NHS Food for thought

Naturally when we dine out we all like to review. Well let’s be honest we review in our head, as Brits we tend to not complain. Whether the food or service is below par or not most if us still refrain from complaining. So polite. or to cringe.

However, for blogging purposes it would be a dishonour to spend so long eating NHS meals to not give a fancy review right ? Okay, so I have been with a nasal gastric tube for five weeks, the food bag is tasteless as its straight in the tummy, not that the feed has been exclusive, sucking on a few Crohns friendly meals hasn’t stopped me, I’m a fatty by nature. Psychologically it does not matter how much pain I have down there, ten minutes of happiness with food in my mouth is bliss. Also when you have large bowel Crohns its your holding bay for waster so the issue is not particularly a food absorption one ..

Those who have small bowel problems I admire you, tough one, some of the bravest people I know. The dieticians tried to push me on an elemental diet for a bit, apparently the astronauts have it too?! No food waste produced, just eight bottles a day in the tummy to get all your goodness?! I get the theory, complete bowel rest, some people have to do it, but I’m glad there is one saviour for me and that is that I can eat, or at least choose to eat.

Baby also has a bit part come to think of it she’s like her mama she wants to taste food. (I’m not sure if I’m using her as an excuse but at nearly 24 weeks I swear baby moves more when you eat, right mums it’s a sensation, a comforting one at that!) if she is anything like her Dad she will be a gannet anyway, pig feed would be an easier option to buy from the supermarket in our house the amount consumed sometimes 🙂 don’t get me wrong, we don’t eat junk, we just eat! good food.

So here in the lovely Queen Elizabeth Birmingham hospital we have a two-week cycle with the food menus. So up to now I know it like I do my shop at home. Oh home 😦 the thought of cooking in my kitchen is too much to think about.. My lovely kitchen.

Diet and vitamins are one of the most important things sick right, the better you eat the stronger you are .. Well Mr NHS, you have some explaining to do ? Before I get started I’m not knocking our beloved health service, I love it, we are very lucky to be in the UK and free , I have always paid my taxes and think the care and people working for it are second to none. But the food, Jesus, sort it out. No one, no matter what they have will get better on burgers, school pastas, chips and bright orange carrots! They glow! Okay, so a few days, fine, broken leg and a couple of beef and onion pies, and a tuna sandwich but longer stay patients, the old and the sick need nutrition and choice surely it’s the corner-stone of recovery ? The old age problem I get though, how do you cater for over a 1000 beds in a huge hospital, 1000 different needs, tastes , religious beliefs, cultures, appetites and taste buds to manage whilst trying to keep costs down, all on the health service?! To deep for someone like myself to answer, I don’t think it will ever be answered, I’ll leave it to the campaigners who seem to be doing a good job promoting the cause like sustainweb.org and  Jamie Oliver who seems to like a good rant about our national service, good old Jamie. James Martin the Saturday TV Kitchen chef helped 132 hospitals clean their act up a few years back. I cannot believe that I read over the last 15 years the NHS has spent 60 million on trying to sort the problem and nowhere near a fix ?! That a lot of cash UK, and chips spent and ate!

So my diet , so far as a Crohnie on ward is soft and low fibre, fibre is the devil at the moment .. and so are nuts!

What to eat, choices, pick one of the menu says, and two of this all in little sections, Wednesday week one .. Friday week two, two-week rotations of the same menu, oh you spoil me. Every day a jacket potato with cheese, tuna or a side salad option takes up the middle section with a choice of  two sandwiches every day either ham, egg, tuna or cheese! Hey , I think to myself that’s a good chunk of menu on lock down I’m going to turn into a jacket potato I swear ! Every day an ice cream pot made with vegetarian substitute milk? no nutritional value then. Hello .. (In the words of Lionel)  Calcium I’m looking for ? and a Jelly that is made with sweetener, in other words red rubber !


Good old British fish and chips – that will get anyone better right? and no I did not touch the beans ! (plated by mistake, Crohn’s suicide!)

