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Doctors warn against families bringing unhealthy food into hospitals

Healthy food for patients
Written by Teboho Setlofane

Mageu may be an old favourite and sweets may cheer the patient up, but these foods could hinder your loved one’s recovery. Botshabelo District Hospital is concerned about the unhealthy foods families bring for admitted patients. Instead, they advise these healthier alternatives.

Hospital officials are growing concerned about the kinds of foods families for patients. Junk foods, processed foods and food high in refined sugar and saturated fats all make it into the ward and hinder healing, says one expert.

“It does not make sense when your mother is admitted for sugar diabetes and you bring her fried chicken with chips, two litres of juice and fizzy drinks. This worries me every time,” said Dr Mzaefane Mabele at Botshabelo District Hospital.

During visiting hours at hospital, Mabele has watched as relatives often pack inappropriate foods for their loved ones who are being treated. When healthier foods like fruit are packed, this must also be well chopped for the convenience of elderly patients, he added.

“It is painful when you know that your grandmother only has two teeth and you bring her ten apples and fourteen bananas to leave them with her. Those apples must be finely chopped so that they can chew and swallow with ease,” said Mabele.

A dangerous favourite

Sometimes, the food families bring can even be dangerous for the patient.

“I don’t know who said we must buy mageu for patients in hospital because for diabetic patients, mageu can cause it to increase,” he said. Mabele said eating correct food helps the patient to recover quicker.

Disebo Molehe gave in to unhealthy habits while she was in hospital. She was admitted to Botshabelo District Hospital for a week after giving birth to her daughter.

“I lacked appetite for solid foods so I requested my visitors to bring me soft foods like mageu, yoghurt and bananas,” she said.

Dietary advice

Instead, relatives should seek advice from the nurses about the correct foods to bring their loved ones, advises the doctor.

Rudé Van Wyk, a senior dietician at Botshabelo District Hospital, also advised against mageu. The South African favourite has negligible nutritional value and is made up almost exclusively of starch. This is particularly troubling for diabetics. Instead, she recommends yoghurt or amasi, which helps the patient’s sugar levels remain under control.

“For the lifestyle patients like diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity I have seen a lot of fruit juice in the hospital for those patients and it has a lot of sugar,” she said.

“So we rather bring one or two fresh fruits so that they can finish it in time. I also see a lot of hot chips. We would rather bring them the popcorn style one because it has less salt and more fibre which is good for the stomach.”

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Patients who are usually malnourished usually suffer from dread diseases like HIV, TB and cancer. Those who struggle to swallow are often the ones admitted with stroke, she said.

For patients who are too skinny Van Wyk advised extra proteins to strengthen the body. Foods like amasi, custard, yoghurt, peanut butter sandwiches or boiled eggs are good for skinny patients.—Health-e News

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Teboho Setlofane