UNITED STATES—I wanted to document my experience being at a hospital caring for a sick family member because it truly opened my eyes to things. I was literally in a hospital for more than a week, 10-12 hours per day on average. Can it be exhaustive? Yes, but what I found to be the most eye-opening is the food. I’m not referring to what the sick patient was eating, but those who were visiting and working at the hospital.

Of course there was a cafeteria, and there were plenty of food options, but I was stunned that none of those options were all that healthy. It got me thinking this is a hospital, shouldn’t the goal be to push the patients, nurses, doctors, administrators, visitors and anyone else coming to hospital to indulge in healthy food options?

I thought that, but upon entry into the cafeteria you know what I saw, a bunch of processed foods, a bunch of candy, a bunch of chips and snacks. Everything you shouldn’t be eating, but you tend to eat because that is simply the craving that you have at the time. Look, I was stressed out of my mind, I could barely think, yet alone consider what was healthy and what was not. My goal was to have something that would fuel my body and that was the focus for the first three or four days. The first two days I relied on the vending machine. Why? The cafeteria was closed, so I didn’t have the luxury of going there, so it was the dreaded vending machine.

I think the first day I had a bag of chips, a Gatorade, a water and a package of fruit snacks. Yeah, talk about healthy because there wasn’t anything in that vending machine that screamed healthy, but my nerves and mind wanted fuel and I went with what looked good. I felt totally gross and horrid for those three days that the vending machine became my best friend, not to mention all the money I spent. Way more than I imagined or ever wanted to spend people.

When I FINALLY had the opportunity to get into the cafeteria it wasn’t that much better. There was a deli shop that crafted sandwiches to your desire, there was also a grill that made burgers and fries to your liking and there was a pizza spot and a baked potato station. The point I’m getting across is that the options at your fingertips were very limited.

The salad bar finally opened the last two days I happened to be at the hospital and that brought a major variety and a little bit of health. I mean not everyone loves a salad, but when you can varietize the salad and it doesn’t cause a major dent in your wallet that is a plus. There were food trucks in the parking lots that rotated on a daily basis, but those options weren’t that healthy either. I think one day there was a pasta truck that was delicious, but I just wanted to see more health driven food options.

I mean this is a hospital, so seeing visitors and the doctors and nurses in particular indulge in such bad food opened my eyes. Are we helping the situation with food and health in America when the place that you go to when you’re ill is indulging in all the foods that are likely causing people to be overweight, have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sweet indulgence leading to Diabetes and so much more. I expected more, and to see that wasn’t the case truly opened my eyes that temptation is going to be all around you and you just have to resist it.

The day I was able to cook a home meal felt so good. I couldn’t describe in words how relieved I felt to have something not processed. I ate something that felt healthy and not laden with sugar, salt or fat. Long story short, if you can bring your own breakfast, lunch and dinner if you ever have an extensive stay at the hospital visiting a loved one, it may not be a bad idea. You don’t think about it in the moment, but it is indeed something to consider especially for your overall health.