The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Staying Vegan During Your Hospital Stay

Posted on September 28, 2017 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Emily Wood, RD CDN

If you are admitted to a hospital the last thing you want to have to worry about is “will they have something I can eat there?” After working in a hospital for 8 years I have heard it all (well maybe). Fortunately for vegans, more hospitals are shifting from “here eat this” to “what can I get for you today?” The increase in hospitals adapting Room Service style meal ordering is on the rise, which allows people to order what they want, when they want it. There is usually a set menu, however, having this type of meal ordering system allows a greater variety of food items to be offered on any given day, which allows people such as vegetarians and vegans to have a wider selection.

Upon any admission to a hospital you will be asked about food allergies, and a diet order will be placed for you by the doctor. This is a good time to mention any dietary restrictions, such as not eating meat, eggs, or dairy, so that these specifications can be in writing in your diet order. The kitchen must follow any instructions that are placed in the written diet order.

Something else to try is that certain hospitals may be willing to accommodate special requests that are within reason. For example, if you usually drink soy milk and they do not have any available, a kitchen supervisor may be able to run to the nearest grocery store to have some on hand during your stay. I’m not saying that all hospitals will do this, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

Another option is to have your friends or family bring in food items for you. If this is something you would like them to do for you, then it is always a good idea to check with the doctor or nurses to get the “ok.” You do not want to bring in any food that may compromise your treatment or plan of care. One thing that I think is very important to mention, since vegans may incorporate many raw foods into our diet, is take extra caution eating raw foods if your immune system is compromised. When your immune system is not functioning like it should, it makes us more susceptible to the bacteria that may be present on raw foods, which may further worsen illness. Therefore, if you know your immune system is compromised, it is best to stick with cooked, canned, or processed foods only.

As a last remark, I want to point out that every hospital is required to have a Registered Dietitian on staff. Registered Dietitians are your food service advocates, and are there to give you guidance on food selection and uphold any food preferences you may have. So don’t be afraid to ask, we’re here to help!

Emily Wood, RD CDN is a Registered Dietitian in Buffalo, NY who is passionate about sustaining the environment, and helping people live happier, healthier lives through plant based eating.

3 to “Staying Vegan During Your Hospital Stay”

  1. Lauren says:

    When I had my son 2 (almost 2 and a half!) years ago, I was able to give the nurses my dietary needs, and since they were unsure of how to accommodate, they sent the dietitian up to our room and she sat down with me and gave me several options to choose from. The entire meal staff was wonderful and respectful, and the doctor was supportive of my choices throughout the entire pregnancy and hospital stay.
    I was unsure about a couple things that they sent up, but a member of the kitchen came right up to clarify and assure me that everything that I had been given strictly adhered to their food standards and my order requirements.
    It’s so nice to see hospitals making the change to better choices!

  2. The VRG Blog Editor says:

    We agree!

  3. Emily Wood says:

    That is so great Lauren! I love hearing stories like this!

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