What's in a hospital meal? Depends on where it's served. In the United States, a typical hospital meal might include chicken pot pie, broccoli, a chocolate chip cookie and black coffee. A typical Russian meal is slightly more spartan: buckwheat pudding, cottage cheese and black coffee.
Oldsmar, Florida-based Sunbelt Staffing created dishes following actual hospital catering menus and government nutritional guidelines in countries around the globe and took Instagram-worthy photos of them.
The project offers a glimpse into gastronomical cultural differences—compare, for example, a typical German menu of creamed beef, peas and corn, strudel and bread to, say, Switzerland, where patients might dine on quiche, fig and walnut salad, an éclair and apple juice:
But the project is really about more than than pretty pictures and geographical differences. It also highlights the fact that healthy food customized to patients' individual needs can improve the quality of their care, speed recovery and affect the patient experience for better or for worse.
“We can learn so much from how other cultures and professionals help patients recover, so we thought it was a great idea to think outside the box and to show Americans just what else they could expect from a menu should they find themselves in a hospital abroad,” Howard Gerber writes in a post for Sunbelt.
"From nurses, to doctors, to pharmacists, to nutritionists, they all agree on the importance of nutritious meals to aid in patients’ recovery and wellness, even after they have been discharged."
Take a look, for example, at this well-balanced selection of baked salmon, peas and carrots, corn and water, typical of a Canadian hospital offering:
Recommendations are always changing, and menus differ from hospital to hospital, so hospitals must keep up with the latest research about what's best to serve patients. That's a big part of the job for Erin McCarthy, a certified dietitian. But, she told Sunbelt, it's also to be accepting of new and emerging data.
"You have to take many chemistry, nutritional chemistry and biochemistry courses throughout the years. It’s good to know the science behind the rationale of each nutritional recommendation,” she said.
Meanwhile, if you ever find yourself at a hospital in Italy, send us a postcard letting us know how you liked the gnocchi with tomato sauce: