aren't bleeding out or on your death bed, be sure to grab a couple days worth of staples. I recommend bringing bars, nuts, fruit, chocolate, trail mix, and snacks (kale chips, corn chips, etc.) with you to the hospital just in case. You never know how long you might be there.

If you get admitted, tell them you have egg and dairy allergies. Unfortunately, they take this much more seriously than a preference for vegan food. I tell them I am vegan AND have these allergies. Believe it or not, I was still served milk and pudding at the last hospital despite giving this allergy. It really is not a foolproof system so ask a lot of questions when they bring your food. For breakfast, I usually request oatmeal made with water (not milk) and cinnamon and raisins as toppings. For lunch, I ask for a wrap with hummus and veggies. Even if they serve you iceberg lettuce and tomatoes in a plain wrap at least the hummus gives it some flavor. Just be sure the wrap is not made with milk or honey.

For dinner, noodles made without eggs and tomato sauce are a safe bet. If all else fails, you can always have your bars.

Scenario #3 -- you get admitted to a foreign hospital where they've never seen a vegan before. This was my experience several years ago and I was there for nine days. Nightmare? Yes. Was I prepared? Yes. I had to explain to several people that I do not eat meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy or honey. In Norway, where fishing is their main industry, you would have thought that I had grown tentacles by the way they reacted. They served me plates of iceberg lettuce, seriously. I nearly had a breakdown on day two. Finally, one of the nurses offered to go to their cafeteria for me and get me a healthy salad. What a godsend. She came back with a beautiful salad loaded with fresh veggies and I was very happy. Again, what saved me was that I brought a ton of Larabars and a jar of peanut butter. I ate peanut butter sandwiches whenever I was dissatisfied with what they brought me and had bars as my snacks. The jar of peanut butter was a lifesaver and is something you can find in nearly every country.

I hope these tips were helpful. If nothing else, I hope it makes you think before you head over to the hospital to get something checked out. Always bring food -- prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Please share your hospital experiences below. I'm curious to hear about them!


  1. I hope I will never be denied vegan food.

  2. I asked if they had a dietician & asked to speak with her. I found out all the produce they stocked and was able to get bowls of fresh spinach, brown rice, red or black beans, sliced red onions w/sliced green & red peppers, plain baked potatoes, soy milk, plain oatmeal topped w/raisins, steamed broccoli, hummus, bananas, oranges, apples, bowls of strawberries, blueberries, melon chunks and other produce I’ve forgotten. As condiments I got mustard, lemon juice, chopped black olives and salt and pepper. I stuck to sherberts for desserts.