So the stick to the roof of your mouth bread is a no go, so bye Mr Sandwich. The side salad looks nutritious but side salad in my colon would be like world war three. Sorry tomato and cucumber, not yet, you guys actually look fresh and real, shame ! So I’m basically stuck with the mash, chipped potatoes, roasted potatoes and slop type constitution! … I’m going to turn into a potato! Don’t even talk to me about the salt situation, my steroidal moon face does not need salt, so I’m Mrs Potato head with not even a whiff of seasoning.

It can’t all be bad I hear you say, okay so if I avoid the sausages , they are not sausages, they have been kidnapped. No 90% pork sausages anyway, I would take a guess at 18% pork , the rest just stuff and water. I avoid the burger, shepherds pie (no shepherd ate that pie) and the bean and vegetable hot pot .. Holey Moley, it’s not that bad. I am just telling myself that ?

So the flavours in my 2016 are macaroni cheese with mustard (I wouldn’t say I tasted any mustard coming through), bacon and leek pasta bake , salmon pasta bake, (can you see a theme? PASTA BAKES) soft, white, mush. The Sunday dinner of chicken or beef is the highlight I’m sure for any patient, I had a nibble last week minus any veg, who is going to get beef, chicken , gravy, Yorkshire pud wrong though?! Huh ! (The yorkie pud was a mistake for me by the way, oh I love you little puds). So all in all I am doing great with ticking the boxes and getting trays of small happiness, if I don’t think about the actual nutrition, its free after all.

Four weeks in and I made a little discovery. What there are more menus to CHOOSE from? (Okay so I didn’t read any small print on the back about alternative choices, low salt, vegan) but whats this an Asian vegetarian, halal, kosher and Afro Caribbean menu? well this mixes it up doesn’t it? intrigued.


The bland vs the exciting !

Well for one, the second menu is static, so if you rely on it every day is the same ? Surely not? Lets scan this beauty, new plates, new tastes, excitement is not the word, spice! If I could take a picture of our pantry at home you would see that flavour is key in our house, we have everything and cook with everything so the idea of eating something with zing is marvellous, maybe that has to wait though for me, I don’t think jerk chicken rice and pea should be on my menu tonight and boy I can only dream of a chicken madras and rice, but it’s good to dribble at the sheet like all your saturday night take out menus stuffed in the top draw, all rolled into one!

So here’s the question .. What do you do if you only eat halal or kosher and have to spend more than four nights in hospital ? That is a poor deal ! Family brings food, yes but how do you keep it hot for anyone to eat with no facilities. This is the puzzle I’m talking about, how does the NHS get it right? How do you survive?

So, funny story I decided one day that I’m going for this menu, no not the curry, come on, well I was tempted! I went kosher for the night, the nurses said  that the meals were lovely,  and for religious reasons of preparation they come in a box, double sealed and ready prepared but the meat is really nice I’m told. Proper meat. I desperately need protein, apparently there is 40 grams of protein in every NHS meal – but with the three squares of salmon in my bake earlier that day I wasn’t convinced personally! So I thought give Kosher a whirl see if it perks you up, so I ticked the roast chicken in gravy option, bit of nice soft white meat, a little treat!

Thursday lunchtime it arrived, couldn’t wait to delve inside, I had been sobbing all day so needed something to entertain my senses. A food parcel. Except when it arrived it wasn’t chicken it was the shepherd’s pie, why? because it’s Passover and Kosher do not use a certain yeast at this time so it was off the menu so I was told. I have no idea about the ins and outs of Jewish dietary law but that’s fine shepherds pie it was.. 🙂 with anticipation I opened the tightly sealed bag, took a mouth full of soft meat. and guess what, it was blooming frozen. Frozen ! What the … typical my luck ! I demand the chef ! the oven had broken the kitchen staff said and they didn’t realise as they couldn’t check the temperature of the food as its double bagged. oh dear, not sure what that meant for the Kosher of the QE, but I sobbed back to the mush! I think I’ll leave Kosher to Kosher in future, too many dramas.

