Hospitals are not well-known for having great food—mystery meats, blobs of gelatin, bland noodles, and bowls of dull applesauce may come to mind. Having a baby is hard work, and whether you birth vaginally or via C-section, you are going to be hungry! Vegan moms are often met with confusion—“so, you can eat cheese, right?”—or are offered subpar food—plain rice with mushy broccoli, anyone?
Food is usually covered by insurance as part of your hospital stay; in other words, you’re paying for it, and you deserve something that adequately meets your needs. I had my twin girls in April 2012 at a Milwaukee hospital, and since I ate 3000-3500 calories during most of my pregnancy, I knew I needed to make sure I was well-fed during my hospital stay.
Here’s what you can do to ensure your post-birth experience is nourishing and delicious:
1. Go on the birth center tour and ask a lot of questions: Most hospitals are vying for the business of expectant parents and offer tours of their birth centers. These tours give parents a chance to see the birthing rooms, meet with a nurse or two, and ask questions. I did three birthing center tours, and I also asked 80 percent of the questions. Some were specific to birthing twins – Can I labor in a regular room or will I have to be in the operating room? What access will I have to the NICU? Do you offer double bassinets? – but many were about food. Here are some questions to consider: Do all your birthing rooms have a mini-fridge? Can we bring a cooler into the room? Do you allow outside food in the rooms? What sort of snacks are provided to admitted moms? If you can, swing by the cafeteria while you’re there to get a copy of the menu, and check-out other food options in the building, too. Some hospitals have privately-run cafes in the building, in addition to the regular cafeteria.
2. Contact the hospital’s food service department: If you weren’t able to get a copy of the cafeteria menu during your birth center tour, many hospitals offer them on their web site (or will email it to you upon request). Get your hands on a menu and figure out which dishes already offered can be made vegan. I identified three main dishes that could be vegan: spaghetti with meatballs, hamburger with fries, and chicken teriyaki stir-fry. I emailed the food service contact listed on the web site and asked if they would be able to provide these dishes with plant-based meats if I provided the products. They offered send a staff person to purchase the necessary items once I was admitted and agreed to adjust their recipes accordingly! I was thrilled. I made sure to suggest products that were easy to find at just about any grocery store: Boca burgers, Gardein chik’n strips, and Silk soy milk (while the hospital offered soy milk, it was limited to Silk Chocolate and Very Vanilla which are high-sugar, dessert-like milks). I also confirmed that both their marinara sauce and oatmeal were dairy-free. The food was really good, and working with the hospital’s pre-existing menu made these accommodations easy for them.
3. Bring food from home: This is where the mini-fridge or cooler will come in very handy! Since only the mom is eligible for food prepared by the hospital, be sure to have food on hand for your partner or others offering their support. We brought fresh fruit, potato salad, almond energy balls, and cookies. We also used the fridge to store some take out items my husband purchased. If you know Sweet & Sara marshmallows, a big bottle of kombucha, a fancy quinoa salad, or chocolate cake will be just what you need after meeting your little one, don’t be afraid to fill your room’s fridge.
4. Take advantage of free snacks: Several nurses brought me snacks during my 3-day hospital stay, including mini boxes of plain Cheerios, raisins, and peanut butter crackers; eventually, my husband found where the free snacks were made available to hospital guests and got them himself. We were also allowed to take the leftovers home.
I was very pleased with my overall hospital experience, and having good vegan food available with just a phone call to the cafeteria made it that much better. After we brought our girls home, I sent a thank you note to the hospital’s food service director to thank her and her staff for being so helpful and accommodating. You can also post about your experience online if your hospital has a social media presence.
What did you eat during your hospital stay? Do you have other tips to share? Please tell us all about it in the comments.
Posted in Pregnancy