Display Patient Information Leafelts

Eating Well in Hospital

Date issued:  September 2019

For review: September 2021

Ref: C-310/SB/Dietetics/Simple ideas to improve your food intake in hospital v3

PDF:  Simple Ideas to Improve your Food Intake in Hospital [pdf] 221KB


Eating Well in Hospital

Practical ideas for patients to make the most of hospital meals

Eating and drinking during illness

It is not unusual for people to lose their appetite when they are unwell. This may be because of the illness itself, the treatment or general anxiety of being in hospital. 

However eating and drinking during a hospital admission is important to help fight infection, maintain weight and promote healing.

What nurses do to help

Nurses work alongside dietitians and catering staff to encourage patients to eat and maintain their nutritional status. They ensure patients are positioned correctly and their food is accessible at mealtimes. Patients will receive assistance with eating when required.

Nurses identify which patients require specialist dietetic advice by conducting regular nutritional reviews, and by monitoring how well patients are eating and drinking.

What dietitians do to help

Dietitians work with the catering department to make sure that patient’s needs are met regarding the nutritional content of meals.

They are also available to see patients identified by the nursing staff and medical team as needing specific advice for their illness or medical condition.

If patients require further advice after discharge, dietitians can arrange follow up in the community.

What relatives can do to help?

It may be helpful to bring in a few favourite foods (please check with nursing staff prior to doing this, and note that food brought in can never be heated up on the ward).

If patients are well enough they could be taken to the hospital restaurant or café for a meal. There are cafes located on level 5 and 6 and there is a restaurant on level 7. Please note that milk and biscuits are always available from the tea trolley with cake and snacks being served in the afternoon.

Help with eating

Derriford Hospital has an open doors policy on most of our adult wards from 0730 to 2200 hrs daily. This enables family and friends to support and assist at meal times.

Menu Guide

To assist patients with menu choice, meals have been given dietary codes:


ED = Energy dense (High Calorie)

GF = Gluten Free

EC = Easy to chew

V  = Vegetarian

VG = Vegan Friendly

(♥) = Healthier choice (Lower in fat, sugar and salt). 


A ‘Lite Bite’ hot menu can be provided for those patients who miss a meal.


Special diet menus

  • Religious/Cultural Menu (Halal, Kosher, Vegan).
  • Renal, Low Potassium.
  • Allergen Free (including gluten free).
  • Gastro Surgical, Wolf & Stonehouse ward.
  • Modified texture.
  • Vegan.
  • Fortified Menu.


Allergen Free Menu

These avoid all the 14 major allergens: Celery, Cereals containing gluten, Crustaceans, Eggs, Fish, Lupin, Milk, Molluscs, Mustard, Nuts, Peanuts, Sesame seeds, Soya Sulphur dioxide (sometimes known as sulphites)


Gluten Free (GF) Menu

A gluten free diet is for coeliac disease patients. Patients should avoid all obvious & hidden sources of gluten, wheat, rye, barley and oats.

Special gluten-free products, such as breakfast cereals, bread and sandwiches are available on request.  Gluten free meals on the standard menu are marked GF.


Vegan Menu

A vegan diet is plant based and avoids all animal products including dairy and eggs. Vegan friendly options available from the standard menu are coded as VG.  A wider choice of vegan meals is also available on a separate vegan menu.

Easy to chew

Easy to chew options are available for patients who find chewing and swallowing more difficult following oral surgery, or for those with poor dentition, fractured jaw and patients who are easily fatigued. On the standard menu these foods are labelled EC.

Modified Texture Meals (for patients with Dysphagia)

For patients with significant swallowing difficulties, a speech and language therapist may recommend a specific food texture such as puree, or thickened drinks.  These are easier to manage and aim to reduce the risk of aspiration or choking. Separate menus are available (Level 4 and 6) depending upon the swallowing severity.

Gastro-Surgical Diet (Wolf and Stonehouse Ward)

This is low in dietary fibre and suitable for people who have had recent gastro-intestinal surgery, have an inflamed or obstructed bowel, or for those with stomas.

Renal: Low Salt and Potassium

This may be recommended by the dietitian or doctor for those kidney patients with high potassium levels, or for those requiring very low salt.

Beverages and Snacks

There are beverages and snacks available from the tea trolley on your ward.

Beverages: Fruit juice, tea, peppermint tea, coffee, decaffeinated coffee, hot chocolate, beef drink and Ovaltine.

Snacks: Fresh fruit, biscuits, lemon drizzle, Madeira or country cake, scones, yoghurts and cheese and crackers.


Nutritional Supplements     

Dietitians may arrange additional high calorie and protein foods and snacks for patients not eating well and at risk of becoming malnourished.

There are also a range of dietary supplements available on the wards which may be prescribed. These include milkshakes, juices, desserts and soups.

If you need to continue these at home, the dietitian or doctor will ask your GP to prescribe them.

For further advice please ask the nursing staff or housekeeper.

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