Explained: Hospital Food For Your Medical Travel

It is well recognized that food and other aspects of foodservice delivery are important elements of the patients’ overall perception of the hospital experience. One should never have to compromise or settle, rather we have the volition to choose an option best suited to our individual needs. A good healthcare system, according to developmental economist Jean Dreze, needs to emphasize on preventing disease and promoting healthy lifestyles, focus on keeping people well, rather than treating them when they are sick.

Culture & Dietary Adherence


An individual’s food choices, perceptions and preferences about diet and health, and adherence to dietary recommendations is influenced by culture and ethnicity. Restricting or prohibiting the usual foods that one is accustomed to or prefers eating, usually leads to non-adherence to doctor’s instructions.

Complications may arise when patients adamantly stick to their usual diet and refuse to forgo their food habits despite the demands of their medical condition.

Every culture seeks preferred foods, often ignoring the food sources at hand. The English don’t eat horse and dog; Mohammedans’ refusal of pork; Forbidden foods of Jews; Americans’ averse disposition to offal; Hindus taboo beef, and so on. While there are those who still conform to their cultural beliefs and stick to comfort food, younger generations these days seek to experience food and cultural diversity.


Food Standards And Regulations In The Healthcare Industry


It is the responsibility of the hospitals to maintain hygiene and a clean environment while preparing/serving food. The Food Safety Standards sets out specific requirements for food service facilities including hospitals, which ensures that food does not become unsafe or unsuitable for patients.


These health and hygiene obligations for food-handlers aim to lower the incidence of foodborne illnesses, establish good practice, improve nutritional content of meals and target nutritional problems. It also takes into account the CQC (Care Quality Commission) registration standards and NICE Quality Standards and Clinical Guidelines. These describe the basic requirements that providers should always meet, and set the outcomes that patients/care-service users should always expect, and provide various resources to improve the quality of healthcare.


These include:

  • Specific food handling controls (receipt, storage, processing, display, packaging, transport, disposal, recall)

  • Other requirements pertaining to:  

- skills, knowledge, health and hygiene of food-handlers and their supervisors

- cleaning, sanitation and maintenance of food premises and the equipment within


Hospital food should complement patient’s care and enhance their stay, help staff and visitors follow a healthier lifestyle, support our economy while protecting our environment. This can be achieved by environmentally sustainable, organic farming practices, and serving familiar comfort food, with healthier entrees.

Green Credentials & Organics In The Hospitals


Solutions fostering public health and environmental sustainability will lead us towards a healthy future. ‘Green Credentials’ with regard to food services include:  


  • Incorporating healthier food options at hospital food facilities

  • Affordable and  healthier food options for patients

  • Rooftop garden growing vegetables used to serve food

  • Waste-reduction program, which includes purchase of compostable paperware

  • Health promotion programs to educate and promote healthier lifestyle choices among staff, visitors and patients


Food-borne Illnesses


These are preventable diseases, which include food poisoning due to Staph/Salmonella , Gastroenteritis, etc.


It usually takes 12-72 hours for symptoms of foodborne illnesses to appear after eating contaminated food (raw/undercooked chicken, beef, pork or fish, sandwiches, green salads), but may also be seen within 30 min-upto 4 weeks later. Symptoms include: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, Flu-like symptoms.


Individuals at High risk are:


  • Children (<4 years)
  • Pregnant women
  • Elderly (>50 years)
  • Chronic illness patients


These are more likely to contract an infection from foodborne pathogens, be hospitalized and have a longer-lasting illness.


Dietary Care While Recuperating


Dietetics, or the science of applying knowledge in food to improve and maintain good health, plays a vital role in the healing and recovery phase of a patient.

While every surgery has its specific dietary recommendations, common instructions to follow are-


  • Avoid any foods that require more than three chews to swallow for the first 1-2 weeks post-surgery

  • Avoid smoking and alcohol while healing

  • Take a multivitamin supplement.


The quantity and type of food you are allowed to consume, and guidelines to follow, varies according to the surgical procedure performed, for instance:


Breast Surgery

Eat several smaller meals throughout the day; consume protein shakes, yogurt, and liquid protein drinks instead of solid foods; eat simple soups (chicken with vegetables and broth)


Bariatric Surgery

Liquid diet for 1-2 weeks, pureed food for the next couple of weeks, soft food during the following week; eat smaller meals throughout the day; stay hydrated; (week 6-8) exercise for 30min a day


Heart Surgery

Loss of appetite and weight loss common, but have smaller meals throughout the day; stay hydrated; have plenty of fibre and flesh fruits; avoid fried foods; adhere to a special diet if recommended (2,000 mg low-sodium diet for patients with heart failure/low-sugar, low-fat diet for diabetic patients)


Pancreatic Surgery

Eat several smaller meals throughout the day, preferably protein-rich foods; avoid high-fat, high-sugar, high-fiber foods; take only small sips of water with meals


A Dietitian's Role


A dietitian’s role is to provide patients with the necessary knowledge and awareness to make informed choices about food to live a productive life, and facilitate patients’ efforts to find the resources they will need to meet their goals.


When referred to a dietitian, once you are assessed and they have obtained more information from you and your family, they will make suggestions, organize a diet plan specific to your needs and complaints, and schedule a revisit to review your progress. Proper nourishment can be attained by a balance of foods that taste good while ensuring an adequate intake of necessary nutrients.

International Care


Seeking medical treatment outside one’s home country can be quite the daunting task. Several hospitals worldwide have been delivering world class treatment to international patients, committed to providing a safe healing experience. Aimed at providing International Patient Care, they strive to ensure your safety and comfort throughout your stay as you receive the best medical care.


Medical Tourism & Food Services


The never-ending bustle in concrete/marble corridors with bright lighting hardly makes an ill person feel better, however, private hospitals these days in no way resemble the cold, sterile environment of a hospital and instead look like hotels.

Leading medical tourism competitors in Asia are Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.



This country provides the comfort and luxury of an international stay with the experience, resources and expertise to provide international quality healthcare at competitive prices, along with its long-standing tradition of Thai hospitality.

Several hospitals employ food platforms, which makes healthier choices readily available to patients. It includes a wide variety of menu options to encourage customers to select the lower-calorie, lower-fat, whole-grain, and vegetarian/vegan choices that best fit their lifestyles. Hospitals in the country provide patients with services similar to the latter’s native culture, to ensure that they do not spend much time beyond the ‘safety net’ of their preferences.



Hospitals in Singapore present a wide range of choices in food facilities, with services ranging from a food court comprising of a well-balanced meal with rice, vegetables, soup and fruits, to your familiar comfort foods like McDonald's. Dishes are also prepared using healthier cooking methods like steaming, braising, boiling and stir-frying.

Offering a ‘staycation’, some hospitals here aim to provide affordable private healthcare, to make patients feel at home, away from home. Other more luxurious options include hospitals where you can experience fine dining in its best, yet in a refined and healthier form. However, this also makes Singapore an expensive option in the medical tourism industry, as patients prefer cheaper options.



This country is considered a bargain destination for patients seeking certain procedures, without compromising on the quality of healthcare. Food options include a halal menu. In private hospitals, local and international favorites are on offer, alongside vegetarian options, children’s options and special requests, like room service in hotels.

Malaysian hospitals also hosts charity food fairs every year, with over 100 stalls of delicious, lip-smacking home-cooked and international food. With a plethora of affordable options to choose from and its reputation for graceful and attentive service, Malaysia has its sights set on surpassing Thailand and Singapore, to become the top medical tourist destination in Southeast Asia by 2020.


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