Gluten Free Hospital Stays

During the summer I spent 10 days in a central London hospital for the birth of our twins. No one likes being admitted to hospital but for those with food allergies and intolerances it poses an additional challenge.

Having seen many articles about the (poor) quality of much of the food in the UK’s hospitals, I’d like to show this isn’t the case in every hospital. Hospitals can provide nutritious food which is also suitable for those with specific dietary restrictions.

I was given a daily menu which clearly stated (some) allergens. At each meal that was at least one gluten free option, but sometimes more:

gluten free hospital menu

The meals I received were generally filling, hot and nutritious. I was happy to find the meals were served with lots of veggies and they weren’t too overcooked.

Jerk chicken gluten free

gluten free shepherd's pie

gluten free carb overload

I was offered a dessert at lunch and dinner. I usually opted for custard with stewed fruit. At the start of my pregnancy I suffered from terrible morning all day sickness and custard was one of the few things I could stomach eating. And the stewed fruit were for, well I think you can imagine!

stewed fruit and custard

The only meal which could be hit and miss was breakfast. Some days I was brought a slice of gluten free bread which had been defrosted. They didn’t toast it for me as they said they couldn’t avoid cross contamination. Whilst slightly cold gluten free bread isn’t what I’d eat at home, with some scrambled eggs in hospital it was great.

I know my experience of hospital isn’t always typical of UK hospitals so what can you do if you are admitted to hospital?

  • Take non perishable food in your hospital bag: I packed Nairns Oat Cakes, a good selection of gluten & nut free biscuits and Perk!er porridge pots
  • Speak up: Talk to the ward sister about providing gluten free food as soon as you’re able to do so, or ask someone to do this for you. Depending on the responses you receive, you may also wish to speak to the hospital dietician and/or the kitchen manager
  • On site alternatives: Investigate whether there are other food outlets on site which could offer gluten free food. The hospital I was in had both an M&S cafe and shop, both of which carried gluten free sandwiches and bread as well as naturally gluten free food options. Additionally, there were several cafes where gluten free food could be purchased.
  • Be creative: One of my favourite treat meals was bacon sarnies created from gluten free sliced bread brought in by Mr D with cooked bacon bought from the hospital’s M&S chilled section with some Heinz ketchup found in the hospital canteen
  • Think laterally: Is there a restaurant nearby which can offer take out? For example, there’s a Carluccio’s opposite the Chelsea & Westminster hospital which can offer gluten free pasta and other dishes to take out
  • Be respectful: Don’t bring strongly smelling food in to eat an open hospital ward

What was your experience of gluten free catering in hospital? Do you have any other tips on managing hospital stays with food allergies / intolerances?

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