What I am a fan of though is… NHS breakfast, breakfast for me is king. I could eat breakfast food all day, I could eat pancakes all day too but that’s another story. So, toast, jam, orange juice, cereal, not bad, but again six weeks of the same?! You got to mix it up for sanity and taste buds, so I sampled the heathy low fry up – now we are talking. Okay, so I’m minus the salty bacon and sausage, but long live the hash browns and egg ! Thank you NHS for providing me an egg (very orange egg) but a nice one at that.


I wonder how many good old British fry ups the NHS serves to patients ?? Not great for the heart but spirit I guess ? Hash browns, mmm I could eat you all day.

So, really what am I now eating? Well aside from ordering mush and mash the nose tube was removed yesterday so my breakfast is a mix up of eggs and hash brown, white toast. Such a nice feeling not having a tube down your throat pulling every time you eat a little bit of food. Relief! My fry up has evolved to something a little more healthy than the above, I ordered that tray once to see what the crack was, now its a little more sophisticated. My lovely mummy and partner Matt have raided Marks and Spencer down the road for lovely soft ready ripe avocados so I can spread some vitamin E goodness in my body. Avo on toast .. I’ve joined the social media craze, yes it’s good for my crohns and baby so I’m going with it ! Sometimes with egg, sometimes with salmon, i’m limited to refrigeration so salmon in a can will do, thanks John West for ring pull! and yes I am still sneaking in a hash brown.

So whilst the NHS continues to do its do with food my own nutritional struggle continues. Keep inflammation down, feed baby and me, put some weight on.  I lost a good stone and a half through this adventure, usually about 10 stone, at the moment I’m back up to just under nine. Not too bad for 5ft 6 but now pregnant I’m all bump and bones. I am struggling with holding minerals  as the drugs blast my body and baby is taking; potassium, magnesium, calcium and phosphate being the four kings. Every day I get blood monitored and pumped either with fizzy tablets or infusions. So to get out of here I have to get these levels right, so I’m trying to help myself, NHS food won’t save me.

My shopping basket from outside world to supplement NHS nutrition as follows:

  • Avocado – high in vitamins, super food.Soft.
  • Salmon tinned or fresh if I have visitors that will bring me packets- rich in protein and oils. I love fish, if I had it my way I would just eat fish and seafood, have to be careful with baby though.
  • Jaffa Cakes – low fibre, high energy, low fat , bloody tasty mini saviours of goodness ! (I can smash 12 at a time)
  • Skips, Quavers, Pom bear crisps– nutritional value nil, but great on the tongue and low in fibre so good little crohns snack for boredom.
  • Ginger biscuits – packet with iron, low fibre. Good old MacVitie!
  • Peanut butter smooth – get a spoon and lick, packed full of iron and protein.
  • Peppermint or Ginger Tea – calming on the tum, I’m drinking litres of stuff. ( NHS only provide the good old-fashioned cuppa, caffeine is not the one)
  • Ribena – juice can be dodgy, but I’m tolerating this okay now, lots of vit C. Sugar free (Only tastes good in the carton I say!)
  • Ice cream – the real stuff from the shop. Calcium !
  • Milk bread, brioche rolls with some honey – calcium and high energy.
  • Coconut Water – full of potassium if you can tolerate it.
  • On site Costa hot chocolate with marshmallows – marshmallows are forming, helps bind waste in the bowel, full fat milk helps the bones, just generally yummy !

Hopefully these little things will make me fatter but help my levels so I can normalise and be free of the NHS menu to go home, and cook for real ! I also drink Aymes nutritional shakes, theres loads of medical shakes available, I like Aymes Strawberry and Chocolate flavour, a couple of these drinks a day with some food is a good foundation to know I’m getting goodness. Guess I’ll be living on those until baby is here.

















About crohnsmamashttps://crohnsmamascouk.wordpress.comMom blogger with Crohns Disease, the more active the crohns the more active the blog ! :)

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